John Kelley is enjoying his return to the coaching ranks with the Columbus Academy girls volleyball team.

The Vikings were 5-1 overall and 1-0 in the MSL-Ohio Division before playing Worthington Christian on Aug. 30. They opened league play with a 25-17, 26-24, 25-23 win over Bexley on Aug. 21.

Kelley replaced Heather Gepper, who has remained with the program as an assistant. He coached the Vikings from 2000-03 and also previously was an assistant boys coach at Watterson.

Kelley played competitively at the national and international levels as a member of USA Volleyball, but a knee injury ended his playing career.

"That pretty much put an end to my playing days, so it's time to get back into coaching," said Kelley, who also played at Ohio State. "I played at a pretty high level. ... When I started thinking about coaching again, one of my first thoughts was going back to Academy because I always enjoyed what I did there. The program is much stronger than when I was here before. We have a pretty talented team."

Academy finished 7-12 overall and 3-7 in the MSL-Ohio last season.

The Vikings have returned several key players, including senior outside hitter/setter Kayla Podgurski, who was named first-team all-league last season.

Junior outside hitter/middle hitter Sophia Freytag was second-team all-league, and junior outside hitter Sara Edwards was honorable mention all-league.

Also back are seniors Courtney Batchelor (defensive specialist), Maddie McAfee (outside hitter), Mabry Nichols (middle hitter) and Camille Reeves (middle hitter) and juniors Sasha Ahern (outside hitter), Noelle Boltz (setter), Mackenzie Smith (setter) and Carolyn Zhang (defensive specialist).

Other players are senior Kaitlyn Heintzelman (defensive specialist), junior Abigail Freytag (outside hitter/setter) and sophomore Lily Plaugher (outside hitter).

Plaugher, a transfer from Grandview, is only eligible to play in the first half of the season because of OHSAA rules.

Football team to visit Newark Catholic

Football coach Robin Miller expects a battle when his team visits Newark Catholic on Saturday, Sept. 8.

The Vikings defeated the Green Wave 38-0 last season on their way to advancing to a Division V, Region 19 semifinal, which they lost to eventual state champion Wheelersburg 35-16.

Newark Catholic finished 3-7 a year ago.

Academy opened with a 42-14 loss at Cincinnati Wyoming on Aug. 24 and played Linden-McKinley on Aug. 31.

The Green Wave, which defeated Zanesville Maysville 17-13 on Aug. 23 and played Attica Seneca East on Aug. 31, is led by first-year coach Ryan Aiello. Bill Franks stepped down after 16 seasons to take over at New Lexington.

"Newark Catholic has always been a great program with hard-nosed, competitive players," Miller said. "Their kids play tough, physical football and they do things the right way. Any time you're facing a team with a new coaching staff, there's some uncertainty and a fear of the unknown. Coach Aiello is coming in from a very strong Ready program, so I'm sure he'll find the right blend between their traditional strengths and what he brings with him."

Aiello was an assistant at Ready the past three seasons.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

Schedules

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Aug. 18 -- at Centerburg with Delaware Christian and Zanesville Rosecrans

*Aug. 21 -- vs. Bexley

Aug. 23 -- vs. Amanda-Clearcreek

Aug. 28 -- at Grove City Christian

*Aug. 30 -- at Worthington Christian

Sept. 4 -- vs. Tree of Life

Sept. 11 -- at Westerville South

*Sept. 13 -- at Grandview

Sept. 15 -- vs. Columbus School for Girls and Northridge

Sept. 17 -- at Madison Christian

Sept. 24 -- vs. Westerville North

*Sept. 26 -- vs. Whitehall

*Oct. 2 -- vs. Worthington Christian

*Oct. 4 -- at Bexley

Oct. 6 -- at Watterson with Hathaway Brown

*Oct. 9 -- vs. Grandview

*Oct. 11 -- at Whitehall

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Academy cross country, field hockey, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls tennis teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Sept. 8 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial

FIELD HOCKEY

*Sept. 11 -- Home vs. Hartley

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 8 -- St. Charles Invitational at Brookside

BOYS SOCCER

*Sept. 8 -- Home vs. Whitehall

GIRLS SOCCER

*Sept. 8 -- At Whitehall

GIRLS TENNIS

*Sept. 11 -- Home vs. Whitehall

Sept. 12 -- At Dublin Coffman

*League contest