The Worthington Kilbourne High School girls volleyball team has its sights set on breaking the program record for wins.
The Wolves, who were 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the CCC-Capital Division before playing Big Walnut on Sept. 3, return three starters from a year ago when they went 18-7 to fall one win shy of the mark.
The program record was set in 2007 when Kilbourne finished 19-6. In addition to last season, the Wolves won 18 matches in 2005 and 2006.
“We have big goals,” coach Meladee Hopkins said. “We want to get 20 or more wins and to win league and district championships.”
Seeded 10th, Kilbourne reached a Division I district semifinal last season before losing to second-seeded Pickerington North 25-21, 25-14, 25-17.
The returning starters are seniors Haley Defibaugh (5-foot-5, setter), Lydia DeWeese (6-2, middle hitter) and Sarah Freiheit (5-10, outside hitter).
Defibaugh was named first-team all-league last year, as the Wolves went 9-5 in the OCC-Cardinal to finish third behind Westerville Central (14-0) and Hilliard Bradley (11-3). DeWeese was honorable mention all-league.
“Haley is one of the smartest volleyball players I have ever coached,” Hopkins said. “She is so instinctive on the court. She knows where to be and what is going to happen.
“Lydia has really come into her own this season, which has given her some confidence to shine. She’s going to have a great season.”
Also on the team are seniors Kirsten Rossi (5-4, defensive specialist), Megan Thompson (5-4, defensive specialist) and Laurel Tisdale (5-7, right-side hitter), juniors Meghan Swazuk (5-5, defensive specialist) and Sammie Zimmerman (5-5, libero), sophomores Kenzie Calvert (5-8, right-side hitter) and Hailee Wilhelm (6-0, middle hitter) and freshmen Casey Archual (5-6, setter) and Alli O’Brien (5-7, outside hitter).
Hopkins expects Archual to miss most of the season because of an injury.
Kilbourne has moved to the OCC-Capital this season. Big Walnut (13-1) finished first in the league last year, ahead of Olentangy (12-2), Mount Vernon (11-3), New Albany (7-7), Delaware (6-8), Olentangy Orange (5-9), Watkins Memorial (2-12) and Franklin Heights (0-14).
Watkins Memorial has moved to the revived Licking County League.
“We need to be more consistent with passing and serve receive,” Hopkins said. “We’ve been struggling with that and it’s going to determine what type of season we ultimately have. Our blocking, hitting and setting are good. We’ve got good team chemistry. We just have to get better at serve receive.”
Kilbourne opened Aug. 17 with a 25-9, 25-9, 25-15 win over Groveport. It then defeated Upper Arlington (25-6, 25-15, 25-19 on Aug. 19), Reynoldsburg (25-19, 25-12, 25-18 on Aug. 22) and Buckeye Valley (25-14, 25-16, 23-25, 25-14 on Aug. 24) before posting OCC-Capital wins over Delaware (25-15, 25-17, 23-25, 25-11 on Aug. 27) and Mount Vernon (25-15, 22-25, 25-27, 25-22, 15-10 on Aug. 29).
Cardinals looking to top last season
Thomas’ hopes of improving on last season are buoyed by the return of four starters in seniors Lamija Alisic (5-10, outside hitter), Alex Emrick (libero), Hannah Green (6-0, middle hitter) and Ellen Hawkins (6-0, right-side hitter).
The Cardinals were 2-0 overall and in the OCC-Central before playing Dublin Coffman on Sept. 3. Last season, they finished 11-9 overall and 8-6 in the league to place fourth behind champion Coffman (14-0).
“Overall, we are relatively inexperienced and we need to improve our serve receive,” said first-year coach Zach Franklin, who replaced Dana Chapman, who stepped down after one season. “Our strengths are definitely hitting and blocking.”
Alisic, who has committed to Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, was second-team all-district in Division I and first-team all-league last season.
“Lamija Alisic is our top returning outside hitter as well as our best digger,” Franklin said. “She does a very good job mixing up her offensive swings and leading by example.
“Ellen Hawkins is moving to the right side from middle hitter last year to help free her up to be a better hitter as well as use her ability as a second setter. She is our vocal leader and is one of our strongest hitters. Alex Emrick is our returning libero and best passer. She does a great job both passing and in serve receive and also is the defensive captain. She is a very positive influence and real attitude leader on the team.”
Also on the team are seniors Sammy Bullock (middle hitter), Sarah Chizevar (outside hitter), Grace Husk (defensive specialist) and Jessica Waibl (outside hitter), sophomore Jenna Swickard (defensive specialist) and freshman Carsen Komminsk (setter).
“To reach our goal of finishing in the top three in the (OCC-Central), we’re going to have to be able to pass the ball consistently to give our hitters a chance to use their power,” Franklin said. “We also will need to communicate as a team on the court.”
Thomas opened with a 25-20, 25-23, 22-25, 25-20 win over Upper Arlington on Aug. 27 and defeated Westland 25-23, 25-11, 22-25, 25-22 on Aug. 29. Both were league matches.