Heather Ashbrook will try to reverse the fortune of the Johnstown-Monroe High School girls volleyball program in her first season as coach.

Heather Ashbrook will try to reverse the fortune of the Johnstown-Monroe High School girls volleyball program in her first season as coach.

The Johnnies finished 2-21 overall last season following a loss to sixth-seeded West Jefferson in an opening-round match of the Division III district tournament at Big Walnut. They were 1-13 and finished last in the MBC behind champion Fredericktown (14-0).

"We've focused on realistic goal-setting for both the team and the individual and we've also changed the pace of practice," said Ashbrook, a 1988 Johnstown graduate who was the j.v. assistant and helped with the varsity program under coach Julie Evans. "We've made practices more fast-paced like it is in game situations. We're really working to increase their intensity level."

The Johnnies open Tuesday at Danville and also have most matches against Utica on Thursday and Watkins Memorial and Heath on Saturday at home.

The Johnnies have three seniors, Courtney Dingess (5-foot-6, outside hitter), Emily McDermott (5-5, hitter/setter) and Kaitlyn Mooney (6-0, middle hitter). They are joined by juniors Hannah Farley (5-5, setter), Brooke Ison (5-5, defender) and Megan Karnes (5-4, defender) and Holly Sammons (5-5 defender) along with 5-11 sophomore hitter Kelcey Spang.

"I think their personalities are meshing really well and they are a very hard-working group," Ashbrook said. "They are very teachable and easy to coach. They are a very positive team with very positive attitudes."

Ashbrook said the Johnnies were spending a great deal of time working on a change of defense.

"We have moved to a man-back defense instead of the man-up defense we were playing last season," Ashbrook said. "It's just enough of a difference that we have been spending more time on it."

•Second-year Johnstown cross country coach Eric Hamner has high hopes for the girls team, but knows lack of depth and experience may be too much for the boys team to overcome.

The Johnnies have 16 girls running this fall, but only five runners on the boys team.

"We return our top three (girls) runners from last year in sophomore Stephanie Loshbaugh and seniors Erin Radigan and Kaila Cramer," Hamner said. "We made it to state last year in Division II and have dropped down to Division III this year, so I dont believe a top-five finish in the state is a goal that's out of reach."

The Johnnies set the bar high last season by winning the MBC title, finishing second in the district 2 meet, winning the regional title and finishing 12th in their first trip to the state meet as a team.

Aside from Cramer and Radigan, the other Johnstown seniors are Katrina Cartwright, Lindsey Loshbaugh and Brittany Lynch. The juniors include Sara Mast and Kaitlyn Sapp.

Along with Stephanie Loshbaugh, the sophomores are Elisa Higgins, Megan Schultze and Kellie Wilson and the freshmen are Kendall Colvin, Samantha Hicks, Ayli LaRoche, Julia Nixon and Jessica Turner.

Stephanie Loshbough finished fifth at district in a school-record 19 minutes, 35 seconds.

"There is no really good way to prepare a team for the state meet without the kids actually running there," said Hamner, who team opened last Saturday at the Newark Catholic Invitational at the Bryn Du Mansion in Granville and will race Saturday at the Westerville Classic.

"We didn't run great at state, but we didn't run poorly either. Now they know what to expect after being there and they know how hard they have to work to get back there."

The boys team only has two runners back from last season in junior James Platt and sophomore Drew Jenney. Also on the team are junior Jacob Wall, brother of 2009 graduate Matt Wall, and junior John Holbrook, who ran as a freshman but did not come out for the team last season.

Freshman Bryon Foltz joins the team last week with no previous experience in distance running.

"We still have a couple of guys who might come out who are basketball and soccer players ... we'll have to see," Hamner said. "The boys also moved up to Division II and only having five runners with the fifth being a guy I've only known a week, so most of the season will be spent getting the kids in running shape."

The Johnnies used the strength of 1-2 tandem of 2009 graduate Jeremy Hornick and Matt Wall to finished second in the MBC and fourth in the Division III, district 1 meet to qualify as a team for regional. Hornick earned a trip to the state meet, finishing 63rd in 17:04.13.