The New Albany High School girls volleyball team, in many ways, will take on the underdog role.

The New Albany High School girls volleyball team, in many ways, will take on the underdog role.

The Eagles have exactly one player taller than 5-foot-9. They'll also be one of the youngest teams in the area, with no seniors and six of 10 varsity players being freshmen or sophomores. In addition, they're adjusting to a coaching change as Josh Lee takes over for Karen Morlan.

But the Eagles also can be seen as a team on the rise, with six players returning with varsity experience. Lee said his transition has been as smooth as possible, particularly because Morlan already had laid out the summer practice schedule before he came on board. Now that he's taken over, he's not wasting any time setting the bar high.

"I know with the last two seasons, only winning seven matches in each, I would say doubling that number would be a nice goal for myself," Lee said. "And I know the team wants to win more than seven games."

Though Lee, who coached high school volleyball in Indiana for the past three seasons, isn't sure yet of exactly what to expect from the league, his players believe they can contend for the title. New Albany finished 7-17 overall last season and took fourth in the OCC-Capital Division at 4-6 as Olentangy Liberty and Dublin Scioto tied for the title at 9-1.

This season, the Eagles are in the OCC-Capital with Big Walnut, Franklin Heights, Watkins Memorial, Olentangy Orange, Delaware and Mount Vernon. Of the new teams to the league, Delaware was 3-18 last season, Mount Vernon was 3-13 and Orange is a new school.

With any coaching change, there comes the question of how the players, particularly the returning letterwinners, will take to the change. Juniors Jen Graves and Madi Miller, both of whom started last season, said the transition hasn't been much of a problem.

"He's got a totally different approach to how to coach us, so it's been kind of different, but I think we've adjusted to it pretty well," Miller said.

Another challenge for this group is the fact that there is no senior class for the underclassmen to lean on. Because of the youth of this team, the leadership has come by committee.

"We are two leaders who have kind of stepped up, but since we don't have any seniors, it's up to our whole team to bring each other up," Graves said, referring to herself and Miller.

The Eagles do have stability at perhaps the most critical position -- at setter -- with Graves. She is a two-year letterwinner and made honorable mention all-OCC-Capital last season. She led the Eagles with 6.6 assists per game and was third in digs at 1.3 per game.

Sophomore Kelsey Rowley also will see some time at setter.

At outside hitter, Miller returns as a starter, and junior Sarah Reynolds likely will start at the other outside spot. Sophomore Steph Siegenthaler is expected to start at opposite, but junior Anna Irvine also will see plenty of action at that spot as well.

In the middle, the Eagles are young with sophomores Elyse Naddaff and Kayleigh Sutherland expected to start. Naddaff, the tallest player at 6-0, does have experience after starting last season.

Defensively, freshman Emily Newman will play libero and junior Jen Rowley, a two-year letterwinner, will play primarily as a defensive specialist.

Lee said he's seen "leaps and bounds" of improvement since practice began a month ago, but the key for his team now is to play at a high level more consistently.

"Just being young, we really work off of that momentum swing, and I think throughout the season it's going to come around to where they're more consistent," Lee said. "Consistency has got to be key for the girls to really succeed and to get to where we need to get."

At a glance

Coach: Josh Lee, first season

Next match: Today at Watkins Memorial

Key players: Jen Graves, Madi Miller, Elyse Naddaff and Steph Siegenthaler