Orange intends to keep climbing
The Olentangy Orange High School girls volleyball team earned a pair of major accomplishments last year while putting together the best season in program history.
Not only did the Pioneers go 11-11 overall to set the program record for wins in a season, they also beat Marysville 25-16, 16-25, 27-25, 30-28 in the first round of the Division I district tournament to earn their first postseason win.
Even though Orange opened this season with back-to-back OCC-Capital Division losses to New Albany (25-15, 19-25, 25-21, 25-17 on Aug. 28) and Olentangy (25-21, 25-18, 25-19 on Aug. 30), second-year coach Jessica Timmons said her team is looking to build on what it achieved a year ago.
"What we did last year was a great step forward for our program, but we want to keep climbing," she said. "We always want to be better than we were the year before, so we'd like to have a winning season and win at least a couple of matches in the district tournament."
Four letterwinners have returned in junior outside hitter Abigail Fordham, junior middle hitter Mackenzie Gossard, senior setter Tyler Folds and senior defensive specialist Madison Linek.
Gossard had 28 aces, 103 kills and 43 solo blocks last year.
Completing the roster are seniors Mackenzie Boland (defensive specialist) and Alissa Morrison (defensive specialist), junior opposite hitter Emylee Beougher, sophomores Kyle Davidson (opposite hitter), Amelia Dewey (setter), Zahara Harrison (middle hitter) and Kerstin Vojacek (libero) and freshman outside hitter Jordan Gels.
"We don't have a lot of players with varsity experience, but what's nice about that is the girls are still very moldable and able to play different positions," Timmons said. "The girls are talented and we have some tall girls, so our block should be a strong point for us."
Last year, Orange finished fourth (7-7) in the OCC-Capital behind Hilliard Bradley (13-1), Big Walnut (12-2) and Mount Vernon (10-4) and ahead of New Albany (6-8), Delaware (6-8), Watkins Memorial (2-12) and Franklin Heights (0-14).
The Pioneers lost to 16th-seeded Gahanna 25-15, 25-23, 25-16 in the second round of the district tournament.
Olentangy has replaced Bradley in the OCC-Capital.
"You can't look past anyone in our league because everyone is capable of beating each other," Timmons said. "Every game is going to be a learning experience for us, but I wouldn't be surprised to see us get better every game because the kids really want it."
Braves looking to win OCC-Capital title
Olentangy opened Aug. 25 by going 2-1 in the Marysville Spike-Off Invitational. The Braves lost to Pickerington North 25-21, 25-14 and defeated Lewistown Indian Lake 25-23, 25-17 and Buckeye Valley 25-16, 25-17.
The Braves opened OCC-Capital play Aug. 28 with a 25-18, 28-26, 25-21 loss at Big Walnut before beating Orange.
Olentangy then defeated Lakewood 20-25, 25-20, 23-25, 25-23, 15-12 on Sept. 1.
Last year, the Braves tied Westerville North for third (9-5) in the OCC-Cardinal behind Westerville Central (14-0) and Liberty (12-2) and ahead of Dublin Jerome (4-10), Marysville (4-10), Westerville South (3-11) and Dublin Scioto (1-13).
Olentangy opened the Division I district tournament with a 25-18, 25-17, 25-12 win over Hilliard Darby. The 10th-seeded Braves then lost to ninth-seeded Thomas Worthington 15-25, 25-22, 17-25, 25-15, 15-11 to finish 15-9 overall.
"My expectations for this year are to compete for the OCC title," sixth-year coach Michelle Mimna said. "My expectations for the tournament are to get a nice seed and make it into a district final. High expectations, but this team won't succeed if we coaches do not make them reach for it. We were very disappointed with a tough five-set loss to Thomas Worthington last year after being up 2-0 in that match to end our season. I expect a tougher team than last year."
Four starters are back in senior outside hitter Kasia Walczak, senior setter Kelsey Rose, junior outside hitter Ganiru Anunike and senior defensive specialist Jamie Riley.
Walczak was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Also back are senior opposite hitter Morgan Reed and junior setter Sarah Arango. Senior setter Courtney Kerin, junior middle hitter Kaitlyn Kelley, sophomore defensive specialist Makayla Kochheiser and freshmen Lauren Douglas (setter), Maddie Griffin (opposite hitter) and Lauren Judge (middle hitter) complete the roster.
"We believe that we have a shot to win many matches this year with our returning experience and our solid corps of newcomers," Mimna said. "We will definitely have our share of early mistakes because of our youth and some of our position changes, but I believe our seniors and two returning juniors will provide the stability we need to have a very nice season."
Patriots return four starters
Liberty opened Aug. 25 with a 25-15, 25-15 loss to Gahanna and a 25-12, 22-25, 25-23 loss to Westerville Central.
In OCC-Central matches, the Patriots beat Central Crossing 25-17, 25-19, 25-17 on Aug. 28 and Upper Arlington 25-13, 25-22, 25-7 on Aug. 30.
Liberty finished 20-5 overall a year ago.
Four players who started multiple matches last season are back in senior outside hitter Stephanie Ruffing, senior libero Kenna Koehler, senior middle hitter Kayla Pfaff and sophomore middle hitter Brooke Knollman.
Ruffing, a Wright State recruit, was second-team all-district and first-team all-league last season.
Completing the roster are seniors Rosalyn Ransaw (opposite hitter), Kelsi Robinson (setter), Catherine Scherer (defensive specialist) and Alex Silvestri (defensive specialist), juniors Addie Nossaman (opposite hitter) and Ellie Schramm (setter), sophomore Kristen Levering (middle hitter) and freshmen Jessica Ruffing (outside hitter) and Shelby Stewart (outside hitter).
After finishing second in the OCC-Cardinal last year, fifth-seeded Liberty opened the Division I district tournament with a 25-15, 25-20, 25-12 win over Watkins Memorial and defeated Briggs 25-10, 25-13, 25-8 in the second round.
The Patriots then beat 15th-seeded Westerville North 25-17, 25-19, 25-10 in a district semifinal before losing to third-seeded Dublin Coffman 25-21, 30-28, 25-15 in a final.
"I am looking forward to the new league and I'm looking for my seniors to lead our team to victories," 10th-year coach Jen Chapman said. "Two big keys to our success this season are being able to serve tough and have better ball control than the team across the net from us."