Olentangy High School girls volleyball coach Michelle Mimna was thrilled that her team was able to win 19 matches and place second in the OCC-Capital Division last year.
With six valuable members of last year’s squad having returned, Mimna is optimistic the Braves can do even better this season.
“We expect to exceed our win total from last year because we have more talent spread throughout the team, and we have a group of girls who have great chemistry and want to be together and play volleyball together,” Mimna said. “The goal is to win an OCC title and get into a district championship match.”
Four starters are back in senior outside hitter Ganiru Anunike, senior setter/outside hitter Sarah Arango, sophomore outside hitter Madison Griffin and sophomore middle hitter Lauren Judge.
Anunike had 276 kills last season and was first-team all-league and all-district in Division I. Arango, who had 727 assists, was honorable mention all-league and all-district.
“Ganiru jump-touches (9 feet, 10 inches), which gives her a real advantage over blockers,” Mimna said. “(Arango) set full time in 2012, but will get some help this year and thus will be able to bring her considerable athleticism to our offense.
“(Griffin) is moving to the outside hitter position this year and complements Ganiru’s power with her finesse game. ... (Judge) figures to be a much bigger part of our offense this year as she has grown in strength and volleyball IQ.”
Two other letterwinners have returned in junior libero Mak-ayla Kochheiser and senior
middle hitter Kaitlyn Kelley.
Sophomore Sammy Diamond has earned a starting role as an outside hitter and sophomore Kali Cahill will share setting duties with Arango.
Rounding out the lineup are seniors Haley Draime (defensive specialist), Rachel Starner (defensive specialist) and Lizzie Weisenstein (outside hitter), juniors Rachel Hand (middle hitter) and Sam Jones (defensive specialist) and sophomores Sarah Hansel (outside hitter) and Zoe Miller (defensive specialist).
“Our strength is our experience and our offensive capabilities,” Mimna said. “The biggest strength, however, is the team chemistry. It’s such a great atmosphere in the gym, something that has been missing in years past.”
Last season, the Braves went 19-6 overall and 12-2 in the OCC-Capital to finish behind Big Walnut (13-1). They lost to Hilliard Bradley 23-25, 25-19, 25-17, 25-18 in a Division I district semifinal.
The Braves opened Aug. 17 by going 3-0 in the Marysville Spike-Off Tournament. They were 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Capital after defeating Orange 25-21, 25-21, 20-25, 25-13 on Aug. 29.
“If we can pass in serve-receive consistently and play solid defense, our offense should be able to propel this team to a 20-win season,” Mimna said.
Inexperienced Patriots keeping standards high
Even though Liberty has only two starters back, coach Jen Chapman said the Patriots are looking to top last season’s 17-5 record.
The Patriots finished second in the OCC-Central at 12-2, behind Dublin Coffman (14-0). They lost to Pickerington North 25-23, 25-17, 25-20 in a Division I district final.
“This is the first time we’ve had such an inexperienced team since the 2008 season, but our goals are still to win our conference and make it past the district finals,” Chapman said.
“We have a good group of girls. We just need to improve our experience level and make sure we peak at the end of the season.”
Liberty’s two returning starters are senior middle hitter Brooke Knollman and senior setter Ellie Schramm.
Knollman was honorable mention all-league a year ago.
Rounding out the roster are senior opposite hitter Addie Nossaman, juniors Abbey Gay (outside hitter) and Kristen Levering (opposite hitter), sophomores Lauren Burke (outside hitter), Lauren Hofer (opposite hitter), Alley Humenay (setter), Haley Kelly (defensive specialist), Kristen Menges (defensive specialist) and Shelby Stewart (outside hitter) and freshmen Madison Brenner (outside hitter) and Alex Raphael (defensive specialist).
Liberty opened the season Aug. 24 by beating Gahanna 25-20, 25-15 and losing to Westerville Central 25-15, 25-11. The Patriots were 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Central after beating Upper Arlington 22-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-13 on Aug. 29.
“We don’t have that one outside hitter who we rely on for kills like we’ve had in the past,” Chapman said. “Now some of our stronger hitters are in the middle, so we spread the ball around a bit more.”
Pioneers looking to improve with new coach
Orange is looking to improve on last year when it finished 7-12 overall, placed sixth (5-9) in the OCC-Capital and opened the Division I district tournament with a 25-15, 26-24, 25-6 loss to Mount Vernon.
“Our goals are simple: Play good volleyball and enjoy playing and being on this team,” first-year coach Ed Marsman said. “If we accomplish that, we will win enough to be in the top echelon of our league and to do some damage in the tournament.”
The Pioneers opened Aug. 17 by going 1-2 in the Marysville Spike-Off Tournament. They were 2-7 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Capital after losing to Olentangy on Aug. 29.
Four starters have returned in seniors Abby Fordham (outside hitter) and Mackenzie Gossard (middle hitter), junior middle hitter Zahara Harrison and freshman outside hitter Jordan Gels.
Fordham had 161 kills, 217 digs and 29 aces last year, and was honorable mention all-league.
Gels had 158 kills, Gossard had 35 solo blocks and 29 aces, and Harrison had 36 solo blocks. Gels and Gossard were second-team all-league.
Rounding out the roster are senior opposite hitters Emylee Beougher and Taylor Miller, juniors Madeline Berlin (defensive specialist), Kyle Davidson (middle hitter), Sophia Deshazo (outside hitter), Amelia Dewey (setter), Payton Gabalis (setter), Jennifer Kurelic (defensive specialist) and Kerstin Vojacek (libero), sophomore opposite hitter Leah Howser and freshman defensive specialist Valentina Litvinova.
“This team has gone through a number of different coaches over the past five years,” Marsman said. “They constantly have to learn new systems and new ways of doing things, and that is hard to internalize.
“Our strength is our ability to attack. We have several very good hitters.”