The Newark Catholic High School girls volleyball team is looking for a defensive presence.

The Newark Catholic High School girls volleyball team is looking for a defensive presence.

"I went picking through the (junior varsity) and freshman practices last (Tuesday)," coach Jeri Helfer said with a laugh. "We're just trying to put the whole package together, you know, and defense has been a big key for us the past few years."

The Green Wave advanced to the Division IV state tournament in 2007 and '08 behind libero Kenzie Egan. They finished 20-5 overall a year ago and successfully defended their MSL-Ohio Division title behind a 14-0 sweep through the league as Heath (12-2) and Granville (10-4) followed.

But a 21-25, 26-24, 25-18, 22-25, 15-12 loss to West Jefferson in a Division III district semifinal didn't sit well with the Green Wave. They failed to advance to the regional for the first time since 2006 and just the second time since '02.

"Hopefully, we'll have the bugs worked out before the tournament this year," said Helfer, whose team won its record-tying eighth state title in 2004 and was runner-up the following season
Helfer hasn't decided on a 6-2 or 5-1 offense yet, and she'll likely use both early on behind seniors Katie Harrington and Mia Carpenter at the setter position. The 5-foot-10 Harrington, who also plays outside hitter, made first-team all-league and second-team all-district. Senior Abby Litts, a 5-11 middle hitter, was first-team all-district and honorable-mention all-state. Meanwhile, senior outside hitter Abbi Morrow likely is the most improved player.

"She really came on at the end of last year and has done so well in the offseason," Helfer said. "She's really coming into her own and has the best vertical (leap at 9-4) on the team. She's primed for a big year."

The roster also features seniors Kelly Krempel, Sierra Taylor and Jessica Crumrine in addition to juniors Jayla Graves, Haley Wagner and Lauren Blair and sophomore Maggie Layman.

•Heath finished 24-3 after a 25-23, 25-20-25-14 loss against Middletown Bishop Fenwick in a Division III regional semifinal. And the team lost more than just standout setter Megan White to graduation.

Returning senior Kenisha Body, who made first-team all-league and second-team all-district as a middle hitter, opted not to play this fall. White, who signed to play women's basketball at Tennessee Tech, made second-team all-state and shared district Player of the Year honors with Newark Catholic graduate Erica Rath.

"We're kind of regrouping," coach Shela Croom said. "We're going to be tweaking things a little more, definitely."

Senior Kelly Roberts, who made second-team all-district, headlines the returning cast at outside hitter, when classmate Jennifer Koski also plays. Senior Tavia Croom, a defensive specialist a year ago, is the new setter. Versatile senior Elizabeth Clippinger also returns, as does senior libero Trish Waddell.

The newcomers include junior Janae Harris and freshman Alexis Boyd.

"Tavia has some big shoes to fill," coach Croom said of her daughter. "Hopefully, we'll play good defense and set some passes to her. It's a good communicating team and we'll have to play like that."
•Granville coach Sue Harrison, whose team finished 13-10 following a 25-21, 24-26, 25-18, 25-22 loss to Jonathan Alder in a Division II second-round district match, also is concerned about her defense.

"That's our biggest worry right now," Harrison said. "Defense is a process with us right now. We have to tighten things up."

Granville returns junior honorable-mention all-district outside hitter/middle hitter Logan Holthaus, in addition to seniors Maddie Hoprich (defensive specialist) and Katie Richardson (setter) and junior Taylor Tackett (outside hitter).

Sophomore Kyle Dawson will play setter as well. The other newcomers are senior Hannah Mauer, juniors Kiera Kratoville, Maddie Lovern and Remy Yokoyama and freshman Grace Imhoff.

The Blue Aces, who failed to advance to a district semifinal for the first time since 2006 and just the second time since '01, move to a 6-2 offense.

•Licking Heights switched to a 6-2 offense a year ago but has moved back to the 5-1 with junior setter Misty Barnett expected to miss the season with a shoulder injury. Sophomore C.J. Wolf will handle the setting duties.

"She's a talented club player," said coach Amanda Mosley, whose team finished with just three victories last year as West Jefferson (14-0) won the MSL-Cardinal. "She's got great hands and is very knowledgeable. She's very mature for her age."

Senior Alex Sandy is back as an outside hitter while classmates Kassi Flowers (right-side hitter), Brittany McKenna (libero), Kiley Myers (outside hitter) and Sara Goff (defensive specialist) all played key roles last year. Junior middle hitters Lizzy Daughtery and Grace Cole are expected to contribute heavily, too. Others to look for include junior Michaela Green. Flowers made second-team all-league.

"We're definitely ahead of the game (compared with early last season). Some stuff we're working on we didn't even get to last year." said Mosley, whose team fell 19-25, 21-25, 25-17, 25-15, 15-8 against Utica in a Division II first-round tournament game. "We have to be able to adjust better, though."

Aug. 31 - at Bloom-Carroll *Sept. 2 - vs. Licking Valley Sept. 4 - vs. Pickerington Central with Canal Winchester *Sept. 7 - at Lakewood *Sept. 11 - vs. Bexley *Sept. 14 - at Columbus Academy *Sept. 16 - at Newark Catholic Sept. 18 - Granville Invitational *Sept. 21 - vs. Heath *Sept. 23 - at Whitehall *Sept. 28 - at Licking Valley *Sept. 30 - vs. Lakewood Oct. 2 - vs. Dublin Scioto with Hamilton Township *Oct. 5 - at Bexley *Oct. 7 - vs. Columbus Academy *Oct. 9 - vs. Newark Catholic *Oct. 12 - at Heath *Oct. 14 - vs. Whitehall *MSL-Ohio match

*Sept. 2 - vs. Bexley Sept. 4 - at Watkins Memorial with Johnstown *Sept. 7 - at Columbus Academy *Sept. 9 - vs. Licking Valley *Sept. 14 - vs. Lakewood *Sept. 15 - at Whitehall Sept. 18 - vs. New Concord John Glenn with Jonathan Alder and Amanda-Clearcreek Sept. 20 - vs. Bloom-Carroll *Sept. 21 - at Granville *Sept. 23 - vs. Newark Catholic Sept. 25 - at Logan with Fairfield Union *Sept. 28 - at Bexley *Sept. 30 - vs. Columbus Academy *Oct. 5 - at Licking Valley *Oct. 7 - at Lakewood *Oct. 9 - vs. Whitehall *Oct. 12 - vs. Granville *Oct. 14 - at Newark Catholic *MSL-Ohio match

Aug. 31 - at Amanda-Clearcreek *Sept. 2 - at Grandview *Sept. 7 - vs. Berne Union *Sept. 9 - at Fisher Catholic *Sept. 14 - vs. West Jefferson *Sept. 16 - at Millersport Sept. 18 - vs. Reynoldsburg with Westerville South *Sept. 21 - vs. Liberty Union *Sept. 23 - at Harvest Prep Sept. 25 - at Watkins Memorial with Whitehall *Sept. 28 - vs. Grandview *Sept. 30 - at Berne Union Oct. 2 - at Fairfield Union with Centennial *Oct. 5 - vs. Fisher Catholic *Oct. 7 - at West Jefferson *Oct. 9 - vs. Millersport *Oct. 12 - at Liberty Union *Oct. 14 - vs. Harvest Prep *MSL-Cardinal match NEWARK CATHOLIC *Sept. 2 - vs. Columbus Academy *Sept. 7 - at Licking Valley Sept. 8 - vs. Olentangy Orange *Sept. 9 - vs. Lakewood Sept. 13 - vs. Shekinah Christian *Sept. 14 - at Bexley Sept. 15 - vs. Tuscarawas Central Catholic *Sept. 16 - vs. Granville *Sept. 20 - vs. Whitehall *Sept. 23 - at Heath Sept. 25 - at Golden Spike Tournament at Toledo Springfield *Sept. 28 - at Columbus Academy Sept. 29 - vs. Uhrichsville Claymont *Sept. 30 - vs. Licking Valley Oct. 4 - vs. Bloom-Carroll *Oct. 5 - at Lakewood *Oct. 7 - vs. Bexley *Oct. 9 - at Granville *Oct. 11 - at Whitehall *Oct. 14 - vs. Heath *MSL-Ohio match