Despite losing one of central Ohio's top talents, the Ready High School girls volleyball team just might be better than it was a year ago.

Despite losing one of central Ohio's top talents, the Ready High School girls volleyball team just might be better than it was a year ago.

At least that's the stance Mike Kusan is taking as he began his fifth season as coach Thursday, Aug. 25, at Lakewood.

The Silver Knights have five starters back from a team that went 19-8 overall and won its second Division III district championship in three seasons.

The returnees include senior Carleigh Green, a libero who is planning to play for East Carolina, and a pair of setters who will run the team's 6-2 offense in junior Karley Kusan and senior Katie Weilbacher. Karley Kusan, the coach's daughter, has a scholarship offer to play for Kent State while Weilbacher will be in her third season as a starter.

Weilbacher made first-team all-league and Karley Kusan was on the second team last fall.

"We've had a great summer, and with five starters returning from last year's regional team, we've got high expectations," coach Kusan said. "Our chemistry is better and our leadership is better. We're further along than we've ever been."

Also back after starting last year are junior outside hitter Carly Culbertson and senior middle hitter Leah Caldwell. Senior outside hitter Kristin Gantz was a key player off the bench.

Others on the team are juniors Miranda Ball (middle hitter), McKaylynn Fleshman (outside hitter) and Dani Mercer (defensive specialist) and sophomores Margie Berkmeyer (middle hitter) and Lauren Rivera (defensive specialist).

Ready lost Lindsey Kusan, Katie Leppert, Erin Sekinger and Kelly Veeley to graduation. Sekinger is a 6-foot-2 middle hitter who signed with Ohio State after being one of the district's co-Players of the Year. Lindsey Kusan made second-team all-district.

Last season, the Silver Knights placed third in the CCL at 5-3 behind co-champions Hartley and Watterson (6-2) and ahead of DeSales (3-5) and Columbus School for Girls (0-8).

They were seeded fifth for the district tournament and beat Columbus Academy 25-4, 25-9, 25-13, Madison Plains 25-13, 25-11, 25-18, second-seeded Newark Catholic 25-16, 21-25, 25-22, 25-18 and top-seeded Heath 25-20, 25-17, 26-24 to win a district title.

Ready lost to Huron 25-20, 25-22, 26-24 in a regional semifinal.

"We're not as tall as in years past, but we're quicker," coach Kusan said. "We're going to surprise a few teams."

•Casey McKinney, a 2005 Ready graduate, took over the girls soccer program in June. Elise Berry coached the team to a Division II district semifinal in 2009 and to a 23-18-9 record in three seasons before stepping down last spring.

McKinney, who was a goalkeeper with the Silver Knights and went on to play for Wilmington College, will have a strong player at her position to begin her tenure in senior Lauren Graessle.

Graessle and seniors Ciara Carr (midfielder), Taylor Cutteridge (defender) and Marisa Ross (defender) all are captains.

Juniors Donovan Capehart (midfielder), Hailey Cartt (midfielder) and Brooke Ringel (sweeper) are other returning key players.

Also expected to contribute are sophomores Jordan Bair (defender) and Caroline Riewe (forward) and freshman Angelique Bowman (forward).

Last season, Ready went 7-9-2 overall and 2-2 in the CCL to finish behind co-champions Watterson and DeSales (3-0-1) and ahead of CSG and Hartley (0-3-1).

The Silver Knights opened the postseason with a 1-0 win over CSG but lost to Bexley by the same score on a penalty kick in a third-round game. Ready had played the top-seeded Lions to a 1-all tie during the regular season.

The Silver Knights now are in Division III after the OHSAA's expansion to three divisions.

Carr, Graessle and Capehart all made first-team all-league and Cutteridge and Ringel made the second team last season. Graessle and Carr each made second-team all-district and Capehart was special mention. Carr had 11 goals and five assists, Capehart had nine goals and six assists and Graessle made 106 saves.

"(Ready's) my alma mater, so I'm excited," said McKinney, whose team opens Tuesday, Aug. 30, at Bexley. "The girls have been getting to know each other the past two months, and this is probably the hardest working group of girls I've been with."

•Boys soccer coach Sam Sunseri believes a strong group of seniors will help his team take another step forward after it improved from 5-12 in 2009 to 6-8-2 during his first season last fall.

Seniors Josh Colley and Joey Waldo give Ready a pair of experienced defenders and seniors Kyle Carrera and Zak Wiser are returnees at forward. Wiser was second-team all-league last year.

The other seniors are goalkeeper Matt Feldkamp and midfielder Paul Ley.

Also looking to contribute are junior midfielders Corey Becker, Nick Berner and Jose Polanco, junior defenders Eric Knapke, Scott Knapke, Joel Moehr-man, Daniel Perry and Zach Sowers and sophomore midfielders Josh Gantz, Jimmy Hanley, Payne VanTilburg and Chris Wiser.

Last season, Ready opened the Division III district tournament with a 5-0 win over Granville Christian but lost to third-seeded Bloom-Carroll 1-0 in the second round.

The Silver Knights went 0-4 in the CCL behind co-champions DeSales and Hartley (3-0-1) as well as St. Charles (2-2) and Watterson (1-3). The biggest losses to graduation were all-league selections Robert Reed and Steve Rysavy and second-team all-league choice Joel Thomas.

"Our strength is definitely going to be with our defense and with our two seniors up front," said Sunseri, whose team opened Thursday, Aug. 25, at Central Crossing. "Hopefully we'll do a little better in the CCL this year and in the district tournament."