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Volleyball team shows improvement

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Jessica Kanalas/ThisWeek
Kayla Morlan (center) and Lindsey Huber of New Albany go up for a block against Olentangy's Kyle Davidson during a match Sept. 20.
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The New Albany High School girls volleyball team isn't ashamed to carry a few regrets.

The Eagles went 4-3 in the first round of OCC-Capital Division play and improved on that by starting the second round 2-1. Then there's the matter of a better postseason showing, one year after the Eagles lost to Gahanna 25-17, 17-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-6 in a first-round Division I district tournament match.

"There were times (earlier this season) that our nerves figured in," coach Karen Morlan said. "We feel we could have competed a bit stronger. We've dedicated ourselves to being more competitive in the second round (of league play), and so far we're doing that."

New Albany entered an Oct. 2 match at Olentangy with records of 9-7 overall and 6-4 in the league. This week's opponents -- the Eagles visit Big Walnut on Thursday, Oct. 4 -- handed the Eagles two of their league losses. Olentangy won 25-22, 25-15, 25-24 on Sept. 6, and Big Walnut defeated New Albany 25-21, 25-14, 25-10 on Sept. 11. Mount Vernon beat the Eagles 25-16, 25-23, 25-17 on Sept. 18; they will meet again in the league finale Oct. 11.

Leading the team are four seniors -- right-side hitter Kyasia Doling, defensive specialist Abbey Norton, middle hitter Emily Rolwing and outside hitter Morgan See -- as well as junior libero Lauren Bressler, junior middle hitter Kayla Morlan, junior defensive specialist Ally Vendetti, junior setter Erica Wisniewski and sophomore outside hitter Lindsey Huber. All but Doling, See and Vendetti are returning letterwinners from last year's team that was 12-11 overall and 6-8 in the league, tied for fifth with Delaware behind champion Hilliard Bradley (13-1), Big Walnut (12-2), Mount Vernon (10-4) and Olentangy Orange (7-7) and ahead of Watkins Memorial (2-12) and Franklin Heights (0-14).

Also on the roster are sophomore setter/defensive specialist Katie Morgan and freshman outside hitter/defensive specialist Maddy Largent.

"I've watched them get better every match this season," coach Morlan said. "They've built off momentum when they've needed to. They're a nice group to work with and they're intelligent."

Through 15 matches, Huber had a team-high 131 kills, Wisniewski had a team-high 353 assists and Kayla Morlan led with 68 blocks.

"We have a lot of options across the court for whatever we need to do," coach Morlan said. "I'm excited to see what we can do the rest of the way."

Field hockey team adjusting

Four consecutive shutout losses reinforced the field hockey's team adjustments to varsity status, but the Eagles bounced back with consecutive wins over Lancaster (3-0 on Sept. 18) and Columbus School for Girls (1-0 on Sept. 20).

"They're learning and growing a lot. I feel like I lucked out having a coachable team," said coach Kristen McLean, whose team entered an Oct. 3 game at Dublin Jerome with records of 3-6-1 overall and 3-4-1 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League. "Even with those losses, we still have mental victories."

Three returning seniors -- defenders Betsy Hamilton and Britta Thinguldstad and midfielder Tina Lorek -- bring the most experience from New Albany's four seasons as a club team. Sophomore forward Meagan O'Rourke had a team-high two goals through 10 games, and sophomore goalkeeper Michaela Masters had 111 saves in the same span -- including a season-high 18 in a 7-0 loss to Columbus Academy on Sept. 6 and 13 against CSG.

"She's growing more confident in her own skin," said McLean, who credited goalkeeper coach Anna Baylor for Masters' improvement. "She's gone from being a bit timid to being more vocal and coming up huge when we need her."

The Eagles' regular-season finale is Thursday, Oct. 4, at Worthington Kilbourne. The district tournament starts the week of Oct. 15.

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