The Utica High School girls volleyball team enjoyed a turnaround last season. They finished 9-12 overall in coach Kathy Stevens' second season.

The Utica High School girls volleyball team enjoyed a turnaround last season. They finished 9-12 overall in coach Kathy Stevens' second season.

The next step will be an even greater challenge, especially in the postseason now that the Redskins have moved back up to Division II. Still, she believes the potential is there with a solid group of returning hitters.

"We have a lot of capability with our hitters. We have decent height, too," Stevens said. "We're setting our expectations a little higher."

Seniors Tamra Londot (middle hitter) and Bridget Davis (outside hitter) headline the list of returnees for the Redskins, who open the season and MBC schedule on Tuesday against visiting East Knox before playing Thursday at Johnstown.

Londot, a four-year starter, moves well at 5-foot-11. Davis is a third-year player, as is senior libero Amanda Wick.

Senior Kayla Hutchison (outside hitter) picked up some varsity experience late last year and participated in a 25-19, 25-16, 17-25, 14-25, 15-10 victory over perennial power Centerburg, which was Utica's first against the Trojans in several years. The seven seniors also include outside hitters Alli Millat and Sarah Wright. Millat dressed for the tournament a year ago as the Redskins lost 19-25, 25-23, 25-19, 25-22 against 12th-seeded North Union in a Division III first-round match.

The other senior is Kimberly Wyscarver, a defensive specialist who dressed all of last season. Others to look for include junior Rachel Kiger (middle hitter) and sophomore Myranda Wolfe (middle hitter).

"These seniors, they were with me my first year here (as the freshman coach in 2006)," Stevens said. "We're still going to have some ups and downs, but I think we can keep moving forward. Hitting and blocking are things we'll key on early because those are our strengths."

Junior Elizabeth Ours and sophomore Sarah Bandy are the new setters now that Brittany Vickers graduated. Vickers is playing at Ohio Wesleyan.

"We're running a 6-2 (offense) now," Stevens said. "We ran it some last year before switching to a 5-1 late with (Vickers). Their progression since we started practice has been amazing."

The Redskins last played in Division II in 2006 and last won a postseason match that year, defeating Mifflin.

They finished 2-19 in Stevens' first season as varsity coach the following year, then went 8-6 to place fourth in the MBC a year ago as Fredericktown (14-0) captured the title.

"After the league, one of our main goals is to win a sectional. It's been a number of years since that's happened here," Stevens said. "To do that we'll need a good seed so improving on Saturdays (after finishing 1-6 in non-league play a year ago) will be real big."