The Licking Heights High School girls volleyball team earned its second consecutive MSL-Cardinal Division championship when it defeated Millersport 25-17, 25-10, 25-13 on Oct. 9.
The program had never won a league title before last season, so winning two in a row before leaving the MSL-Cardinal for the Licking County League next season might seem like cause for celebration.
But the Hornets have more they want to accomplish.
"The only type of celebration we had was one of the player's parents bought the team homemade ice cream in Millersport," coach Amanda Mosely said. "I hope it's a sign that we're focusing on bigger goals this season."
After sharing the championship with Harvest Prep last season, Licking Heights lost to Utica 25-16, 26-24, 25-17 in the first round of the Division II district tournament.
"I think we went into the tournament last year all proud of what we had accomplished and we weren't prepared to go out there, refocus and be mentally prepared to step up to (compete against) Division II schools. There's a difference between the size of schools we play in our league and what we see in the tournament."
That was part of the reason why the Hornets were excited about playing in a tournament at Pickerington North on Oct. 13.
"We'll be tested there, no doubt," Mosely said. "Gahanna, Big Walnut and Ready are in our pool, so we'll see some great competition, use it as a gauge and work on the things we need to work on before the (district) tournament."
The Hornets are seeded eighth in the district tournament and will play host to London in the first round at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16. The winner will play host to Linden-McKinley in the second round at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18.
"It's great to start the tournament at home because that should bring in some fans to cheer us on and maybe the football team can be there to support us since they can't make it for our senior night match (Oct. 11 against Fisher Catholic)," Mosely said. "We're motivated to win some tournament matches. We haven't won one in at least five years and I think the only district championship in our program's history was in the 1990s."
Licking Heights, which was at full strength the past week after a few injuries, also is trying to maintain off-the-court situations as well.
"We've had the flu bug going around, so we're trying to be careful there," Mosely said. "We also have two girls in the homecoming court and homecoming (was Oct. 13), so we need to make sure we maintain our focus and get things back to volleyball right after that. There are just so many distractions right now."
Against Millersport, C.J. Wulf had seven kills, six aces and 27 assists. Katie Kenney added 11 kills.
Boys soccer team set for tournament
The boys soccer team enters the Division II district tournament on top of its game. The Hornets have won five of their last six to finish the regular season 9-5-1 overall.
But as one of the biggest school in the MSL-Cardinal, the Hornets realize the postseason gets more difficult.
Licking Heights, seeded 10th in the 23-team field, will play host to 12th-seeded Jonathan Alder in the first round Tuesday, Oct. 16, with the winner advancing to play at eighth-seeded Beechcroft on Thursday, Oct. 18.
Jonathan Alder was 5-9-1 through Oct. 12.
"We don't look at records because they play a tougher schedule than we do," coach Zach Grubb said of Jonathan Alder. "We look to see if we've played common opponents, but that's about it. I think we're pretty evenly matched. If we play well, we should be OK."
The teams played one common opponent -- Grandview. The Bobcats beat Licking Heights 3-0 on Sept. 13 and beat the Pioneers 2-0 on Aug. 25.
Beechcroft was 7-2-3 before Oct. 9. The Cougars and Hornets played one common opponent -- Whitehall. Licking Heights beat the Rams 4-0 on Sept. 11 and Beechcroft won 4-3 on Aug. 23.
The district semifinal, which is Oct. 23 at a site to be determined, would be against second-seeded Watterson, Buckeye Valley or Lakewood. Licking Heights defeated Lakewood 6-1 on Sept. 29 and lost to Watterson 3-1 on Oct. 2. It did not play Buckeye Valley.
"We're receiving strong play in the middle from Tesfu Reda and Caleb Smith," Grubb said. "Tinashe Mareya also has been playing very well as a defensive midfielder. He's really helping our transition and getting forward. I think we're playing well and confident and I like our draw."
The Hornets finished second (3-1-1) in the MSL-Cardinal behind Grandview (5-0) and ahead of West Jefferson (2-1-2), Fisher Catholic (2-2-1), Liberty Union (1-4) and Harvest Prep (0-5).
Football team wants to finish strong
The football team will close the regular season against two teams that had combined for one win before Oct. 12.
The Hornets will play at Berne Union on Friday, Oct. 19, before playing host to Fisher Catholic on Oct. 26.
Licking Heights was 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the MSL-Cardinal before playing West Jefferson on Oct. 12. Berne Union was 0-7 and 0-4 before playing Millersport and Fisher Catholic was 1-6 and 1-3 before playing Grandview.
The Hornets, who were second in the Division II, Region 7 computer ratings through seven weeks, must stay focused regardless of their opponent, coach Darren Waters said.
"We're playing an opponent, but more importantly, we're playing ourselves," he said. "Our goal every week is to play our best, play to our ability. We've got some big goals this season and the only way to achieve them is to keep improving, stay focused and play hard."
Through seven games, Berne Union had been allowing 48.6 points per contest and scoring 16.3.
The Hornets were outscoring opponents by an average of 33.4 to 8.6.
Licking Heights defeated Millersport 61-0 on Oct. 5, as Jake Foley had a 58-yard punt return for a touchdown and Tanner Bauer returned an interception 61 yards for a score.
Six players ran for touchdowns, including quarterback Taylor Curtiss, who also threw for one. No Hornets player scored more than one of the team's nine touchdowns as Millersport lost its 37th consecutive game.