There were times this fall when Chuck Gleich thought this would be his final season as coach of the Watterson High School girls volleyball team.
But after taking into consideration how much talent the Eagles should have back, he made a commitment to return for at least one more season.
Watterson lost to sixth-seeded Gahanna 25-20, 25-17, 14-25, 25-11 in the second round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 18 to finish 12-11 overall.
"As the season wound down, there were a couple of points in which I was 99 percent sure I was going to retire this year," Gleich said. "But I decided to take a couple of weeks to think it over at the end of the season before I made my final decision.
"During that time, I reflected that we have a bunch of good girls coming back and I feel like I still have something to give to the school in terms of my coaching, so I've decided to give it another run next year."
Watterson had an up-and-down regular season, in which it went 4-4 in the CCL to place third, behind DeSales (7-1) and Hartley (6-2) and ahead of Ready (3-5) and Columbus School for Girls (0-8).
But the Eagles won their final two league matches, beating Ready 23-25, 25-17, 25-19, 23-25, 15-11 on Oct. 9 and Hartley 17-25, 23-25, 25-21, 29-27, 15-7 on Oct. 11.
"The CCL was as strong as it has ever been, so beating Ready on our senior night and winning at Hartley were the highlights of the year," Gleich said.
Seeded 15th, the Eagles opened the district tournament with a 25-8, 25-17, 25-14 victory over Reynoldsburg on Oct. 16 before losing to Gahanna.
"Getting to beat Reynoldsburg in our final home match was a good thing for our team," Gleich said. "I think we could have beaten Gahanna on a different night, but we played tentatively against them and lost in four. We didn't execute our offense and finish plays like we usually do."
The Eagles are losing five seniors, including three three-year starters in seniors Rachel Chadwick (setter), Abby Hofmeister (libero) and Allison Merkle (setter/defensive specialist).
The other seniors are Molly McEwan (middle hitter) and Kaitlyn Rabe (outside hitter).
Merkle, who was named second-team all-district and first-team all-league, finished with 43 aces and a .92 serve percentage. Chadwick led the team in assists and had an .85 serve percentage. Hofmeister had a .95 serve percentage, McEwan had 71 blocks and 64 kills and Rabe had 60 kills.
Expected to return are juniors Caroline Canute (opposite hitter), Sam Carilli (outside hitter), Katie Cramer (defensive specialist), Gabby Dean (outside hitter), Ellen Dippolico (outside hitter), Lauren Frilling (outside hitter), Emily Hammer (middle hitter) and Kelly Strayer (setter) and sophomore Mary Patton (opposite hitter).
Frilling, a three-year starter and Xavier University recruit, was first-team all-league and all-district for the second consecutive season. She finished with 295 kills, 29 blocks, 18 aces and a .93 serve percentage.
Patton was second-team all-CCL, and Canute, a two-year starter, had 115 kills and 28 blocks.
"We have a lot of experience coming back," Gleich said. "There were a lot of times during the tournament where we had only one senior on the court. I think we'll have a chance at winning the CCL title this coming year."