John Smith has a familiar group in his third season coaching the Northridge High School girls volleyball team.
The Vikings have six players back from their starting lineup last season as they look to improve on a 4-16 finish.
Returning are seniors Hunter Adkins (libero), Sarah George (middle hitter), Megan Hatfield (outside hitter) and Faith Miller (setter) and juniors Savannah Legg (middle hitter) and Jamie Swickard (outside hitter).
"We have a lot of experience back and we had a decent club volleyball experience in the spring," said Smith, whose team finished ninth (3-15) in the LCL last fall behind champion Licking Valley (16-2). "We had a fair showing in the LCL, but it was our first season against that competition. With the experience we have back, I'll be interested to see how we perform this season."
The Vikings open Tuesday, Aug. 19, against visiting Johnstown in an LCL match.
Miller, who was honorable mention all-league a year ago, returns for a third season at setter.
"Having a setter for three years is hard to come by," Smith said. "That's a lot of leadership and experience to have out on the court. We also have our libero back and four returning hitters."
Legg had 114 kills and 36 aces last season. Hatfield added 104 kills.
"Megan and Savannah played top-notch softball during the summer and they performed in a lot of high-pressure situations," Smith said. "That can carry over to the volleyball court."
Also on varsity are juniors Megan Dalton (outside hitter), Morgan Hatten (setter) and Haley Trimble (outside hitter).
"Serve-receive is everything in this game," Smith said. "That is what gives you a good attack. Our priority is to get (our opponent's) serves up."
Boys golf team working to improve
The boys golf team returns a district qualifier in senior Matt Simmons, but the Vikings still are a work in progress.
Simmons shot an 80 in last year's Division II district tournament at River Greens, but did not move on to state.
"It's good to have a No. 1 golfer like Matt to lead us, but right now we're looking for performances from our other four golfers," said coach Tony Bilderback, who is in his fourth season. "That's what will determine our success as a team."
The Vikings finished seventh (358) in the LCL preseason tournament Aug. 13 at The Links at Echo Springs, behind Johnstown (313), Granville (313), Watkins Memorial (332), Newark Catholic (347), Heath (352) and Utica (354) and ahead of Licking Valley (369), Lakewood (383) and Licking Heights (454). Johnstown won by having a better fifth-player score than Granville.
Simmons led Northridge with an 84, followed by sophomore Brandon Estep (87), sophomore Steele Strout (90), sophomore Chris George (97), senior Nick McConnell (114) and sophomore Tyler Rosshirt (129).
Estep moved to the district from Johnstown.
"After the round, the kids came up to me and said that they needed to work on their putts," Bilderback said. "We went back and worked on some putting for a while, and I think that's good. They know they need to work to get better and they want to do that."
Rounding out the team are juniors Andy Watson, sophomores Garrett Carr and Cole Wilson and freshmen Wyatt Bunstine, Joel Hale and Cordell Smith.
Northridge opened Aug. 6 in the eight-team Utica Invitational at The Links at Echo Springs. Simmons shot a career-best 70, but was runner-up to Village Academy's Jeg Coughlin III. The defending Division III state tournament medalist shot a 63.
"Matt has been working a lot on his game over the summer and played a great round," Bilderback said. "He has been working a lot on controlling his approach shots."
Northridge finished third (345) in the opener behind Newark Catholic (320) and Utica (339).
Estep had an 86, followed by Strout (93), George (96) and Carr (123).
Aug. 6 -- Utica Invitational at The Links at Echo Springs
Aug. 13 -- LCL preseason tournament at The Links at Echo Springs
Aug. 18 -- Gahanna Invitational at Little Turtle
*Aug. 19 -- Johnstown at Clover Valley
*Aug. 21 -- Utica at Clover Valley
*Aug. 26 -- Granville at Granville Golf Course
*Aug. 28 -- Lakewood at Clover Valley
*Sept. 2 -- Heath at Burning Tree
*Sept. 4 -- Newark Catholic at Clover Valley
Sept. 6 -- Bexley Invitational at Westchester
*Sept. 9 -- Watkins Memorial at High Lands
*Sept. 11 -- Licking Valley at Clover Valley
*Sept. 16 -- Licking Heights at Clover Valley
Sept. 17 -- LCL postseason tournament at Longaberger
Sept. 24 -- Watkins Memorial Fall Invitational at Winding Hollow
*Aug. 19 -- vs. Johnstown
*Aug. 21 -- vs. Utica
*Aug. 23 -- at Granville
*Aug. 26 -- vs. Lakewood
*Aug. 28 -- at Heath
*Sept. 2 -- at Watkins Memorial
*Sept. 4 -- vs. Licking Valley
*Sept. 9 -- at Licking Heights
*Sept. 11 -- at Johnstown
Sept. 13 -- Granville Christian and Millersport in Viking Challenge
*Sept. 15 -- at Newark Catholic
*Sept. 16 -- at Utica
*Sept. 18 -- vs. Granville
*Sept. 23 -- at Lakewood
*Sept. 25 -- vs. Heath
Sept. 27 -- vs. Columbus South and East Knox
*Sept. 30 -- vs. Newark Catholic
*Oct. 2 -- vs. Watkins Memorial
*Oct. 7 -- at Licking Valley
*Oct. 9 -- vs. Licking Heights