When Ready High School girls volleyball coach Mike Kusan was deciding where to place his team at the Division III district tournament drawing Oct. 7, one thing he wanted to avoid was an early matchup against a squad with a similar record to his own.
He reasoned there was no harm in going against one of the district's top seeds, especially because it would provide an opportunity to help the Silver Knights erase what they had considered an up-and-down season.
Kusan, who guided Ready to a state semifinal in 2011 and a state runner-up finish in 2012, rolled the dice with a first-round match at top-seeded Fairbanks on Oct. 16.
The Panthers had lost just once all season but had faced a mix of mostly small-school programs, while the Knights had faced Division I powers DeSales and Watterson and Division II Hartley twice apiece in the CCL in addition to being the only team to beat Fairfield Christian, the No. 1 seed in Division IV.
The gamble worked, as Ready overcame a slow start to beat Fairbanks 17-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-22.
"The season's been rough," Kusan said. "If I want to lose, I want to lose to the best. I don't want to lose to an average team on the road. Then you have people ask how your season (was). 'Well our season wasn't very good because we never had a signature win.' We were consistent (against Fairbanks). We've not been consistent all year."
On Oct. 20, the Knights beat 21st-seeded West Jefferson 25-16, 25-17, 25-16 in a second-round match at home. They are 11-13 heading into a matchup with fifth-seeded Fredericktown in a district semifinal Thursday, Oct. 25, at Mount Vernon Nazarene.
The district final is Saturday, Oct. 27, at Mount Vernon Nazarene against second-seeded Marion Pleasant or seventh-seeded Cardington, and the district champion will play in a regional semifinal Nov. 1 at Kettering Fairmont.
Against Fairbanks, Ready trailed 18-14 during the fourth game but got strong serving from freshman Kaitlyn Lancia and junior Bre Hejduk; senior Lauren Whitt, sophomore Bella Illig and freshman Simone Daniels led the offense.
"We knew going against the top (team) in our section that it was going to be a battle and it was going to be a tough night but that if we stuck together we were going to come out on top," Illig said. "We've just been challenged over and over. If you look at our record, it doesn't look like we've been competing, but really we have a tough (schedule) so we've just been holding on for a long ride.
"I wrote on my wrist (before the match), 'Play to win, not to lose.' I just remind people of that. I look at it when we're struggling and point it out to my teammates. We get timid, and we get nervous. We definitely proved we are a team."
Girls soccer team falls in second round
The girls soccer team also faced the No. 1-seeded team in its district.
On Oct. 18 in the second round of the Division III district tournament, the ninth-seeded Knights lost 4-0 at top-seeded Worthington Christian. Ready had a three-game winning streak snapped with the loss and finished 8-6-2.
On Oct. 16 in the first round, Ready won 2-1 at eighth-seeded Amanda-Clearcreek as junior left midfielder Lindsay Bair scored both goals.
The only senior was Erica Saldana, a left back. Others eligible to return include juniors Michaela Kopczewski (right back), Genesis Lopez (forward), Katelyn Paul (center back), Maureen Scott (right midfielder) and Lexie Siemer (midfielder/forward), sophomores Ava Hurd (midfielder/defender), Cielo Lopez (forward) and Alyssa Sanders (goalkeeper) and freshmen Allison Bair (center midfielder), Caroline Buendia (center midfielder) and Abigail Grundie (forward).
Football team to face Lions
The football team closes its season Friday, Oct. 26, at Bexley.
With a 49-14 loss Oct. 19 to Whitehall, the Knights dropped to 3-6 and were eliminated from Division V, Region 19 playoff contention, according to joeeitel.com.
Bexley, which lost to the Knights 35-7 to close last season at 0-10, was 1-8 after losing to London 56-0 on Oct. 19.
The Lions have a multi-threat quarterback in Anthony Welsh, who had passed for 769 yards and five touchdowns while also rushing for 394 yards and two scores through eight games. Wide receiver Carter Brennan had 34 receptions for 291 yards and one score heading into the London game.
Cross country season ends at district meet
The boys and girls cross country teams saw the season end Oct. 20 in the Division III district meet at Hilliard Darby.
The boys were last (250) in the 11-team district 2 race behind champion Fredericktown (33) and the girls were seventh (167) in the eight-team district 1 race behind champion Mount Gilead (46).
For the girls, senior Brigitte Bowman led with a 23rd-place finish (22 minutes, 26.8 seconds), followed by freshman Addison Whitmer (24th, 22:27.3), seniors Atemnam Maker (39th, 24:07.9) and Emily O'Connell (42nd, 24:50.1) and sophomore Makenna Freeman (50th, 28:57.5).
Senior Evan Cordle led the boys with an 18th-place finish (17:58.3), two spots from advancing to regional. He was followed by junior Cameron Jones (54th, 20:15.4), senior Daniel Hamilton (58th, 20:44.1), junior Hunter McBrayer (71st, 23:43.9) and senior Grant Cordle (72nd, 23:56.6).
Most of boys soccer squad to return
The 22nd-seeded boys soccer team had its season end with a 5-0 loss Oct. 17 at 10th-seeded Grove City Christian in the second round of the Division III district tournament. Ready also lost to the Eagles 4-0 on Aug. 25.
The Knights finished 1-12-1, with their win coming 3-1 over Millersport on Oct. 11. They tied Marion Pleasant at 1 on Sept. 15.
The only senior was forward Nick Drew, who was a two-year starter.
Players eligible to return include juniors Luke Bergman (sweeper), Eli Bowles (outside back), Kyle Caisaguano (center midfielder), German Garcia (stopper) and Jonas Happ (forward/outside midfielder) and freshmen Angel Rivera (midfielder), Erik Rodriguez (forward) and Charlie Thimling (goalie).