Considering it didn't even exist two months ago, the New Albany High School boys volleyball team was fine with having a 1-5 record through its first six matches.
The Eagles are just happy to be on the court after a few years of trying to field a team.
"We're just going out there and having a fun mentality about it. We're all learning," senior middle hitter Alex Benseler said. "We're having a ball. We'd been trying to get a team together for the last few years and to finally have it senior year is great. There had always been talk about it. Now, we're finally doing it."
Even with a few athletes from other sports on the team -- including Benseler, who is a basketball player -- volleyball experience was scarce. According to coach Chris Bielby, none of his 24 players had ever played organized volleyball before this season.
"I have athletes on the team; they just aren't always sure what to do. It's a lot of teaching from the ground up. I'm used to doing that," said Bielby, who was Westerville South's boys coach from 2007-14 and has coached youth volleyball in the area for 15 years. "At South, every year we went back to fundamentals and worked from the ground up again. To an extent, you have to do that. There, we had players who had played once the program was built. I don't have that this year, but they are figuring it out."
Boys volleyball is New Albany's first new sport since hockey was added in 2013. The school fields 25 varsity teams in 16 sports.
The Eagles are one of 82 boys volleyball teams across the state. Fifty-two are in Division I, including New Albany, which will compete in the 20-team East Region tournament in May.
Turnout to field a team had fallen short the past couple of years, but there was enough interest this year for athletics director Richie Wildenhaus to announce the formation of the team in late February. Because of the timing, previous commitments occasionally prevent players from attending every match.
"That's OK if they can't always be here," Bielby said. "We mix and meld our varsity depending on who can make it."
New Albany, which is playing an independent schedule, opened March 30 with a 25-12, 25-6, 25-12 loss to Upper Arlington.
The Eagles fell to Hilliard Bradley 25-13, 25-9, 25-16 on April 6 and earned their first win the next day in a quad at Reynoldsburg, defeating Whetstone 25-16, 25-21.
Also that day, New Albany lost to Cincinnati Walnut Hills 25-11, 25-16 and the host Raiders 26-24, 26-24. They lost to Olentangy Orange 25-13, 25-15, 25-10 on April 13 and played their first home match April 17 against Whetstone.
"We all have to understand who does it what, when and how," Benseler said. "I can definitely jump higher than a lot of people on the team. My basketball experience definitely helps me."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Aaron Chen (defensive specialist), J.B. Core (opposite hitter), Exavier Dixon (setter), Justin Drago (outside hitter), Matt Fate (defensive specialist), Spencer Green (outside hitter), Trevor Linton (defensive specialist), Tyler Martinkovich (opposite hitter), Benson Samuel (defensive specialist/libero), Kavin Srikanth (defensive specialist) and Brad Taylor (defensive specialist/setter), juniors Darrick Gray (middle hitter), Carson Hitton (outside hitter), Nate Kebede (middle hitter/outside hitter), Hunter Milroy (setter), Troy Page (opposite hitter), Liam Records (outside hitter), Zack Short (setter) and Jonny Wong (setter), sophomores Paul Polta (opposite hitter) and Max Rathke (defensive specialist/setter) and freshmen Hayden Gray (middle hitter).
Drago and Green are golfers. Gray plays basketball, Martinkovich also plays football and Polta is a bowler.
Bielby chuckled when recalling what he has seen from his team since its first match.
"Improvement," he said, adding that serve receive will be a key moving forward. "For one, they know where they're supposed to be on the court. They are figuring out where to be and when to be there."
Nash, Sadler finding way in girls lacrosse
After standing out in other sports, Micaylah Nash and Lauren Sadler decided to play on the girls lacrosse team their senior year just for the experience.
The two defenders are thoroughly enjoying this season, as New Albany was 9-0 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Buckeye Division entering an April 17 game against Olentangy.
Nash, who played volleyball for four years and basketball for three -- missing her junior season while concentrating on club volleyball -- started seven of the Eagles' first eight games. She took up lacrosse as part of her senior project, part of which involved taking up a new sport.
"I love it. I'm starting to understand it," Nash said. "I met with a lot of coaches and went over game film from last year to learn fundamentals and different defenses. I talked with Liza Hernandez (a New Albany graduate and former basketball teammate who now plays at Ohio State) and she taught me the basics of the sport.
"It's going a lot better than I expected. I'm not sure I expected to be in a starting role. I'm clicking well with the rest of the team."
Sadler, a four-time Division I state swimming qualifier, sees time off the bench.
"I wanted another challenge with a group of girls that could do amazing things," Sadler said. "I have never played lacrosse before, but all of the girls have been super helpful in getting my skills better and better each day."
Coach Dave Ferguson was overjoyed to add their athleticism to the team.
"I wish I'd have had them when they were freshmen, but I encouraged them to play," he said.
New Albany largely was unthreatened during its first three league games, defeating Westerville North 20-1 on March 20, Olentangy Liberty 15-9 on April 5 and Orange 16-0 on April 10, but withstood a tough test from a Massillon Jackson team that eliminated the Eagles in Division I state semifinals each of the past two years.
Liz Beckner and Emily Rezabek each had three goals in a 12-9 win April 13 against the Polar Bears, and Catherine Ryan made eight saves.
Boys lacrosse team starts league play
The boys lacrosse team sought to remain undefeated in the OCC-Buckeye when it played host to Olentangy on April 17.
The Eagles were 6-2 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Buckeye. The Braves were 7-1 overall and 3-0 in the league.
Both of New Albany's league wins came last week, 9-8 in overtime over Orange on April 10 and 10-2 against Westerville North on April 12.
Brode White scored the winning goal against the Pioneers, and Patrick Cooper had three goals against the Warriors.
New Albany entered the week having won six of its previous seven games. The only loss in that stretch was 9-8 to Hartland (Michigan) on April 6.
Athletes announce college choices
Ten New Albany student-athletes announced their college decisions April 11.
Michael Fenster will compete in track and field at Illinois, Isabel Jenny will swim at Valparaiso, Lauren Lapsley will swim at Lafayette, Zach Paragas will play football at Washington University in St. Louis, Katie Thompson will play field hockey at Wooster, Zach Thurston will row at Cornell, Emili Toppari will swim at Case Western Reserve, Brennan Walsh will swim at Hartwick, Mike Wollam will play football at Marietta and Brennan Wood will play basketball at Otterbein.
Below are the coming schedules for the New Albany baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
*April 20 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
April 21 -- At Gahanna with Olentangy
*April 23 -- At Franklin Heights
*April 25 -- Home vs. Newark. The Eagles defeated the Wildcats 5-4 on April 2 and 7-2 on April 5.
*April 19 -- At Westerville South
April 21 -- At Delaware
*April 24 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
April 23 -- At Columbus Academy
*April 24 -- At Westerville Central
*April 19 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
April 20 -- Home vs. Bexley
April 21 -- Teays Valley at Lancaster in Battle for the Cure
*April 23 -- At Newark. The Eagles lost to the Wildcats 7-5 on April 11.
*April 25 -- Home vs. Big Walnut. The Eagles defeated the Golden Eagles 8-7 on April 12.
*April 19 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
April 23 -- Home vs. Olentangy
TRACK & FIELD
April 20 -- Wildcat Invitational at Westerville South
April 23 -- Home vs. Groveport and Pickerington North
April 20 -- At Licking Heights