From their coach on down the bench, and onto the court, the New Albany High School girls volleyball team never flinched when Olentangy Orange went ahead by as many as five points in the third game of an OCC-Capital Division match Aug. 27.
According to coach Karen Morlan, that confidence comes in part from having a veteran team. With six seniors, three juniors and three sophomores, the Eagles won five of their first seven matches and hope to challenge for their first league championship since winning the MSL-Ohio in 2004.
Senior middle blocker Kayla Morlan, a first-team all-league and second-team all-district honoree who has committed to Asbury University, leads a group of returnees that also includes senior libero Lauren Bressler and senior setter Erica Wisniewski. Wisniewski had a team-high 39 aces last year and Morlan had 179 kills and 114 blocks as the Eagles went 10-11 overall and 7-7 in the OCC-Capital.
Bressler and Morlan are four-year varsity players and junior outside hitter Lindsey Huber and Wisniewski are three-year players for the Eagles, who were 5-2 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Capital after defeating Franklin Heights 25-15, 25-7, 25-14 on Aug. 29.
"I feel like we are strong at every position," coach Morlan said. "Our front-row players do their jobs, our setters do their job, and so do our back-row players (and) our libero. Everyone is playing really well. I feel like I have flexibility if I need to change the lineup. I've had to a few different times, and the girls came out and took right to it."
New Albany opened by going 2-1 in the Marysville Spike-Off Invitational on Aug. 17, sandwiching wins over Jonathan Alder (25-15, 21-25, 25-22) and Orange (25-20, 25-22) around a loss to Olentangy (25-21, 16-25, 25-17).
The Eagles defeated Dublin Jerome 25-17, 25-16, 25-14 on Aug. 20 and lost to Hilliard Bradley 25-14, 25-13, 25-22 on Aug. 22 before opening their OCC-Capital schedule with a 25-20, 25-14, 25-19 win over Orange.
Rounding out the senior class are opposite hitter Shira Katz and defensive specialists Abi Simpson and Ally Vendetti. The team also includes junior defensive specialist Jamie Benson, junior setter Katie Billman, sophomore opposite hitter Caitlyn Coss, sophomore middle blocker Natalie Koenig and sophomore outside hitter Maddy Largent.
Field hockey team thrives on passing
Two home shutout wins in Central Ohio Field Hockey League-East Division play to start the season were good enough for coach Kristen McLean, but another part of the game thrilled her more.
"The thing I like the most about them (so far) is their passing game," said McLean, a second-year coach whose team opened with a 2-0 win over Granville on Aug. 17 and a 4-0 victory over Lancaster on Aug. 26 but lost 2-1 at Dublin Jerome on Aug. 28. "I've seen it in some elite teams, and all of a sudden our team is able to do it. It takes good teamwork. It takes knowing where your teammate is going, not where they just were. I'm shocked at how well they've done."
Junior center/midfielder Jamie Sevenish scored three goals against Lancaster, which did not muster a shot on goal. Junior forward Meagan O'Rourke had one goal apiece in the first two games, and junior forward Ellie Fireman scored against Granville.
Most of the Eagles' 19 players saw considerable time last year, when New Albany went 4-9-1 overall and 4-6 in the COFHL in its first season as a varsity program. McLean has 36 players in the program this year, up from 21 a year ago.
"Once they got the feel of what it meant to be on the varsity level and competing against these kinds of programs, they realized what they had to do," McLean said. "It wasn't going to be just five practices a week then competing against state championship-caliber teams. They needed to work all offseason to prepare."
New Albany has two seniors, forward Allison Lopez and center/defender Jackie Zaper, who grew up playing field hockey but did not play in 2012.
The roster also includes junior goalkeepers Michaela Master and Reed Patrick, junior center/forwards Mariah White and Anna Wolfe, junior defender Abby Wootton, sophomore defenders Chaney Clapham and Hannah Karzmer, sophomore forward Liza Hernandez, sophomore midfielder Payton Siebenaler, freshman forwards Ellie Henze and Gracie Pine, freshman midfielders Juliane Kalec and Deryn Murphy and freshman defender Sydney Standley.
COFHL realignment placed New Albany in the East Division with Bexley, Columbus Academy, Columbus School for Girls, Granville, Hartley, Lancaster, Watterson and Worthington Kilbourne. Dublin Coffman, Dublin Scioto, Jerome, Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty, Orange, Thomas Worthington and Upper Arlington are in the COFHL-West.
Warhawks to test Eagles' defense
The football team hits the road for the first time this season Friday, Sept. 6, when it visits Westerville Central.
New Albany will seek for the second consecutive week to avenge a loss from early in the 2012 season. The Eagles played host to Reynoldsburg in their opener Aug. 30, a rematch of the Raiders' 10-9 win last year.
Westerville Central won 23-20 in overtime last year. After New Albany's Trey Quillin kicked a 37-yard field goal on the first possession of overtime, Central quarterback Jared Drake threw a 20-yard touchdown to Charlie Moushey on the next play for the winning score.
The Warhawks, who went 7-3 a year ago and missed the Division I playoffs by one spot, return 25 seniors.
"We have one of the hardest schedules in central Ohio," Eagles senior quarterback Tanner Cline said. "It will definitely make us better, but our goal is just to go 1-0 every week."