The Upper Arlington High School girls volleyball team is well aware that it has its share of youth and inexperience.
So the Golden Bears have spent much of this season scratching and clawing for every point, then often fighting for every postgame breath.
Entering this week, UA had played four five-game matches and five four-game matches, including back-to-back four-game wins in which the matches were decided by a combined five points.
"We have our moments where we're doing great things, then we have those moments where we're lacking consistency on the court," said coach Matt Wion, whose team was 5-10 overall and 4-6 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Hilliard Davidson on Oct. 2.
"As a team, we know what we need to improve and we're addressing it each week. All I ask is we do better in the second half of the season than we did the first."
Having only two senior starters in defensive specialists Samantha Farwick and Sydney Farwick, the Bears were swept five times through 15 matches.
After struggling to a 2-4 start, they gutted out a 29-31, 27-25, 25-15, 27-25 league win at Marysville on Sept. 11 and pulled out a 25-23, 25-18, 22-25, 25-22 win over Westland on Sept. 13 in another league match.
The Bears lost their next six matches, but they challenged defending league champion Dublin Coffman late in a 25-9, 25-15, 25-23 loss on Sept. 18. They also pushed Olentangy Liberty to four games in a 25-16, 23-25, 25-15, 25-19 loss on Sept. 25 after losing to the Patriots 25-13, 25-22, 25-7 in their first league meeting Aug. 30.
UA's losing streak ended with a 25-18, 25-9, 25-20 win over Central Crossing on Sept. 27.
"For us to take (Liberty) to four games, it shows some progress right there," Wion said.
"Our younger girls are stepping up. We have two sophomores (outside hitter Brigid McKee and middle hitter Jordan Spychalski) starting on varsity, we have four juniors (outside hitter Bailey Gowins and Melanie McMillan, setter Maria Grund and middle hitter Ashley Murray), two seniors and a freshman (outside hitter Caroline Warner). There are some growing pains, but I'm happy with the progress I'm seeing."
Girls tennis team rolls to OCC title
The girls tennis team won its 30th consecutive league championship Sept. 29, sweeping all five courts and scoring 40 points in the OCC-Central tournament at Davidson.
UA went 7-0 in OCC-Central dual matches and finished league play with a combined 80 points. Liberty went 6-1 and Coffman 5-2. Both had 61 points to tie for second, followed by Davidson (45, 4-3), Thomas Worthington (31, 3-4) and Marysville (23, 2-5). Central Crossing and Westland were scheduled to decide which of the two would finish seventh in a makeup dual match Oct. 3.
The Comets and Cougars entered that match 0-6 and with four and two points, respectively.
The Bears ended their league schedule with a 3-2 win over Coffman on Sept. 28, narrowly escaping what coach Shaun Stamps said would have been UA's first league loss in more than 20 years.
In the finals of the league tournament, senior Elaine Cloern defeated Liberty's Sydney Power 7-5, 6-1 at first singles, sophomore Audrey Berger beat Coffman's Ashley Tan 6-1, 6-2 at second singles, freshman Olivia Kompa beat Coffman's Krissi Tzagournis 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 at third singles, senior Andi Smart and junior Beniva Ganther defeated Coffman's Amber Lee and Annie Yang 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 at first doubles and Jessica Patton and Emma Klebe swept Liberty's Sonia Chhabria and Avivah Wang 6-3, 6-1 at second doubles.
"This is probably one of the closest races we have had in 10 or 15 years," Stamps said. "This weekend helped get us ready for the next couple of weeks."
UA will play host to one of four Division I sectional tournaments Thursday, Oct. 4, and Saturday, Oct. 6.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles from each sectional -- the others are at Davidson, Pickerington Central and Reynoldsburg -- advance to the district tournament Oct. 12 and 13 at Davidson.
Cloern and Berger earned the top doubles seed for their sectional. Smart and Ganther are seeded second in doubles and Kompa is seeded second in singles.