Centennial High School girls volleyball coach Brenden Pence isn't surprised -- or even disappointed -- that his team has lost more matches than last season.
He believes the Stars' losses only have made them stronger.
Centennial was 13-6 overall and 12-0 in the City League-North Division before playing Whetstone on Oct. 7 and Linden-McKinley on Oct. 8.
Last year, Centennial finished 19-3 after losing to Eastmoor Academy 25-27, 26-24, 25-22, 25-19 in the City League championship match and falling to Hamilton Township 25-17, 25-10, 25-12 in the first round of the Division II district tournament.
"After we finished last season, I told the girls that we weren't going to have that kind of record again this year because I was going to schedule tougher opponents," Pence said. "We've lost more matches than we did last year, but we're a better team this year because we've been tested a lot more and we've learned some valuable lessons in each loss.
"I'm hoping that the lessons that we've learned will help us play much better and win the real important matches at the end of the season."
The Stars continued to dominate league opponents last week, defeating Brookhaven 25-4, 25-8, 25-10 on Sept. 30 and Northland 25-12, 25-14, 25-17 on Oct. 1.
"We should be able to win our division and make it back to the City League title (match) if we keep playing the way we played (last) week," Pence said. "Last year, we relied too much on hitting the ball down and trying to power through everything. This year, we've learned to be smarter with our passing and we're playing with a lot more finesse."
Pence said seniors Alyah Dean (libero), Jenna Herron (outside hitter) and Symfhani Pitts (outside hitter), juniors Danelle Easley (libero) and Maddi Parker (libero) and sophomores Jada Briggs (middle hitter), Alyssa Dean (middle hitter), Sierra Hawkins (outside hitter), Sam Meanor (setter) and Marissa Robertson (opposite hitter) have played important roles.
"Alyah Dean is doing a great job with her serve-receive and passing," Pence said. "Danelle Easley is playing well defensively, too, and Maddi Parker's serving lights-out. Sam Meanor has improved her setting quite a bit. We have a lot of good hitters in Symfhani Pitts, Marissa Robertson, Sierra Hawkins, Alyssa Dean and Jada Briggs. And Jenna Herron is my Swiss Army knife who plays well at any position."
Girls soccer team to play for City title
The girls soccer team will face Whetstone in the City title game Thursday, Oct. 10, at Crew Stadium.
The Braves beat the Stars 2-0 in a league game Sept. 12. The Stars didn't put any shots on goal, while Centennial goalkeeper Charity Harrison had 13 saves.
The squads also played a league rematch Oct. 7.
Whetstone beat Centennial 2-1 in the first City championship game in 2011 and defeated the Stars 3-2 in overtime in the 2012 City championship game.
"Whetstone has a solid defense, so we need to put any opportunity we get into the net, because we won't get many," coach Barb Mansfield said. "They have a good center midfielder (Liz Jackson) who is by far their workhorse, so we need to disrupt her play and hope that it throws the rest of their team off.
"This will be our third game against Whetstone, but we're working on some things in practice they won't see until Thursday, so you never know what can happen."
The Stars beat Caledonia River Valley 6-0 on Oct. 3 to improve to 8-5 overall. They were 7-1 in the City entering the week.
"(Forward) Carly Scheel has been our leading scorer, and (midfielder) Dominique Brown is our most aggressive player," Mansfield said. "Our center defenders, Kira Watkins and Sarah Hangen, play hard and work well together in the back. And our goalkeeper, Charity Harrison, makes amazing stops.
"Playing Whetstone right before the start of the Division II district tournament should prepare us to face tough competition."
Football team looks to bounce back
The football team lost at Northland 55-6 on Oct. 4 in a City-North game.
The Stars dropped to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the league, while the Vikings improved to 4-1 and 2-1.
Quarterback Nicholas Fischer was 9-for-13 passing for 130 yards and a touchdown, and running back Malcolm Marshall rushed for 150 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries to pace the Vikings.
With quarterback Jeremy Johnson out of the lineup recovering from what coach Donte Goosby described as concussion-like symptoms, the Stars' offense gained only 37 yards in the first half.
Cole Murray started at quarterback and was 5-for-27 passing for 28 yards, while running back Darsean Watts rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
"Jeremy's clearly a huge part of our offense and an important leader for our entire team and he was missed," Goosby said. "Jeremy was considered a 50-50 chance to play early in the week and we didn't learn that he had to sit this one out until (Oct. 2). Cole stepped in and got his reps, but we needed to do a better job of executing against a team like Northland."
The Stars play another league game Friday, Oct. 11, at Brookhaven.
The Bearcats beat Linden-McKinley 33-0 on Oct. 4 to improve to 4-2 overall and 3-0 in the City-North.
"Brookhaven has a lot of weapons, just like Northland, so we'll need to execute well to compete with a team like them," Goosby said. "We can't make the same mistakes we made against Northland and expect to beat them. The good news is Jeremy Johnson will be ready to go against Brookhaven barring any unexpected setbacks."
Girls tennis team falls short of district
The girls tennis team competed in a Division I sectional tournament Oct. 3 and 5 at Pickerington Central, but none of the Stars placed in the top four in singles or doubles to qualify for district.
In singles, Niki Stearns and Kate Sullivan each went 1-1 and Jani Stearns went 0-1.
In doubles, Becca Schulz and Qiufen Schumacher went 1-1 and Kayla Allen and Anaya Williams went 0-1.
Boys golfers compete at sectional
Phil Pezzatta (93), Russell Chambers (111) and Robert Turner (120) competed for the boys golf team in the Division I sectional tournament Oct. 1 at Granville Golf Course.
The top three individuals not on qualifying teams moved on to the district tournament Oct. 8 at Apple Valley, and none of the Stars advanced.
Centennial concluded its season in the City tournament Oct. 9 at Airport.