The Upper Arlington High School girls volleyball team has much more varsity experience than it had at the start of last season, but with only one senior, it hardly qualifies as a veteran team.

The Upper Arlington High School girls volleyball team has much more varsity experience than it had at the start of last season, but with only one senior, it hardly qualifies as a veteran team.

UA finished 3-20 last season, marking the first time since 2000 that it had fewer than 10 victories. Inexperience played a major role, as the Golden Bears lost all eight varsity players from the 2006 season to graduation.

UA was 1-9 in the OCC-Buckeye Division a year ago to place sixth behind Dublin Coffman (9-1), Hilliard Davidson (8-2), Westerville North (6-4), Reynoldsburg (4-6) and Grove City (2-8). It lost to Gahanna 25-16, 25-3, 25-19 in the second round of the Division I district tournament after having a first-round bye.

"We realize what we were up against last year," said second-year coach John Stahl, whose team travels to Worthington Kilbourne today for an OCC-Central match after opening last Saturday with a 25-23 victory over Ready and a 17-25, 25-11, 25-23 victory over Mount Vernon and playing Thomas Worthington last Tuesday in a league match. "We definitely will be a better team this year. It wasn't that we weren't competitive last year, but we'll be much more competitive this year."

UA, which had no seniors last season, returns five letterwinners in senior Meaghan Crowley (setter) and juniors Kate Dangel (outside hitter), Emma Gargus (middle hitter), Lizzie Hansel (opposite hitter) and Kadie Koeneman (outside hitter). Crowley was first-team all-league last season.

Also on the team are juniors Allison Buffer (defensive specialist), Kathy Chilikov (setter/outside hitter), Mara Dalton (outside hitter), Liz Davis (setter/outside hitter) and Beth Roys (opposite hitter) and sophomores Ava Camp (middle hitter) and Molly Lex (libero).

"We had a great summer," Stahl said. "The girls have been working very hard. We're still a young team, but I think we're stronger this year and we'll be even stronger next year. We're building the program.

"I believe in my heart that they're much better volleyball players. We went to the Ohio University team camp (in July) and went undefeated in at least 12 matches. We weren't playing all OCC Division I schools, but we were playing at a high level. We're well ahead of where we were last year as far as skill and experience. We still have lots to learn and lots to work on, but the girls have embraced the challenge."

UA now is in the OCC-Central with Central Crossing, Coffman, Davidson, Hilliard Darby, Kilbourne, Thomas and Westland. The Bears have a league match Tuesday at Darby and Sept. 4 at home against Central Crossing.

"The OCC will still be very tough," Stahl said. "We're not going into (the season) unrealistically thinking that we can win every match we play, but we're going to go out and fight as hard as we can. We're not going to roll over for anyone."

UA's Kadie Koeneman is one of five returning letterwinners for the girls volleyball team.

At a glance

Coach: John Stahl, second season

Next match: Today at Worthington Kilbourne

Key players: Meaghan Crowley, Kate Dangel, Emma Gargus and Kadie Koeneman