Even though the Worthington Kilbourne High School girls volleyball team lost five starters to graduation after winning 18 matches and reaching a Division I district final a year ago, 14th-year coach Meladee Hopkins sees reason for optimism.
"We have a lot of talent and a deep roster with players who can play in multiple positions," said Hopkins, whose team finished 18-8 overall and went 8-4 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to place second behind Hilliard Darby (12-0) last season. "The girls also are willing to play any of those positions. But the amount of pressure they put on themselves needs to be controlled. We basically have only two players with significant varsity playing time after losing eight seniors from last year."
The two returnees are senior middle hitter Tanya Yeauger and junior libero Amber Beals, both of whom are college recruits. Yeauger is a Columbus State commit, while Beals already has committed to Michigan.
"Amber is as solid as they come," said Hopkins, whose team fell to top-seeded Dublin Coffman 25-14, 25-6, 25-14 in a district final last year. "She was a member of the Mintonette (16-year-old) club team that won a national championship this summer. She is a third-year starter and was named a captain. Those two girls have the most experience and should help lead our younger girls."
Other expected starters are juniors Lexi Bair (outside hitter), Sarah Baxter (middle hitter), Taylor Katz (outside hitter) and Maddie Reeve (right-side hitter/setter).
Beals was named second-team all-league and Reeve was honorable mention last season.
"Maddie has great hands and size," Hopkins said. "She can really contribute this season with her setting and with her hitting. Sarah is really coming into her own. I think that she is going to surprise some people. Taylor has really improved on being a smart hitter and using what she is given. She has a great vertical."
The Wolves were 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Hilliard Bradley on Aug. 29. In league play, they beat Darby 25-21, 17-25, 25-20, 26-24 on Aug. 24 after rallying to top Dublin Jerome 24-26, 25-27, 25-16, 25-10, 15-12 two days earlier.
Kilbourne opened Aug. 19, losing to Hartley 25-12, 25-17, 25-15, and split a pair of matches on Aug. 26, beating Upper Arlington 25-11, 25-20 and falling to New Albany 25-18, 25-17.
Other returning letterwinners are seniors Alyssa Jozefowicz (setter), Abby Kelly (right-side hitter) and Kasey Trout (right-side hitter/outside hitter).
Completing the roster are juniors Dana Dickerson (defensive specialist) and Abby Nichter (right-side hitter/setter), sophomore Olivia Karhoff (defensive specialist) and freshman Lauren Bair (outside hitter/right-side hitter).
"We started off a bit slow (last year), but really came together," Hopkins said. "(This year) we will need to trust each other and grow together as a team. We can't play as individual players; we've got to become one.
"We want to push the teams in our conference and finish near the top. We want to surprise teams since everyone in our conference didn't lose as much as we did."
Boys soccer team
The boys soccer team is looking to find the right lineup combinations.
"We are trying to find the perfect mix of players and formation," said 15th-year coach Jon Sprunger, whose team was 0-2 before opening OCC-Cardinal play Aug. 29 against Jerome.
"We have the players to have a very successful season. We are strong in all the key positions, including goalkeeper, defense and offense. We will use a 4-5-1 or 3-5-2 (formation)."
Seven starters are back for the Wolves, who finished 6-9-3 overall and 2-2-2 in the OCC-Cardinal last season.
Expected to lead the way at forward are junior Jack Smullen and freshman Chris Guerra.
"Jack is coming back to soccer after a few years off," Sprunger said. "He is a relentless player who is constantly looking for the ball and has a nose for the goal. Chris is one of two freshman starters and is one of the most natural goal scorers I have seen in many years go through our program. He is very crafty with the ball and has a deadly accurate shot."
Filling midfield positions are senior Jacob Roberts, juniors Josh Blankenship and William Wiet, sophomore Jimmy Sauder and freshman Brandon Kim.
"Jacob is our senior leader in the offensive half of the field," Sprunger said. "He is a very talented young man who has great field vision. He has extensive soccer experience, including a recent run at a national championship in July with his club team.
"Jimmy moved up to varsity as a freshman and really came into his own. He has a strong defensive presence in the central midfield."
Jason Bowen returns at goalkeeper and will be protected by seniors Derek Justus and Palmer Moats and juniors Carter McAllister and Wyatt Hackathorne on defense.
"Palmer is a returning starter in the back and may be our most physical player," Sprunger said. "He is strong, gritty and difficult to beat. Derek is probably our most consistent player on the field and played more minutes than anyone on the team last year. Jason is a very intense player who has exceptional skills as a goalkeeper."
Others looking to contribute are seniors Dean Elliott (forward), Christian Hernandez (goalie), Lucas Hershberger (midfielder) and Jacob Hoeft (defender) and juniors J.D. Burnett (midfielder), Lucas LaFleur (forward), Andrew Podolan (forward) and Kevin Stone (defender).
Kilbourne opened Aug. 22 with a 3-0 loss to Pickerington North and lost to West Chester Lakota West 4-2 on Aug. 26.
Aug. 22 -- at Pickerington North
Aug. 26 -- vs. West Chester Lakota West
*Aug. 29 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
Aug. 31 -- vs. Olentangy
*Sept. 5 -- at Hilliard Darby
Sept. 9 -- at Hudson
*Sept. 12 -- at Hilliard Bradley
Sept. 14 -- vs. Westerville Central
*Sept. 19 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
*Sept. 26 -- vs. Delaware
Sept. 28 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
Oct. 3- at Upper Arlington
Oct. 5 -- at Olentangy Liberty
Oct. 7 -- at New Albany
*Oct. 10 -- vs. Thomas
Aug. 19 -- at Hartley
*Aug. 22 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
*Aug. 24 -- at Hilliard Darby
Aug. 26 -- at New Albany
*Aug. 29 -- at Hilliard Bradley
*Aug. 31 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
*Sept. 5 -- vs. Delaware
Sept. 6 -- at Jonathan Alder
*Sept. 12 -- vs. Thomas
*Sept. 14 -- at Dublin Jerome
Sept. 16 -- Kilbourne Invitational
*Sept. 19 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
Sept. 21 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*Sept. 26 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley
*Sept. 28 -- at Dublin Scioto
*Oct. 3 -- at Delaware
Oct. 4 -- vs. Central Crossing
Oct. 9 -- vs. Ready
*Oct. 10 -- at Thomas
Below are the coming schedules for the Kilbourne cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls water polo teams:
Sept. 2 -- Westerville North Classic
Sept. 6 -- Home vs. Hartley
Sept. 2 -- Pickerington North Invitational at Pine Hill
Sept. 5 -- Lancaster Invitational at Lancaster Country Club
Aug. 31 -- Licking Valley at Virtues
Sept. 6 -- Dublin Scioto at Buck Ridge
*Sept. 5 -- Home vs. Hilliard Darby
*Aug. 31 -- Home vs. Delaware
Sept. 5 -- At Granville
GIRLS WATER POLO
Sept. 1-2 -- Milford Invitational