Whether the New Albany High School girls volleyball team can match or exceed its program-record 18 victories from a year ago remains to be seen.
Coach Karen Morlan, however, is optimistic the Eagles have the tools to again make noise in the OCC-Capital Division and Division I district tournament, despite losing three starters and six players overall to graduation.
"We knew we'd be rebuilding or reloading, whatever you want to call it," said Morlan, who is in her fifth season. "We have a nice group of girls and they are working hard to figure out how to work together. They see some potential in themselves. They know what we lost. They needed to see how well this group could play when they came together."
New Albany was 5-2 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Capital before playing Olentangy on Sept. 2.
The Eagles return four starters in senior defensive specialist/setter Katie Billman, senior middle blocker/outside hitter Lindsey Huber, junior middle hitter/right-side hitter Natalie Koenig and junior outside hitter/defensive specialist Maddy Largent. Huber, who had 214 kills last year and was honorable mention all-league, has committed to play sand volleyball at Tulane University.
New Albany was 18-7 overall last year and 10-4 in the OCC-Capital, losing to Grove City 25-22, 25-23, 25-19 in a Division I district semifinal. The Eagles tied Big Walnut for third in the league, two games behind co-champions Olentangy and Worthington Kilbourne.
Other returning letterwinners are senior defensive specialist/libero Jamie Benson and junior defensive specialist/right-side hitter Caitlyn Coss.
The Eagles' losses to graduation included first-team all-district middle blocker Kayla Morlan, who now plays at Asbury University, second-team all-district libero Lauren Bressler and special mention all-league setter Erica Wisniewski.
Coach Morlan changed the offense from a 5-1, which featured one setter, to a 6-2 to incorporate Billman and sophomore setter Amy Booth.
"We want a three-person attack up front," Morlan said. "I have two right-side (hitters in Coss and junior Kayla Brosnan) that are doing a great job right now. They're setting the block well and they're swinging well from the right side. They put up bigger blocks than Katie might, so we decided to stick with that three-person attack in the front row."
The rest of the roster consists of senior defensive specialist/libero Jamie Benson, junior defensive specialist/lib-ero Sophia Young, sophomore defensive specialist/libero Emily Booth, sophomore defen-sive specialist/outside hitter Emily Leatherman and sophomore middle blocker/right-side hitter Alexis Rudy.
New Albany went 1-2 in the season-opening Marysville Spike-Off Invitational on Aug. 16, defeating Hilliard Darby 22-25, 27-25, 25-22 and losing to Olentangy Orange (27-25, 20-25, 25-23) and Jonathan Alder (25-16, 25-23). In the Eagles' only other non-league match so far, they defeated visiting Caledonia River Valley 25-17, 25-11, 25-22 on Aug. 23.
In league play, New Albany edged Orange 25-19, 23-25, 25-23, 26-24 on Aug. 21, beat Franklin Heights 25-7, 25-12, 25-19 on Aug. 26 and topped Delaware 25-16, 25-12, 25-17 on Aug. 27.
Field hockey team starts with shutouts
Despite the field hockey team returning several key players, first-year coach Nikki Wimsatt focused mostly on fundamentals as the season began.
"We obviously have girls with experience, which certainly can be nice, but there's also a measure of getting them to break bad habits," Wimsatt said. "I want them to have a good box of tools so they can make good decisions on the field. I want them to be comfortable with themselves and where to place the ball."
Wimsatt replaced Kristen McLean Pulcheon, who resigned after two seasons.
New Albany went 5-9-1 overall and 3-5 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-East Division in 2013, finishing sixth behind champion Columbus Academy (8-0).
The Eagles lost only two players to graduation and return four of their top five scorers in senior midfielder Jamie Sevenish (9 goals), senior forward/midfielder Meagan O'Rourke (7) and senior forwards Mariah White (4) and Ellie Fireman (3). Junior Liza Hernandez (7 goals) and senior goalkeeper Michaela Master did not return this year.
New Albany was 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the COFHL-East before visiting Academy on Sept. 2. The Eagles opened with a 4-0 shutout over visiting Orange on Aug. 20 and added a 1-0 shutout win at Lancaster on Aug. 25 in their league opener before losing 1-0 to the Hilliard Lynx on Aug. 28.
Junior goalie Mackenzie Litterst made one save against Orange, a game in which the Eagles got goals from Fireman, O'Rourke, Sevenish and White. Litterst had two saves at Lancaster and O'Rourke scored.
The rest of the roster consists of senior forwards Elise Buzza and Erin Buzza, senior defender Abby Wooton, junior forward Daniela Black, junior defenders Chinenye Bosah, Chaney Clapham, Hannah Karzmer and Maddi Laird, junior defender/midfielder Payton Siebenaler, sophomore forwards Victoria Boals, Ellie Henze, Cameron Metsker and Gracie Pine, sophomore midfielders Emma Fireman and Devyn Murphy, sophomore defender Julianne Kalec, sophomore goalie Lena Strench and freshman forward/midfielder Emily Cooke.
Wimsatt, a 1992 Upper Arlington graduate, comes to New Albany with a bevy of field hockey experience. The daughter of Ohio Wesleyan University coach Marge Redmond and sister of Denison coach P.J. Soteriades, Wimsatt coached UA from 1997-2005, assisted her mother at OWU from 2008-12 and was an assistant last season at Denison. Wimsatt served as the Big Red's interim coach when her sister went on maternity leave.
Football team seeks 2-0 start
One of the football team's wildest games last year was a 57-50 win over Westerville Central, to which the Eagles will play host in their home opener Friday, Sept. 5.
New Albany began the season with such a back-and-forth affair, albeit one not as high-scoring, when it outlasted host Reynoldsburg 36-35 in double overtime Aug. 28. James Smith rushed for 85 yards on 14 carries and scored both of his touchdowns in overtime, including the winner from 4 yards in the second overtime.
"When we called the play, they looked to me. I said 'touchdown' before I even scored. My guys told me to look for the hole," said Smith, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior and first-year starter who previously scored from 5 yards. "This is the greatest feeling I have ever had. Whatever this team needs me to do, I'll do it. I've wanted this opportunity for a long time."
Christo Semertsidis rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, and Titus Williams caught three passes for 78 yards and a score to lead New Albany. Jack Burgdoerfer tackled Reynoldsburg's Ashton Dulin on an interception return inside the 5-yard line as the fourth quarter ended, saving what might have been the winning touchdown.
Westerville Central opened Aug. 29 at DeSales. Key offensive players include quarterback Nate Jackowski, running back Benny Snell and Division I recruit Cedric Frierson at receiver.
Ben Cooper, a 6-4, 305-pound senior, anchors the defensive line.
Boys golf team in charge of league race
The boys golf team needs to finish third or better in the final round of the OCC-Capital tournament Wednesday, Sept. 10, at Clover Valley to clinch its fifth consecutive league title.
Austin McNutt's round of 43 powered New Albany to a team score of 187 and a two-shot victory over Orange in the third round Aug. 27 at Turnberry. That round was shortened to 11 holes because of rain.
Austin Masturzo shot 47 for the Eagles, followed by Matt Wininger (48), Matt Bonadies (49) and Austin Gliha (49). They finished ahead of Orange (189), Mount Vernon (192), Big Walnut (195), Kilbourne (198), Olentangy (199), Delaware (204) and Franklin Heights, which had no team score.
New Albany is 21-0 in league play, ahead of Orange (18-3), Mount Vernon (13-8), Olentangy (11-10), Big Walnut (10-11), Kilbourne (8-13), Delaware (3-18) and Franklin Heights (0-21).
Girls golf team fifth in league
Maggie Records' round of 93 led the girls golf team to a fifth-place finish in the third OCC-Cardinal tournament Aug. 26 at Royal American, leaving the Eagles fifth in the overall league standings entering the final round Tuesday, Sept. 9, at Mentel Memorial.
Maggie Archer shot 102, followed by Ellie Billisits (108), Kyley Reams (117) and Katelyn Shea (123).
Dublin Jerome leads the league at 17-0, followed by Olentangy Liberty (13-4), Olentangy (12-5), Pickerington Central (8-9), New Albany (5-12), Orange (2-15) and Delaware (0-12).
In the third round, the Eagles shot a 420 to finish behind Jerome (307), Olentangy (374), Liberty (380) and Central (404) and ahead of Orange (429) and Delaware (500).
Aug. 20 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
*Aug. 25 -- at Lancaster
Aug. 28 -- at Hilliard
*Sept. 2 -- at Columbus Academy
*Sept. 4 -- vs. Hartley
*Sept. 8 -- at Granville
Sept. 10 -- at Dublin Scioto
Sept. 13 -- at Gates Mills Hawken
*Sept. 18 -- vs. Bexley
*Sept. 22 -- at Watterson
*Sept. 29 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
Oct. 1 -- at Olentangy
*Oct. 2 -- vs. Columbus School for Girls
Oct. 3 -- at Upper Arlington
Oct. 6 -- at Dublin Coffman
Oct. 9 -- at Dublin Jerome
Aug. 16 -- Hilliard Darby, Jonathan Alder and Olentangy Orange in Marysville Spike-Off Invitational
*Aug. 21 -- at Olentangy Orange
Aug. 23 -- vs. Caledonia River Valley
*Aug. 26 -- vs. Franklin Heights
*Aug. 27 -- at Delaware
*Sept. 2 -- vs. Olentangy
*Sept. 4 -- vs. Big Walnut
*Sept. 9 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
*Sept. 11 -- vs. Mount Vernon
*Sept. 16 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
*Sept. 18 -- at Franklin Heights
Sept. 20 -- Newark Invitational
*Sept. 23 -- vs. Delaware
*Sept. 30 -- at Olentangy
*Oct. 2 -- at Big Walnut
*Oct. 7 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne
*Oct. 9 -- at Mount Vernon