The Licking Heights High School girls volleyball team is looking to build on last season.

The Licking Heights High School girls volleyball team is looking to build on last season.

The Hornets finished 16-5 overall last fall and shared the MSL-Cardinal Division championship with Harvest Prep. Licking Heights lost to Utica 25-16, 26-24, 25-17 in the first round of the Division II district tournament.

"That was the first volleyball league championship in the history of the school," said fifth-year coach Amanda Mosely, whose team opened Aug. 25 in the Licking County Preview. "We are working to add another championship to our record."

The Hornets return five starters in seniors Kristin Abarra (defensive specialist), Katie Kenney (5-foot-7, outside hitter), Mercedesz Mate (libero) and C.J. Wulf (setter) and junior Jemiah Powell (6-0, middle hitter).

Also expected to be key contributors are sophomore Bailey Carr (5-7, outside hitter) and freshman Michaela Powell (5-11, middle hitter).

Rounding out the team are senior Tricia Nagy (right-side hitter), junior Alexis Sanidad (defensive specialist) and sophomore Iyanna Coleman (outside hitter).

"Our strength comes from our passing," Mosely said. "We are good passers and that allows us to run a balanced offense. We can use our middles effectively, which allows for one-on-one coverage on our outside hits."

The Hornets and Harvest Prep both finished 13-1 in league play last season. Fisher Catholic was third at 10-4, followed by Liberty Union (8-6), Grandview (5-9), West Jefferson (5-9), Berne Union (2-12) and Millersport (0-14).

"In our league, Harvest Prep will be good competition," Mosely said. "They lost a few seniors, but they have a couple players that are returning."

Licking Heights plays host to Licking Valley on Tuesday, Aug. 28, before beginning league play Thursday, Aug. 30, at Harvest Prep.

"We have some good pieces, but like every year, we've got to put them together and work hard to have success," Mosely said. "A concern would be leadership. Which player is going to step up and lead this team to victory? They are still working on figuring that out."

Boys, girls runners dealing with injuries

The boys cross country team returns four of its top runners from last season, but two currently are sidelined and 24th-year coach Suzie Ketcham isn't sure when they will be healthy enough to compete.

"Two of our top returnees are injured or recovering from injury, so there's still some question about how things will turn out this season," she said. "That doesn't mean we'll change the goal of winning the (MSL-Cardinal) championship."

According to Ketcham, senior Kory Kenney may not compete until late in the regular season because of an undisclosed injury and junior Tysson Olverson is behind his training schedule because of a hamstring injury.

Last season in the Division II, district 1 meet at Watkins Memorial, Kenney was the Hornet's top finisher, placing 22nd in 18 minutes, 50.91 seconds, and Olverson was their second-highest finisher, placing 25th (19:01.47).

The Hornets finished sixth (181) of 11 teams as the top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced to regional.

Granville (21) won the district title, as Bexley (89), Jonathan Alder (113) and London (132) also advanced. Caledonia River Valley (148) was fifth.

Also returning after competing at district last year are sophomore Vince Masoni (39th, 19:28.83) and senior Andrew Sellitto (49th, 20:09.22).

Senior Ty Greene, junior Babe Murphy, sophomore B.J. Ritter and freshmen Joel Bagley, Dylan Billingsley, Anthony Haist and Brandon Haist round out the roster.

"Anthony Haist was the MSL-Cardinal Division middle school champion last year, but he's going from the two-mile course to the 5 (kilometer) course," Ketcham said. "It could take him a bit to adjust. Murphy is going to be a real help for us, be a big surprise. He's got a competitive spirit, as does Greene, who if he makes a commitment, will do well. Those guys are naturally gifted all-around athletes."

Licking Heights opened in the OHSAA Preseason Invitational on Aug. 18 at National Trail Raceway, site of the state meet.

The Hornets finished 24th (704) of 24 teams in the section B race as Cincinnati Turpin (50) won. Anthony Haist led the Hornets, finishing 138th (20:21.43) of 205 runners. Sellitto was next, (145th, 20:32.22), followed by Masoni (184th, 22:36.28) and Bagley (205th, 34:56.26).

Last season, Licking Heights finished third (72) in the MSL-Cardinal meet, behind Liberty Union (23) and Grandview (38) and ahead of Fisher Catholic (99) and Berne Union (133). Millersport did not have enough runners for a team score and Harvest Prep and West Jefferson did not field teams.

The boys and girls competed in the Hamilton Township Invitational on Aug. 21 but did not field complete teams because of injuries and incomplete paperwork, Ketcham said.

The girls team returned all seven runners from a year ago after finishing 14th (318 points) in the 16-team Division II district meet last season at Watkins Memorial. Granville (61) won and Bexley (111), River Valley (120) and Ready (143) also advanced to regional.

Returning after competing in the postseason are senior Miranda Brofft (45th, 22:48.98), senior Briana Konich (49th, 22:58.75), sophomore Audrey Duke (75th, 24:17.86), senior PyLynne Myers (85th, 24:49.49), senior Gabby Cooperider (88th, 24:58.83), junior Ashton Malicoate (89th, 25:00.17) and sophomore MacKenzie Myers (93rd, 25:32.47). The top 16 individuals advanced to regional.

New to varsity are seniors Courtney Herndon and Jovana Vladicic, junior Christina Garrett, sophomore Bailey Jones and freshmen Kayla Loertscher, Kirsten Reed, Katie Ritter and Kacie Solages.

Brofft, who is the Hornets' top runner, is injured.

"I thought we'd be better than we were last season," Ketcham said. "Miranda ran well, but then we had a big gap before the pack. So far this season, with Miranda rehabbing, it's been Briana Konich, a gap and then the pack. We've got to get our pack closer to the front through working at our speed workouts to improve our pace.

"We've got talent and a lot of options. We just have to be optimistic and work harder to achieve our goals, like winning the league championship."

The Hornets finished fifth (95) in the league meet last season, behind Fisher Catholic (31), Grandview (43), Berne Union (73) and Liberty Union (88). Millersport did not have enough runners for a team score and Harvest Prep and West Jefferson did not field teams.

In the OHSAA Preseason Invitational, the Hornets finished 27th (717) in the 27-team section B race as Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (36) won. The Hornets were led by Konich, who finished 11th (23:42.62) of 221 runners. Reed was next (172nd, 26:21.69), followed by Malicoate (173rd, 26:24.27), Garrett (203rd, 29:23.92) and Duke (208th, 30:10.44).

Football team gets ready for Blue Devils

The football team, which opened Aug. 24 against Watkins Memorial, travels to Gallipolis Gallia Academy on Friday, Aug. 31.

The Hornets lost to Gallia Academy 17-7 last season on their way to finishing 5-5.

Gallia Academy, which opened Aug. 24 against Athens, returned 10 letterwinners from last season when it went 6-4. However, none of its victories came against an opponent that finished with a winning record.

The Blue Devils are led by Wade Jarrell (QB), Ty Warnimont (HB/LB), Nick Clagg (HB/LB), Justin Bailey (WR/DB), Cody Russell (HB/FS), Luke Pullins (FB/LB) and two-way linemen Caleb Campbell, Austin Gragg, Briggs Shoemaker and Brian Williams.