The Licking Heights High School girls volleyball team won its first two league championships the past two seasons.
Those titles came in the MSL-Cardinal Division. Now that the Hornets are in the revived Licking County League, coach Amanda Mosely expects the road to a league championship to be a bigger challenge.
Licking Heights, which went 14-0 in the MSL-Cardinal last year, lost its first three matches, all league contests. They opened with a 25-18, 25-21, 25-11 loss to Licking Valley on Aug. 22 before falling to Utica 25-20, 27-29, 25-20, 25-21 on Aug. 24 and Granville 25-21, 25-22, 25-12 on Aug. 27.
"We may get frustrated at times until we realize what it takes to be successful against teams our size like Lakewood, Licking Valley and Granville and against schools with great traditions like Newark Catholic and Heath," Mosely said. "There will be no nights off in the Licking County League.
"We'll have to be prepared for the grind of that, but that's what will help prepare us for (the Division I district tournament)."
The Hornets returned five players, including middle hitter Jemiah Powell, a 6-foot senior who was named first-team all-league last year, and her sister, Michaela Powell, a 6-foot sophomore middle hitter.
Other returnees are senior libero Alexis Sanidad and junior outside hitters Bailey Carr and Ivana Coleman.
Also on the roster are seniors Brooklyn Fink (outside hitter), Rebecca Malone (defensive specialist), Maya Suggs (defensive specialist) and Kelsi Wilson (setter), juniors Jada Fain (defensive specialist) and Frankie Golden (setter) and sophomore Cassidy Green (outside hitter).
"We have some great hitters, but we are rather young as a team," Mosely said. "We're working together, but we need more time playing together to build the team.
"Our goal is to surprise the Licking County League teams. When we put things together and play like we're capable of playing, we can do that. But we know this is a tougher league."
Cross country teams look to take next step
The boys and girls cross country teams are hoping to take the next step in their development this season.
"We want to become stronger, faster and better," first-year coach Jeremy Weaver said. "We want to follow our mission and vision of the 2013 season, which will result in adding the next rung in our ladder of program success and growth. Both squads have a goal of qualifying to the regional meet, which would be a first in school history."
Weaver, who served as an assistant coach last season, was promoted to replace Suzie Ketcham, who stepped down after 24 seasons.
Licking Heights not only has moved from the MSL-Cardinal to the LCL this year, but it has moved from Division II to Division I.
Last season, the girls team was represented in the Division II regional meet at Pickerington North by 2013 graduate Briana Konich, who finished 75th in 21 minutes, 46.1 seconds.
Licking Heights finished 13th (279 points) in the 14-team district meet at Watkins Memorial behind champion Granville (41), with London (147) securing the fourth and final regional-qualifying spot.
Konich led the Hornets at district, placing 15th (21:20.45).
Licking Heights returns two runners who competed at district in junior Mackenzie Myers (72nd, 24:49.73) and senior Ashton Malicoate (92nd, 26:06.62).
Also back is senior Christina Garrett, who finished 36th (29:23.7) in the MSL-Cardinal meet last season at Liberty Union, where the Hornets finished fourth (82) behind champion Grandview (28).
Newcomers in the lineup are sophomore Kirsten Reed and freshmen Paige Hartley, Tessa Kenney and Rachel Shemenski.
"Being our first season in Division I, we have many opportunities for growth," Weaver said. "I think we have leadership, engagement and excitement. They have a love of running and a desire for fun."
Licking Heights opened Aug. 17, finishing last (502) in the 17-team OHSAA Early Season Invitational, behind champion Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (35). Reed led the Hornets, placing 86th (25:49).
Myers led Licking Heights in the Mount Hamilton Invitational on Aug. 19 at Hamilton Township, placing 35th (25:26.07), but the Hornets did not field enough runners to qualify for a team score.
Licking Heights won the four-team Whitehall Invitational on Aug. 24, scoring 20 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Northland (43).
The boys team returns five runners who competed in the 12-team Division II, district 1 meet last season at Watkins Memorial in senior Tysson Olverson, junior Vince Masoni and sophomores Anthony Haist, Brandon Haist and Alex Wilcox.
Olverson finished 20th (18:29.66) to lead the Hornets, followed by Anthony Haist (33rd, 19:04.86), Masoni (42nd, 19:43.53), Brandon Haist (55th, 20:45.64) and Wilcox (77th, 23:01.34).
Licking Heights finished seventh (191) at district behind champion Granville (16), with DeSales (126) securing the fourth and final regional-qualifying spot.
Olverson led the Hornets in the MSL-Cardinal meet, finishing 12th (18:29.8) as Licking Heights finished fourth (93) behind champion Liberty Union (29).
Rounding out the roster are sophomore Taylor Woolard and freshman Ethan Myers.
"Our goals are to learn how to compete and race in Division I and use new racing strategies and training that will help us grow throughout the season," Weaver said.
Licking Heights finished 20th (582) in the 21-team OHSAA Early Season Invitational behind champion Kings Mills Kings (79) before winning (31) the four-team Whitehall Invitational ahead of runner-up Whitehall (44).
Anthony Haist led the Hornets in both the OHSAA Early Season Invitational, finishing 90th (20:06.59), and the Mount Hamilton Invitational, finishing 31st (19:03.28). The Hornets did not field enough runners in the latter event to have a team score.
Football team getting ready to face Rangers
The football team will play Friday, Sept. 6, at Hamilton Township, marking the first meeting between the programs.
Hamilton Township, which opened against Columbus East on Aug. 30, finished 7-3 last season.
The Rangers return nearly all of their skill players from a season ago, except at quarterback, where junior Dante White has won the starting job. Back are four offensive linemen, tailback Lorenzio Bridges, wide receivers Khenan Alexander, Deric Phoutavong and Aaron Williams and tight end Micky Crum, a University of Louisville recruit.
The Rangers' defense includes Crum (LB), Brandon Fort (LB), Michael Wellman (LB), Ketdrick West (DE) and Logan Jones (NT).
Licking Heights opened against Mifflin on Aug. 30.