The Reynoldsburg High School boys volleyball team approached its inaugural season intent on enjoying itself while beginning the process of becoming a winning program.
Now that those habits have been established, the Raiders are hoping more success follows after they went 2-19 a year ago.
There are six returning seniors and two other seniors among the 13 competitors in the program, which also features a junior varsity team for the first time.
There are 11 players competing at the junior high level as well.
"I'm very excited about this season," senior Tanner Wooddell said. "Because half of us have the knowledge from last year, we're able to move forward much faster. At the beginning of last year, most of us joined because we wanted to have fun, and winning came second. This was our mentality because we were a brand new team. As the season progressed, winning became more important to us. This season, we want to just win as many as we can. ... A winning season would be tremendous."
On March 23, the Raiders opened with victories over Northland (25-20, 22-25, 25-20) and Miamisburg (25-19, 25-16).
Reynoldsburg has joined the OCC-Ohio Division after competing as an independent last spring. It played Hilliard Davidson on April 3 and Pickerington North on April 5 in its first two league matches.
Reynoldsburg was 4-3 overall before playing Upper Arlington on April 9. The Raiders lost to Davidson 25-7, 25-12, 25-11 and North 25-14, 25-14, 25-13.
On April 7 in the first Raider Classic, host Reynoldsburg went 2-1 to finish fifth in the eight-team event as Olentangy Orange won the title.
Last season, Davidson won the OCC-Ohio at 10-0, followed by Gahanna and North at 6-4, Pickerington Central at 5-5, Dublin Coffman at 2-8 and Upper Arlington at 0-10.
The Raiders earned victories over Licking Heights (25-17, 25-16, 23-25, 25-19) and Briggs (25-22, 25-14, 25-23) last season.
Wooddell, who led the team in kills with 43, is at middle hitter.
The other senior returnees are Gabe Donaldson (opposite hitter), Aidan Hauter (setter/outside hitter), Ethan Miller (defensive specialist), Alec'Zaire Myers (opposite) and TaJah Reynolds (outside hitter). Donaldson is 6-foot-5.
The other seniors are Michael Brooks (defensive specialist) and Alex Kelley (setter).
Also in the program are juniors Jaimar Carson (defensive specialist), Boyd Davis (middle hitter), Hobo Gudeta (defensive specialist) and Bryce Jenkins (middle hitter) and sophomore Donovan Travis (middle hitter). Jenkins is a Licking Heights transfer who is sitting out the season's first half.
"This is our first year in the OCC, so just based on being in the OCC our schedule got a lot tougher this year, but we're looking to improve on what we did last year," coach Matt Bailey said.
"Skill-wise the boys from last year have grown by leaps and bounds, which helps them acclimate the new kids faster to the sport because not everybody is learning from square one. The new kids have the returners to look up to and follow in practice and learn how things go and the skills that they have."
Things looking up for boys tennis team
After winning just two matches while going winless in the OCC-Ohio in 2016, the boys tennis team improved to 8-11 overall and 1-4 in the league last spring.
Considering every key player has returned, the Raiders are confident that an even better season could be in the making.
"We've added three freshmen, and all three are pretty nice players and varsity material," fourth-year coach Les Somogyi said. "I'm anxious to get the season going."
The Raiders opened with a 5-0 loss to Watterson on March 23 in the first round of the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team tournament but beat Teays Valley 3-2 on April 2.
Reynoldsburg was 1-2 after losing 5-0 to Gahanna on April 5 in its OCC-Ohio opener.
Junior Boban Mihajlov has returned at first singles after reaching the second round of the Division I sectional tournament at home last season. He played second singles as a freshman.
"He's pretty good," Somogyi said. "He's improved tremendously, has a huge forehand and has matured very quickly. He knows what to do. I see fairly good things from him this spring."
Junior Preston Harmon is at second singles, with junior Sean Burns and his freshman brother, Ryan Burns, splitting time at third singles.
The Burns brothers also are seeing time at doubles along with junior returnees Chase Cotner, Mick Garlinger and Gunnar Green.
Freshmen Dane Myers and Brian McClain also are key doubles players.
The only senior in the program is Daniel Pavlovski, but he's new to the sport and likely will spend most of his time in junior varsity matches.
Junior Jonathan Leatherwood rounds out the returnees.
"Preston Harmon has been very consistent ... and pretty much knows the ropes, so I can see him holding down No. 2 singles fairly steadily," Somogyi said. "At No. 3 we're rotating a couple guys. Sean Burns is a returning junior and Ryan Burns is a freshman, and the two of them are going back and forth between doubles and third singles.
"Next year I'm going to have a ton of seniors, but I'm enjoying the ride. ... We went 8-11 last year, but I hope to do better in dual matches and in the OCC."
March 23 -- vs. Watterson
April 2 -- vs. Teays Valley
*April 5 -- at Gahanna
April 9 -- vs. Canal Winchester
*April 10 -- vs. Grove City
April 11 -- at Granville
*April 12 -- vs. Pickerington Central
April 16 -- at Mount Vernon
*April 17 -- vs. Pickerington North
April 18 -- at Watkins Memorial
*April 19 -- at Lancaster
April 20 -- vs. Village Academy
April 21 -- Reynoldsburg Doubles Tournament
April 23 -- at Westerville South
April 24 -- at Big Walnut
April 25 -- vs. Delaware
April 30 -- vs. Marion-Franklin
May 1 -- at Fisher Catholic
May 2 -- vs. Logan
May 3 -- at Village Academy
May 7 -- vs. Hamilton Township
May 8 -- vs. Columbus West
March 23 -- vs. Northland and Miamisburg
*April 3 -- at Hilliard Davidson
*April 5 -- at Pickerington North
April 7 -- Raider Classic at home
*April 9 -- vs. Upper Arlington
*April 10 -- at Dublin Coffman
*April 12 -- at Gahanna
April 16 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
April 17 -- at Eastmoor Academy
*April 19 -- at Pickerington Central
*April 23 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*April 24 -- vs. Pickerington North
*April 26 -- at Upper Arlington
*April 30 -- vs. Pickerington Central
*May 1 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
*May 3 -- vs. Gahanna
May 7 -- at St. Charles
May 10 -- at Olentangy Orange
May 15 -- OCC Challenge at Hilliard Darby
Below are the coming schedules for the Reynoldsburg baseball, softball and track & field teams:
*April 13 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central. The Raiders also played the Tigers on April 11.
April 14 -- Home vs. Central Crossing (DH)
*April 16 -- Home vs. Pickerington North
*April 18 -- At Pickerington North
*April 12 -- Home vs. Grove City
April 13 -- Home vs. Olentangy
April 14 -- At Watkins Memorial with Grandview
*April 16 -- At Pickerington Central
*April 18 -- Home vs. Pickerington North
TRACK & FIELD
April 12 -- At Westerville Central
April 13 -- Eagle Invitational at New Albany
April 17 -- At Canal Winchester with Pickerington Central