Low numbers tell only part of the story for the Watkins Memorial High School girls volleyball team.

Low numbers tell only part of the story for the Watkins Memorial High School girls volleyball team.

Sure, the Warriors have just nine varsity players after going with even fewer a year ago while finishing 5-18 overall and sixth (2-10) in the OCC-Capital Division.

Five returnees bring plenty of prep and club experience, however, and coach Tori Fedak said the team's overall "volleyball IQ" is extremely high.

"This is a group that's played together quite a bit now. The seniors, they were with me when I started in the program as their seventh-grade coach," she said.

"But we're not real big, and we're still inconsistent at times. That's the biggest thing we're working on, being consistent."

The returnees are seniors Lenae Walters (middle-hitter), Amberley Masa (outside hitter) and Amber Hartley (middle hitter) and juniors Mallory Warrington (outside hitter) and Kayla Zellers (defensive specialist). Warrington is 5-foot-10 and Masa 5-9, and both Masa and Hartley are playing varsity for a third season. Walters is working toward a fourth letter.

"We're getting a nice core group that plays year round," said Fedak, whose team opens the season and league schedule Tuesday against visiting Big Walnut before also playing Thursday at New Albany. "Lenae, she started playing club ball well before she got to the middle school, and Amberley's the same way. You can see all that experience on the floor, too."

Feeding the hitters will be juniors Randi Casto and Alisan Miller, who will share setting duties in the 5-1 formation. Masa also is capable of playing the position. The other players are junior Halle Cheplowitz (defensive specialist) and sophomore Sam Evener (outside hitter).

"We'll play whoever's on at setter, whoever has the hot hand," said Fedak, whose team lost 25-11, 25-13, 25-4 against Lancaster in a Division I second-round tournament match a year ago. "We run a 5-1 (offense) because that way we keep things consistent for the hitters, but we've toyed a little with a 6-2."

The Warriors will not field a freshman team this fall for the first time since Fedak joined the program in 2004, and there are only eight junior-varsity players.

Any additional injuries -- sophomore Erin Robbins will miss the season because of an ankle problem although she's helping out at the middle school -- might mean Fedak will utilize the new rule allowing j.v. players to participate in five games in one night rather than three.

That's the latest in a series of recent changes, including the move to rally scoring a few years ago and also the use of the libero. Colored balls are coming next year, Fedak said, but more than anything else her team could benefit simply from some old-fashioned good fortune.

"We really feel that last year, well, if the ball would have bounced our way a little more we would have been .500," she said.

"We lost a lot of those long rallies when one play seemed to turn the momentum against us. Hopefully, we'll get a few more of those bounces this year."