Upper Arlington High School girls volleyball coach Chris Van Arsdale is confident enough in his roster that he is comfortable running a handful of lineups and rotating players according to the opponent, something that seemed to have paid off with 15 wins in the Golden Bears' first 20 matches.
Still, Van Arsdale consistently reminds his players of what he believes is the team's true identity.
"He says it every day at the beginning (of practice) and at the end. We are a serving and passing team," middle hitter Maddi Mardas said. "That's our identity. We are kind of weak on our blocks, but we are solid on serving and we have some great passers."
With a mix of experience, including three underclassman starters, UA was 15-5 overall and 7-1 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Marysville on Oct. 9. The Bears' only loss in the league entering the week was to 11-time defending league champion Dublin Coffman, 25-15, 25-12, 25-20 on Sept. 25.
UA will finish the regular season Thursday, Oct. 11, at Coffman.
Van Arsdale has built around a group of what he calls four "core seniors" in setter Piper Crotty, middle hitter Kiersten Grimm, Mardas and outside hitter Elizabeth McKenna. Sophomore Lexy Owens is a starting outside hitter and freshmen Jenna Harold and Macy Medors start at outside hitter and libero, respectively. Harold also is a defensive specialist.
"We can create matchup problems for people because we can move Elizabeth around a little bit on the left or the right. Jenna and Lexy can bring different speeds, different offense and different rhythms to the outside, and then our middles are doing really well, too, in moving around and making their opponents having to make some decisions," Van Arsdale said. "That said and I've said it to the kids 100 times, we are a serving and passing team. We can serve any team really well and pull them out of their offense, and it's really hard to pull us out of our offense because we have such good passing."
McKenna had a team-high 139 kills through 19 matches, ahead of Crotty and Harold with 120 each.
Medors led UA with 414 digs. Katherine Hayek was first in assists with 414 and aces with 32.
UA earned the 10th seed for the 49-team Division I district tournament and will play host to 30th-seeded Teays Valley in the first round Monday, Oct. 15. The winner will play 11th-seeded DeSales on the better-seeded team's home court Wednesday, Oct. 17, and the second-round winner will advance to a district semifinal Oct. 23 at Franklin Heights.
The Bears defeated Teays Valley 25-18, 17-25, 25-15 during a tri-meet Sept. 15 at Dublin Scioto and have not played DeSales this season.
"As seniors, we told everybody before the season that we have the potential to be a really great team, but we had the potential to be mediocre if we don't use all of our athleticism, strength and all of our other assets," McKenna said. "If we don't put those together, we can be average. If we do, we will be a great team. Us being close and being able to be honest with each other, we remind each other we cannot be complacent. We have to want to be above average."
Field hockey team improving on offense
Although the field hockey team entered the week having lost three consecutive games by shutout, coach Sara Greaves nonetheless embraced some improvements on offense throughout the season.
Before falling to three-time defending state champion Thomas Worthington 8-0 on Oct. 3 and losing twice in Cincinnati on Oct. 6, 2-0 to Ursuline Academy and 4-0 to St. Ursula, UA had consecutive 4-0 wins over Dublin Jerome on Sept. 26 and Olentangy Berlin on Oct. 1. Those were the most goals the Bears had scored in any game this year.
Sophie Croci accounted for five of those goals, three against Berlin and two against Jerome.
UA was 8-6-1 overall and 4-2-1 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-West before finishing the regular season Oct. 10 with a league game at Coffman.
"We've put up more goals against some of our closer opponents," Greaves said, citing a 3-1 win over New Albany on Sept. 5 and a 2-all tie against Worthington Kilbourne on Sept. 19 as well as the win over Jerome. "We've actually struggled quite a bit with defense this season against the stronger teams. Our actual defensive players are returning starters from last year, but we have younger girls in the midfield and struggle in situations where we need those girls to help support the defense.
"I think our younger girls are recognizing their potential. If they put forth the effort in the offseason, I think we will continue to grow and progress."
Seeded seventh for the 18-team district tournament, UA will play host to 15th-seeded Hartley in the first round Monday, Oct. 15. The winner will visit fifth-seeded Olentangy Liberty for a second-round game Wednesday, Oct. 17, and that winner will advance to a district semifinal Oct. 23.
The Bears lost to Liberty 4-1 on Aug. 29 and have not played Hartley this season.
Girls golfers win sectional
Led by Emily Hummer's round of 74, the girls golf team won a Division I sectional tournament Oct. 2 at Mentel Memorial and competed at district Oct. 9 at Cooks Creek.
UA shot a 319 to win ahead of runner-up Coffman (333) as the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district.
Hummer tied Coffman's Maria Howard for second of 56 golfers, two shots behind medalist Leila Raines of Berlin.
Also scoring for the Bears were Julia Rabadam (76), Reagan Nolan (84) and Lilly Carine (85). Eileen Murray shot a 95.
DeSales (372) earned the other team berth to district.
At district, the top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Oct. 19 and 20 at Ohio State's Gray Course. UA was seeking its second state berth as a team in three seasons.
Tennis team sends five to district
The girls tennis team advanced both of its doubles pairings and singles player Emma Wang to the Division I district tournament Thursday, Oct. 11, and Saturday, Oct. 13, at Reynoldsburg.
Ella Hazelbaker and Noah Mizer went 4-0 to win the doubles title at UA's home sectional that concluded Oct. 6, defeating teammates Evelyn Holman and Wendy Shi 6-4, 6-3 in the final. Holman and Shi finished 3-1.
Wang went 4-1 and defeated Watkins Memorial's Madi Burris 6-4, 6-2 in the third-place match.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district.
Also competing but failing to advance were singles players Rena Zhao (1-1) and Melanie Marszal (0-1).
At district, the top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the state tournament Oct. 19 and 20 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
UA also advanced in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team tournament last week, defeating visiting Watterson 5-0 in a Division I district quarterfinal Oct. 3. The Bears will visit Olentangy Orange for a district semifinal on a date to be determined, and the winner will play Jerome in the district final.
Boys golfers compete at district
The boys golf team competed in the Division I district tournament Oct. 9 at Apple Valley, coming off a fourth-place finish at sectional Oct. 2 at Darby Creek.
Led by Quinn Patterson's round of 75, UA shot a 315 to place behind champion Coffman (300) as the top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district.
The Bears finished three shots ahead of fifth-place Hilliard Bradley.
Also scoring for UA were Matt Cramer (77), Jud Turner (80) and Grant Menke (83). Joe Mollica shot an 86.
St. Charles (302) and Westerville Central (311) also qualified for district.
At district, the top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to the state tournament Oct. 19 and 20 at Ohio State's Scarlet Course. The Bears sought their first state berth since 2014, when they finished third, and a state-record 55th appearance in program history.
Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington cross country, boys soccer, girls soccer and boys water polo teams:
Oct. 13 -- OCC-Central meet at Hilliard Davidson
Oct. 11 -- At New Albany
Oct. 20 -- Home vs. 21st-seeded Thomas Worthington or 33rd-seeded
Northland in second round of Division I district tournament. The Golden Bears are seeded ninth.
Oct. 13 -- At Lexington
Oct. 15 -- Home vs. 36th-seeded Whetstone in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays host to 43rd-seeded Mifflin in second round Oct. 18. The Golden Bears are seeded ninth.
BOYS WATER POLO
Oct. 12-13 -- Rockford (Mich.) Invitational