The girls volleyball team opened Aug. 28 with a league match at Brookhaven.

The girls volleyball team opened Aug. 28 with a league match at Brookhaven.

The Stars finished 13-9 overall last year and tied Whetstone for second in the City-North at 11-3, behind champion Northland (13-1).

The Stars then lost to London 25-10, 25-16, 25-15 in their Division II district tournament opener.

"Our team goal is to win the City League championship outright," first-year coach Brenden Pence said. "Whetstone is always a good rivalry game for us, and Northland is a tough team, too. We'll need to play aggressive and consistent volleyball to beat those teams."

Seven players who started multiple matches in previous seasons have returned in seniors Mary Gardner (opposite hitter), Danielle Scarbrough (opposite hitter) and Aaliyah Slappy (middle hitter), juniors Alyah Dean (libero), Symfhani Pitts (outside hitter) and Maya Robertson (outside hitter) and sophomore Marissa Robertson (outside hitter).

Slappy is a Cleveland State recruit.

Sophomore Sam Meanor will start at setter.

Other players expected to contribute are sophomores Danelle Easley (defensive specialist) and Sierra Hawkins (middle hitter).

"These girls are very gifted athletically," Pence said. "We've definitely very fast and disciplined, and we have a lot of height up front. It's an extremely coachable group that brings a lot of energy to the court."

Cross country teams ready for rebuilding

Centennial High School cross country coach Rhonda Reese hoped her program would receive an injection of enthusiasm after her boys and girls teams both had one of their best seasons a year ago.

Instead, the 11th-year coach was surprised when only two girls and six boys showed up for preseason practices.

Both squads opened in the Newark Catholic Invitational on Aug. 25 at Bryn Du Mansion in Granville, but neither team entered enough runners to produce a team score.

"I've never been in this situation with such low numbers in my 11 years coaching here, and I'm very surprised because both teams are coming off such good seasons," Reese said. "It's sad because this program has been built up to the point where we're respected as one of the more competitive teams in the City League and our district. I'm just hoping that more boys and girls will join us (after) school starts back up."

Competing for the boys team are senior John Neutzling, juniors Kevin Adams and Alex Nonapo, sophomores Mark Brownfield and Chad Ellis and freshman Shayekh Rara. Adams finished fourth (17 minutes, 24 seconds) in the Newark Catholic Invitational.

Last year, the Stars scored 24 points to win the City League meet at Whetstone for their first league title.

Centennial finished second (59) in the 11-team Division II, district 2 meet at Watkins Memorial behind Lakewood (58), as the top four squads advanced to regional.

The Stars then placed 10th (251) of 16 squads in the regional at Troy behind champion Springfield Shawnee (71). The top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced to state, and none of Centennial's athletes made the cut.

"Our boys team is coming off its best season, and we still have some good runners who have come back in Kevin, John and Chad, but we drop way down to beginners after our top four boys," Reese said.

The girls squad is led by junior Emiyah Kelly and sophomore Catherine Ryan.

"Emiyah and (Ryan) are very good frontrunners, but they were the only two girls who consistently showed up at practice, so those are the only two I'm going to mention in the newspaper for the time being," Reese said.

Ryan was second (20:33.4) and Kelly was 14th (22:11.3) in the Newark Catholic Invitational.

Last fall, Centennial scored 32 points to win the City meet, its fourth consecutive league championship.

The Stars then scored 261 points to finish 11th of 16 squads in the Division II district meet at Watkins Memorial behind champion Granville (61). Ryan finished 11th in 20:51.31 to advance to the regional at Pickerington North, where she placed 26th (20:36.45) as the top 16 individuals advanced to state.

"Our City League titles are going to be in jeopardy because our teams are going to be a lot weaker this year, so our focus has to be on the success of our individual runners," Reese said. "Fortunately, we have runners like Kevin, (Ryan) and Emiyah who have worked hard and are talented enough to make it to state as individuals."