There was little question a year ago regarding who would play on a match-by-match basis – or that wins would be plentiful – for the Westerville Central High School girls volleyball team.
Because of the number of players being thrust into key roles for the first time this season, coach Shaun Servick has done more situational substituting than he did the past two seasons when the Warhawks earned back-to-back OCC-Cardinal Division titles, going 28-0 in league play.
The uncertainty hasn’t dampened Central’s hopes of another strong season, however.
“Last year we were big, strong and fast, and this year we’re going to more packages,” Servick said. “We have a speed package. We’re a little bit smaller, but right now we’re competing with some of the best teams in Westerville Central history in digs and serve-receive rate. I’m thinking we’ve got a shot to go in and compete again (for the league title).”
Central opened Aug. 20 with a 25-22, 15-25, 25-11, 22-25, 23-21 win over Olentangy. It then beat Marion Pleasant 25-23, 25-22, 25-18 on Aug. 22 and Gahanna 21-25, 25-13, 25-20 and Olentangy Liberty 25-15, 25-10 on Aug. 24.
The Warhawks opened OCC-Cardinal play Aug. 27 with a 25-19, 25-20, 25-20 win over Dublin Scioto and beat league newcomer Canal Winchester 25-16, 25-17, 25-17 on Aug. 29.
Central was 6-0 overall and had won 31 consecutive league matches before playing Hilliard Bradley on Sept. 3.
Back after contributing a year ago when Central went 21-3 and lost in a Division I regional semifinal are seniors Kelly Piper (setter) and Maddie Cline (libero) and sophomore Katie Meyers (opposite hitter).
The other seniors are Alyssa Hetterscheidt (defensive specialist) and Mandy Radigan (middle hitter).
Also on the team are juniors Alex Kuhns (outside hitter), Jenna Poppins (middle hitter) and Chelsea Schmidt (middle hitter) and sophomores Acacia Freeman (outside hitter) and Bailey Line (outside hitter).
“The last two years we’ve made really good runs and we haven’t lost a league match since 2010,” Servick said. “This year we have more depth and more opportunities to strategize. It’s been a lot more involved from a coaching standpoint.”
Wildcats hoping for more improvement
After winning a combined 13 matches from 2008-11, South went 8-14 overall a year ago.
The Wildcats believe they can take another step toward respectability with the return of six players.
The returnees are seniors Carlie Freeman (setter), Logan Holman (outside hitter), Madison Russell (outside hitter/middle hitter), Taylor Smith (libero) and Sam Thune (outside hitter) and junior Chenelle Moore (middle hitter).
Also on the team are juniors Katie Baur (defensive specialist), Edith Fuentes (outside hitter), Aleah Llaneza (setter), Kristel Tenorio (defensive specialist) and Sophia Winegard (outside hitter) and sophomore Kaylah Ivey (middle hitter). According to coach John Nguyen, Ivey is about 6-foot-1.
“We wanted to have a core group coming back to help the program this year,” Nguyen said. “Overall, they’re playing together better as a team. Our goal is just to keep on winning.”
South opened with wins over Reynoldsburg 25-27, 25-16, 25-21, 13-25, 15-11 on Aug. 20 and Olentangy Orange 23-25, 25-21, 27-25, 25-23 on Aug. 22 before losing to Canal Winchester 25-12, 19-25, 25-17, 25-23 in its OCC-Cardinal opener Aug. 28.
The Wildcats lost to Bradley 26-24, 25-10, 25-19 in a league match Aug. 29 and fell to Grove City 16-25, 25-12, 25-15, 25-12 on Aug. 31. They were 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Dublin Scioto on Sept. 3.
South has gone 3-11 in the league each of the past two seasons.
“On the defensive side, we’re a little bit better than we were last year and I have more offense than last year, so that helps,” Nguyen said. “I guess we’ve had our best start in a long time, and it was against pretty good opposition. Last year, we were (seeded) 25th out of 43 (for the Division I district tournament), so we’re working to move up and we want to get a winning record this year.”
Warriors counting on inexperienced players
North has six returnees, but the only player back who saw significant playing time last year is junior middle hitter Rebecca Skidmore.
The Warriors, who went 8-5 over their final 13 matches a year ago to finish 9-12 overall and 5-9 in the OCC-Cardinal, were 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the league before playing Dublin Jerome on Sept. 3.
North, which has only one senior, opened Aug. 17, beating Reynoldsburg 27-25, 25-20 and Westland 25-17, 21-25, 25-22 in a home tri-match and defeated Delaware 23-25, 25-9, 25-22, 25-21 on Aug. 21.
The Warriors then beat Hilliard Darby 25-16, 25-19, 25-20 in its OCC-Cardinal opener Aug. 27 and held on to defeat Scioto 25-19, 25-20, 12-25, 20-25, 15-12 in a league match Aug. 29.
“We only have one girl back who got a lot of playing time last year,” said Aaron Hastings, who is in the second year of his second stint as coach, having coached North from 2008-10. “We’re a young team, an inexperienced team, and we’ve got about three
who play club, but they all work hard and they want to learn.”
Also back are senior Morgan Morris (defensive specialist), juniors Maddy Strayer (libero), Halli Swiger (outside hitter) and Natalia Szwabinsky (setter) and sophomore Hope Bruce (middle hitter).
Szwabinsky was expected to be a key player but is out indefinitely while recovering from shoulder surgery, Hastings said.
Rounding out the roster are juniors Sara Conway (outside hitter), Hannah Ferguson (defensive specialist), Ashley Fradette (defensive specialist), Devin Jackson (middle hitter), Katie Leskowitz (right-side hitter) and Shelby Lowder (defensive specialist).
Conway is a transfer from Hartley.
“We do have good size, especially in the front row,” Hastings said. “We are athletic. Where we struggle is just with the knowledge of the game.
“I think the program can continue to build this year. They just have to have the right attitude.”