Licking Heights High School girls volleyball coach Amanda Mosley is hoping last season wasn't a mirage.

Licking Heights High School girls volleyball coach Amanda Mosley is hoping last season wasn't a mirage.

The Hornets finished 13-7, losing to seventh-seeded Jonathan Alder 27-25, 25-21, 16-25, 15-25, 15-8 in the second round of the Division II district tournament. Licking Heights went 9-5 in the MSL-Cardinal Division to place fourth behind West Jefferson (13-1), Fisher Catholic (12-2) and Harvest Prep (10-4) and ahead of Liberty Union (6-8), Grandview and Berne Union (both 3-11) and Millersport (0-14).

"We didn't win many my first two seasons, but things started to shape up last year," said Mosley, who is in her fourth season. "We had some good players graduate, but I'm excited because everyone in the program has been in our system for at least one year now.

"Last year's team set the precedence and I've told the girls they have to match that to help us build a tradition and not fall back. They told me they don't want to match last season, they want to improve on it and keep pushing things forward."

The Hornets return five letterwinners in seniors Elizabeth Daugherty (5-foot-9 middle hitter) and Michaela Green (5-8 outside hitter) and juniors Kristin Abarra (5-3 defensive specialist), Katie Kenney (5-7 outside hitter) and C.J. Wulf (5-8 setter).

Completing the nine-player roster are seniors Jessica Alexander (5-8 right-side hitter) and Nichole Angell (5-3 defensive specialist), junior Mercedesz Mate (5-4 libero) and sophomore Jemiah Powell (6-0 middle hitter).

"These girls are dedicated and have learned my style," Mosley said. "We're a digging and passing team for a reason. I've always said that Licking Heights is a bad name for this program because we usually don't have height. But we finally have a 6-footer in Powell, plus Daugherty has made a huge improvement in the middle as well. So we may establish the middle more now."

The key to the team's success in the 5-1 offense will be how Wulf steps up to the leadership role as setter, Mosley said.

"She has tremendous assets and quick hands," Mosley said. "She has played club. In the past, the upperclassmen have told her where she needs to get the ball. Now she has to be in charge and tell them where she's setting to. She has to direct more."

•The boys cross country squad lost only one runner from its postseason lineup a year ago to graduation and veteran coach Suzie Ketcham was excited about the prospects of having her "dream team" this season.

However, the Hornets lost one runner to ineligibility. Another, sophomore Donovan Kitchen, returned to Reynoldsburg. Plus, Ketcham was eager to add Omar Khalid to the roster after he moved into the district last winter. Khalid, who finished third in the Division I, district 2 meet last fall, also returned to Reynoldsburg.

"It would've been phenomenal because Kitchen was our most improved athlete last season and Khalid is spectacular," Ketcham said. "But we still have big goals."

Returnees include juniors Korey Kenney and Drew Sellitto and sophomores Bryan Justice and Tysson Olverson.

Kenney (ninth, 17 minutes, 19.81 seconds) and Olverson (12th, 17:27.39) led the Hornets in last year's Division II, district 1 meet. Both advanced to regional as individuals as the Hornets finished fifth (115 points) at district behind champion Granville (19).

At regional, Olverson was 41st in 18:11.3 and Kenney was 57th in 18:23.5.

Rounding out the roster are freshmen Nick Campbell and Vince Masoni.

"We've got six devoted guys," Ketcham said. "Kenney has big goals and has given up basketball and soccer to concentrate on cross country. Olverson has God-given talent and would be even better if he had the work ethic that Kenney and Sellitto have. I'm impressed with Sellitto's work and attitude. Justice is also making great progress."

The Hornets finished second (55) behind Liberty Union (15) in last year's MSL-Cardinal meet and were followed by Grandview (70), Fisher Catholic (109) and Berne Union (121). Millersport and Liberty Union did not have complete teams.

The girls team, which finished third (64) in the league meet behind Grandview (48) and Fisher Catholic (60) and ahead of Berne Union (71), Liberty Union (89) and Millersport (168), lost its top runner to graduation. Catie Campbell now competes for Mount Union.

Junior Miranda Brofft and sophomore Ashton Malicoate are expected to lead the Hornets this season. Juniors Briana Konich and PyLynne Myers also return, although they've been nursing injuries.

Rounding out the roster are senior Sabrina Herndon, junior Gabrielle Cooperider and freshmen Jessica Brungs, Audrey Duke and Madison Reeves.

"Herndon is a first-year competitor who is very reliable and Cooperider didn't compete last year because of shin splints," Ketcham said. "Duke was the No. 1 runner in middle school and Brungs has looked impressive despite focusing on soccer and competing in both sports."

At district, the Hornets finished eighth (195) behind champion Bexley (64) and did not qualify any individual to regional.

"We'll end up being a tough team when we get healthy and get our mileage up again," Ketcham said. "We'll have a pretty tight pack and it'd be nice to get a few girls to the regional."