Some might label the first-year Olentangy Orange High School girls volleyball team young and undersized.

Some might label the first-year Olentangy Orange High School girls volleyball team young and undersized.

Orange coach Stephanie Lanthorn, who was an assistant at Gahanna in 2005 and 2006, prefers to think of the Pioneers as enthusiastic.

"We are really young, but we've got some good athletes and the girls are working really hard at improving," said Lanthorn, whose team lost is opener last Saturday to Jonathan Alder in three games and played Mount Vernon last Tuesday. Orange will play host today to Big Walnut and will play Tuesday at New Albany. "We're not very tall, either, outside of a couple of players. We just don't grow trees here like they do at some of these other schools, but we're not worried about it."

The roster consists of juniors Lauren Augur (setter), Jaimie Lipp (libero), Jessica Redd (outside hitter), sophomores Carli Dahn (outside hitter) and Mackenna Dewey (defensive specialist) and freshmen Mary Ervin (opposite hitter), Kelsey Lewis (middle hitter), Kayli Lucius (defensive specialist) and Haley Mucha (middle hitter).

The Pioneers are in the OCC-Capital Division with Big Walnut, Delaware, Franklin Heights, New Albany, Watkins Memorial, Mount Vernon and Delaware. Orange will compete in the Division II postseason.

"Big Walnut is a strong program so I foresee them winning our division," Lanthorn said. "New Albany and Mount Vernon could be up there with Big Walnut, too. I see us as having a good shot to finish high in the middle of the pack in the OCC. We're young, so we're working on building a team atmosphere."

Liberty, which finished 21-5 overall last season after losing to Dublin Coffman 25-21, 16-25, 25-18, 25-23 in a Division I district final, opened last Tuesday against Marysville. The Patriots will play today at Dublin Jerome and Tuesday at home against Olentangy.

Five letterwinners are back in seniors Lindsay McDaniel (defensive specialist), Alex VanGundy (setter) and Julie Voss (defensive specialist), junior Megan VanFarowe (outside hitter) and sophomore Andrea Noe (outside hitter).

Seniors Allison Neal (opposite hitter) and Leslie Payton (outside hitter), juniors Morgan Helgreen (opposite hitter), Allie Musto (defensive specialist) and Brittany Wex (middle hitter) and sophomores Bryne Erdy (setter) and Morgan Stewart (middle hitter) round out the roster.

"We lost seven seniors and six of them were starters," coach Jen Chapman said. "We still have good players, but when it comes to varsity experience, we're kind of young."

Last year, Liberty tied Dublin Scioto for first in the OCC-Capital at 9-1.

The Patriots now are in the OCC-Cardinal with Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Marysville, Olentangy, Westerville Central, Westerville North and Westerville South.

"The OCC looks like a toss-up right now," Chapman said. "Olentangy has a bunch of seniors and most of their players are 6-foot or taller, so a lot of people think of them as the early favorite. But I really believe any of us can win it."

Olentangy, which finished 17-8 overall a year ago after losing to Watterson 25-19, 25-20, 25-10 in a Division I district semifinal, opened last Monday with a 25-11, 25-11, 25-14 win over New Albany and played Scioto last Tuesday. The Braves will play matches today at Marysville and Tuesday at Liberty.

Olentangy features six third-year starters including senior outside hitter Amanda Halls (6-1), senior middle hitters Kristen Farris (6-2) and Lauren Grover (6-2), senior defensive specialists Riley Galant (5-5) and Kristin Hargrove (5-5) and senior setter Morgan Irwin (5-7).

Halls (Towson), Farris (Kent State) and Grover (Hillsdale) have made verbal commitments. Last year, Grover and Halls were first-team all-district and all-OCC and Farris was second-team all-OCC.

Rounding out the roster are senior outside hitter Madelyn Ervin (6-0), senior defensive specialist Morgan Dieck (5-5), senior opposite hitter Dani Dikeman (6-0), junior setter Kelsey Profio (5-10) and sophomore opposite hitter Sarah Dikeman (6-0).

Last season, Olentangy was third (7-3) in the OCC-Cardinal behind Worthington Kilbourne (8-2) and Westerville South (8-2) and ahead of Jerome (5-5), Mount Vernon (2-8) and Pickerington Central (0-10).

"When you bring back all of this height and experience, you can't help but have high expectations," coach Michelle Mimna said. "We believe we have just as good a shot as anyone to win our league, but it won't be easy and we know that. Liberty is young, but they have a lot of talent. Marysville's always strong, too."

At a glance

LIBERTY

Coach: Jen Chapman, sixth season

Next match: Today at Dublin Jerome

Key players: Lindsay McDaniel, Andrea Noe, Megan VanFarowe, Alex VanGundy and Julie Voss

OLENTANGY

Coach: Michelle Mimna, third season

Next match: Today at Marysville

Key players: Madelyn Ervin, Kristen Farris, Riley Galant, Lauren Grover, Amanda Halls, Kristin Hargrove and Morgan Irwin

ORANGE

Coach: Stephanie Lanthorn, first season

Next match: Today vs. Big Walnut

Key players: Lauren Augur, Jaimie Lipp and Jessica Redd