Now that the Licking Heights High School girls volleyball team is in the driver's seat in the league standings, coach Amanda Mosely wants the Hornets to peek in the rearview mirror.
"I hope they learned from last season," Mosely said. "We won a share of the (MSL-Cardinal Division) championship and then went into the (Division II) district tournament and played lousy. We got big heads and we showed up and didn't play hard. I've reminded them of that feeling a lot this season."
The Hornets likely will hear that speech often in the coming weeks, as they try to preserve their two-game lead over Harvest Prep in the league after beating the Warriors 25-17, 25-23, 20-25, 25-15 on Sept. 25. Licking Heights, which had never won a league title before sharing it with Harvest Prep last season, improved to 9-0 in the MSL-Cardinal after beating Grandview on Sept. 27.
"We had good home support and the girls came out fired up," Mosely said. "When we beat them at their place (25-22, 22-25, 25-20, 22-25, 15-6 on Aug. 30), their coach (Judy Rose) told me afterward that our libero, Mercedesz Mate, was the difference in the match. Well Mercedesz missed her fourth match (Sept. 25) and was in the hallway when (Rose) saw she wasn't dressed. (Rose) made a comment about how much easier it would be to beat us now.
"So our girls were ticked off. They were pumped to begin with and that made them hungrier."
Jemiah Powell led the way with 22 kills, while Alexis Sanidad has stepped in for Mate.
"She's young and was nervous about this match, but she stepped up and did a wonderful job," Mosely said of Sanidad. "Powell was unstoppable. With Mate out, we made a switch in our last match and allowed Powell to play all the way around. (Against Harvest Prep) was just the second time she's ever played back row and she was great. She can take one step and get to the ball and she's not afraid to dive. She was fine at serve reception and was great at digging.
"We switched to a rotation defense and that allowed us to put our hitters in better places. Powell was getting kills from the back, too. I don't think Harvest Prep was prepared for our new style of play."
Football team ready for 'trap' game
The football team reached the midway point of the regular season unbeaten.
The Hornets also were second in the Division II, Region 7 computer ratings before playing defending MSL-Cardinal champion Grandview on Sept. 28.
Only Zanesville was in front of Licking Heights, which plays at Millersport on Friday, Oct. 5.
However, only one of the Hornets' final four opponents will provide much help in their playoff berth hopes. The one team left on the schedule that had a winning record through midseason was West Jefferson.
The Roughriders, who were 4-1, play at Licking Heights on Oct. 12.
The top eight teams in the region make the playoffs.
The Millersport game, according to coach Darren Waters, is a "trap" game between Grandview and West Jefferson. The Lakers were winless through five games before playing West Jefferson on Sept. 28. They had been outscored by an average of 48.4 to 10.
"We've talked about trap games already a few times this season," said Waters, whose team outscored its first five opponents by an average of 27.8 to 10.6. "The one thing we preach to the kids is that every week we have to go 1-0. They've been pretty good at focusing on that one goal and it needs to continue in the second half of the season."
Even the Roughriders won't be of great help, as they compete in Division V.
That's one of the reasons the Hornets are excited about the rebirth of the Licking County League next season, as they will compete against bigger schools in league play.
"We're looking forward to the LCL for a number of reasons and one of them is that it will give us the opportunity to get into the postseason if we do have one hiccup," Waters said. "We've enjoyed the MSL and, when we entered, we didn't know that our growth would put us in this position.
"But that's something to think of next season. Our focus right now is to win every week, which would give us our first league championship in over 20 years. You would hope 10-0 would get you in the playoffs in Ohio. That's why the field was expanded to eight (teams per region) years ago."
In a 28-0 win over Berne Union on Sept. 21, Licking Heights struggled in its stack-I offense in the first half before scoring touchdowns on all three possessions in the second half.
Ron Carruthers-Kimball rushed for 122 yards on 17 carries, including a 46-yard touchdown. He also returned a punt 59 yards to set up another score.
John Neary added 97 yards rushing and two touchdowns (2, 27) on 16 carries. His second touchdown capped a 14-play drive and finished the scoring.
Kendall Bradley had a 3-yard touchdown run in the first half, when the Hornets managed just 61 total yards.
The Hornets played strong defense, as Liberty Union had the ball on Licking Heights' side of the field six times but was thwarted each time. Taylor Curtiss and Chuckie Aitken had interceptions and Jake Foley recovered a fumble.
Boys golf team set for sectional
The boys golf team will compete Tuesday, Oct. 2, in the Division I sectional at Granville Golf Course.
First-year coach Todd Righter knows the Hornets face a formidable task if they want to advance to district Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.
The top four teams and top four individuals not on a qualifying team advance. None of the Hornets reached district last season.
"I'm an optimist, but I think Andrew Bailey and John Kenney both have a chance to qualify to district if they come out and play to their potential," Righter said. "Division I golf in the Central District is very, very competitive. They will have to play the best they have all season, but I know in my mind they are capable of putting together great rounds."
Bailey was first-team all-MSL-Cardinal and Kenney made the second team. John Righter, coach Righter's nephew, was honorable mention all-league.
"We know we haven't seen the number of great golfers in our league that we'll see (at sectional), but the boys need to remember that they aren't really playing against them, they're playing the course," coach Righter said. "If they can go out and post a great score, nothing else matters."