The Upper Arlington High School girls volleyball team is focusing on its strengths as it begins the season.

The Upper Arlington High School girls volleyball team is focusing on its strengths as it begins the season.

With a pair of seniors leading the defense for a program that has been building depth and athleticism the past two years, the Golden Bears expect to have enough assets to remain one of central Ohio's better teams.

UA, which finished 17-6 overall and was the OCC-Central Division runner-up a year ago, opened Aug. 28 with a league match against Thomas Worthington and travels to Olentangy Liberty on Thursday, Aug. 30, for another league contest.

"We're a very athletic team," said third-year coach Matt Wion, who had a 36-11 record in his first two seasons leading the program.

"We might lack a little bit of height, but we make up for it by our back-row play. The girls can all jump and they can all hit. Our middle school program has been growing and a lot of the girls are playing club, and that's having a great benefit on the team. From the ground up, we've shown great improvement."

Twin sisters Samantha Farwick and Sydney Farwick, who are captains along with junior Maria Grund, are the only seniors.

Sydney Farwick was a captain last season as well, and she and her sister will see time as defensive specialists and at libero.

Grund takes over at setter for Kate Quinn, who was one of two players from a year ago lost to graduation. The other player, middle-hitter Kelly Hutchison, is playing at Kent State University.

The other juniors are Bailey Gowins (outside hitter), Melanie McMillan (right-side hitter) and Ashley Murray (middle hitter).

At 6-foot, Murray is the team's tallest player.

Sophomore Brigid McKee (outside hitter) also returns. Sophomore Jordan Spychalski (middle hitter) and freshman Caroline Warner (outside hitter) are others looking to contribute.

"We have a strong defensive side," Samantha Farwick said.

"Our serve-receive is the strongest part of our game because we have (a) good (defense). I definitely think we have the work ethic to be a successful team. We're a very quiet team, so hopefully we'll be more enthusiastic."

Last season, UA went 12-2 in the OCC-Central to finish behind Dublin Coffman (14-0) and ahead of Hilliard Davidson (8-6), Central Crossing (7-7), Worthington Kilbourne (7-7), Thomas Worthington (6-8), Hilliard Darby (2-12) and Westland (0-14).

Seeded sixth for the Division I district tournament, the Bears opened with a 25-10, 25-21, 25-16 win over Dublin Scioto but lost in the second round to eventual district champion Watterson 25-19, 25-20, 25-15.

UA also lost to Watterson in a district semifinal in 2009 and '10.

As part of OCC realignment this summer, Liberty and Marysville have moved into the OCC-Central and Darby and Kilbourne went to the OCC-Cardinal. Liberty was a district runner-up a year ago.

"(Liberty has) always done very well, so with Coffman and Liberty, our OCC is going to be better," Wion said. "Thomas Worthington also has gotten better."

"We've been working all summer together and we did a ton of scrimmages and I think things have been going well," Sydney Farwick said. "I think we'll be ready to go."