Dublin Coffman High School girls volleyball coach Mary Anne Souder doesn't deny that her team needs to do some rebuilding.
Dublin Coffman High School girls volleyball coach Mary Anne Souder doesn't deny that her team needs to do some rebuilding after losing five starters who helped lead the Shamrocks to a Division I state runner-up finish each of the past two years.
Four of those 2011 graduates - middle hitter Isolde Hannan (Dayton), libero Julia Mindlina (Syracuse), opposite hitter Meredith Stranges (Southeast Missouri State) and setter Lindsey Zitzke (Pittsburgh) - earned Division I college scholarships while leading Coffman to a 27-2 overall record, its fourth consecutive league and district titles and its second consecutive regional championship last season.
But even though the Shamrocks feature a younger lineup this season, Souder believes they again will develop into one of the most competitive squads in the state.
Coffman opened Aug. 30 with an OCC-Central Division match at Central Crossing and played Watterson on Aug. 31. The Shamrocks will play host Thursday, Sept. 1, to Westland in another league match.
"A lot of people think we're down because we lost four Division I college athletes and all but one of our defensive players," said Souder, who is in her sixth season as Coffman's coach. "We're definitely rebuilding with a super-young team, but we're going to come out swinging and we're going to surprise some people with our speed and skill level."
Five players who received a significant amount of minutes last year have returned in junior outside hitter McKenzie Bailey, junior setter Jenn Vargo, sophomore middle hitter Beatrice Hannan, senior defensive specialist Morgan Yeager and junior middle hitter Cassie Hausfeld.
Hausfeld had 85 kills and 51 aces last year and was honorable mention all-OCC-Central. Bailey had 149 kills, Vargo had 141 kills and Beatrice Hannan had 35 kills and 22 digs.
"We're certainly not intimidating looking across the net with only one 6-foot player on our team, but we're really fast," Souder said.
Last year, the Shamrocks went 14-0 in the OCC-Central. They didn't lose a set against a league opponent for the second consecutive season and went undefeated in league matches for the third consecutive season.
Rounding out the OCC-Central standings were Upper Arlington (12-2), Thomas Worthington (9-5), Worthington Kilbourne (9-5), Central Crossing (6-8), Hilliard Davidson (4-10), Hilliard Darby (2-12) and Westland (0-14).
Top-seeded Coffman opened the district tournament at home with a 25-4, 25-14, 25-6 win over Franklin Heights, before beating Chillicothe 25-7, 25-8, 25-5 in a semifinal at Licking Heights and Westerville Central 25-10, 25-10, 25-13 in the final at Licking Heights.
The Shamrocks beat Watterson 17-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-20 in a regional semifinal at Davidson, before defeating Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame 25-23, 25-16, 23-25, 25-20 in the final at Davidson.
Coffman then rallied to beat Cincinnati Ursuline Academy 28-26, 20-25, 22-25, 25-17, 17-15 in a state semifinal at Wright State to advance to the state final for the second consecutive year. Coffman had lost to Ursuline Academy 25-16, 25-19, 18-25, 25-17 in the state final in 2009.
The Shamrocks then lost to Toledo St. Ursula 15-25, 25-23, 26-24, 25-18 in the state final.
"The girls who didn't get to play much last year want to go back to state just as bad as the girls who played in most of the match because they want their shot at competing for a state championship," Souder said. "Our tradition will help us in the tournament because our girls are used to winning and they expect to win tournament games."
• Scioto, which opened with an OCC-Cardinal match against Olentangy on Aug. 30, finished 10-13 overall last year after losing to Dresden Tri-Valley 15-25, 25-12, 25-17, 25-18 in its Division I district tournament opener.
Four starters have returned in seniors Amanda Weissling (outside hitter) and Jessica McRoberts (opposite hitter), junior Alex Pothoven (defensive specialist) and sophomore McKenzie Schuster (middle hitter).
"Our varsity and junior varsity teams practice together and every one of those girls are competitive for their spots," second-year coach Jackie Helm said. "That competition will prepare us well for five-game matches and conference matches, which are always tough."
The Irish finished fifth in the OCC-Cardinal with a 5-9 league mark last year, behind Olentangy Liberty (13-1), Westerville Central (12-2), Westerville North (11-3) and Olentangy (7-7) and ahead of Dublin Jerome (3-11), Marysville (3-11) and Westerville South (2-12).
"Liberty and Westerville Central are always good and they're the top two frontrunners," Helm said. "We have some height and we're working on being faster and smarter than our opponents."
• Jerome, which opened with an OCC-Cardinal match against Westerville North on Aug. 30, finished 5-13 overall last year.
Five Celtics who started multiple matches last year have returned in seniors Taylor Belke (middle hitter) and Torri Winiesdorffer (outside hitter) and juniors Ally Oman (setter), Sydney Rapp (outside hitter) and Shelby Russell (libero).
Belke was honorable mention all-league last year.
Filling out the roster are seniors Candice Cochran (defensive specialist), Amy Erdelsky (outside hitter), Lindsay Rieland (middle hitter) and Amanda Torchio (defensive specialist) and juniors Meghan Casey (outside hitter) and Leah Starsky (middle hitter).
"Shelby and Amanda are good defensive players, and our hitters can hit anywhere because they're so versatile," eighth-year coach Katherine Fogg said.
After finishing sixth in the OCC-Cardinal last year, the Celtics beat Marysville 26-24, 25-18, 25-23 in their Division I district tournament opener, before losing to second-seeded Liberty 25-20, 25-7, 25-11 in the second round.
"We want to be a top contender in the OCC, and with the experience and drive of our players, I think we'll have some success," Fogg said.