Coach RyAnne Ufferman and members of the Hilliard Bradley girls volleyball team had a get-acquainted period last fall in her return to the program.
Now in her second season, Ufferman believes the Jaguars have the talent and experience to improve on last season, when they finished 14-11 overall, 7-7 in the OCC-Cardinal Division and lost to eventual state semifinalist Olentangy Liberty 25-16, 25-19, 25-17 in a Division I district semifinal.
"Last year, there was so much getting to know each other, but now it's a point to work toward having positive energy," said Ufferman, who also led the program from 2009-14. "That is a driving force for the way we compete. When you bring an enthusiasm and energy to the weight room and practice, you'll be a lot better."
Seniors Allie Holland (6-foot-4, middle hitter) and Riley Speelman (setter) lead the returnees for the Jaguars. Holland, a University of Tennessee recruit, was named second-team all-district and first-team all-league last season after leading the team in kills (346) and blocks (90) to go along with 141 digs and 25 aces, while Speelman, a Duquesne recruit, led the team in assists (717), digs (201) and aces (45) and had 94 kills and 27 blocks and was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league.
Other returnees include junior middle hitter Anna Alford (6-2; honorable mention all-league, 135 kills, 72 blocks), senior outside hitter Bella Colombini (108 kills, 30 blocks), sophomore outside hitters Maggie Willis (99 kills, 27 blocks, 103 digs, 24 aces) and Clare Flanagan (71 kills, 141 digs, 30 aces) and junior outside hitter Penellope Kern (61 kills, 30 aces).
Rounding out the roster are senior Anna Harden (outside hitter), junior Lolah Maxey (defensive specialist), sophomores Sydney Bleyle (defensive specialist), Kylie Niple (middle hitter) and Emma Richter (outside hitter/setter) and freshman Isabelle Michel (defensive specialist).
"We have good height and we have a lot of returning letterwinners," Ufferman said. "I think the biggest thing we need to focus on right now is making our defense a cohesive movement. We're good in our base defense, but we need to move more. We need to recognize where the setter is going in order to react to that."
Bradley was 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing defending league champion Worthington Kilbourne on Aug. 27.
The Jaguars opened Aug. 20 by defeating Thomas Worthington 25-17, 25-22 25-12 in a league match and beat Olentangy Berlin 25-18, 25-11, 25-16 in league play Aug. 22 before defeating Fisher Catholic 25-10, 25-7, Marysville 25-17, 25-18, and New Concord John Glenn 25-12, 30-28 in the Shaner-Wohrer Invitational on Aug. 24 at Lancaster.
Panthers looking for bounce-back season
Darby is hoping to rebound from last season, when it was besieged with injuries and finished 6-17 overall and 3-11 in the OCC-Cardinal.
"The good news in disguise is that the injury-riddled season last year allowed a lot of girls to see playing time and hopefully they can build onto what they did last season when thrown in there," second-year coach Stephanie Dietrich said. "We've got good leadership with four seniors."
Returning starters include seniors Olivia Krumpe (middle hitter) and Olivia Zawadzki (setter/outside hitter) and junior Destiny White (outside hitter). Zawadzki has committed to Indiana Wesleyan.
Also back is senior setter/right-side hitter Elise Neighbarger, who was a starter last year before breaking her wrist in the Panthers' second match and missing the remainder of the season.
"Olivia Zawadzki has been fantastic early this season, but we truly don't have a star," Dietrich said. "While our four seniors and Destiny will lead us emotionally and guide the younger girls, we don't have anyone who will carry us. We don't have that 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3 girl in the middle like a lot of the teams we'll face.
"We've got to be firing on all cylinders. They all have to play well together at the same time for us to win."
Other starters include senior Nicole Logan (left-side hitter), junior Sophia Iosue (libero) and sophomore Rachel Hopkins (middle hitter).
Completing the roster are juniors Alexa Capka (outside hitter), Emma Fratianne (defensive specialist), Catherine Gearhiser (right-side hitter), Shelby Long (defensive specialist) and Reece Ludwig (outside hitter/defensive specialist).
Darby was 1-4 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Dublin Scioto on Aug. 27.
The Panthers opened Aug. 20 by defeating Delaware 19-25, 25-15, 25-22, 18-25, 15-10 in a league match and fell to Kilbourne 25-22, 25-22, 23-25, 25-19 in league play Aug. 22.
Darby then went 0-3 in the Sharon Huesman Memorial Quad on Aug. 24 at Davidson, falling to Pickerington Central 25-22, 22-25, 25-19, Watkins Memorial 25-10, 25-17 and the host Wildcats 18-25, 25-23, 25-15.
"We played (in the Huesman Memorial) without Destiny, who was on a college visitation," Dietrich said. "We definitely missed her."
-- Brad Emerine
Wildcats striving for winning season
Davidson is seeking its first winning season since 2016 when it finished 21-3 and reached a Division I district final.
The Wildcats are coming off a season in which they went 9-14 overall and 6-4 in the OCC-Central.
Davidson was 1-3 before playing Liberty on Aug. 27.
The Wildcats opened Aug. 20 with an 18-25, 25-10, 25-19, 25-12 loss to Lancaster and lost to Olentangy Orange 25-7, 25-9, 25-15 on Aug. 22. They then went 1-2 in the Sharon Huesman Memorial Quad on Aug. 24 at home, defeating Darby 18-25, 25-23, 25-15 and losing to Pickerington Central 25-20, 25-22 and Watkins Memorial 25-18, 25-13.
"We have an experienced group coming back," said 21st-year coach Betty Cameron, whose team opens league play Tuesday, Sept. 3, at Dublin Coffman. "The core group is very experienced. We just have to fine-tune some areas. We should compete much better than we did last year. They're working hard. It's a fun group of kids to work with. They're highly motivated. We're looking for very good things to happen this year."
Among the returnees are senior middle hitter/outside hitter Elyse Simensky, a fourth-year starter who was second-team all-league last season, and senior middle hitter/right-side hitter India McCruter, who was honorable mention all-league.
Also back are seniors Grace Fry (defensive specialist) and Sarah Shevelow (right-side hitter), junior Lindsey Buckley (outside hitter/right-side hitter) and sophomores Maci Keys (middle hitter/right-side hitter) and Madelyn McMillan (outside hitter).
Shevelow missed most of last season because of illness and Fry is expected to miss the early part of the season with a back injury.
"It's nice to have Sarah back," Cameron said. "She's doing well for us right now."
Rounding out the team are seniors Addison DeJesus (right-side hitter/opposite hitter), Nia Flagg (middle hitter) and Bella Rolon (outside hitter), junior Cassidy DeJesus (setter) and freshmen Maura Jacobs (defensive specialist) and Anna Rodenbaugh (setter).
-- Frank DiRenna