If the Upper Arlington girls volleyball team is to improve on its best season since 2010, fifth-year coach Chris Van Arsdale thinks a handful of talented underclassmen will have played a large part.

Their ability to shoulder those expectations and challenge for OCC-Central Division and Division I district championships remains the big question for Van Arsdale.

Seniors Jen Gomez (outside hitter) and Katherine Hayek (setter) return from last season, when the Golden Bears went 17-7 overall and 8-2 in the league and lost to DeSales 19-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-18 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

UA's 17 wins were its most since 2010 when it finished 19-5.

"If I could say one thing about us, it's that we're a really young team," Van Arsdale said. "Both (Gomez and Hayek) are really good steadying influences, but our young kids are probably going to be our leaders. We'll see what responsibilities the younger girls can take on in winning matches. Can they shoulder those responsibilities? If they can do that, then we can probably make a run at winning the (OCC-Central).

"We had a good season last year, and having four good seniors played a big part in that. These early matches will be a good test for us. We'll see how everything fits together."

UA was 1-3 before playing host to Westerville North on Aug. 27.

The Bears' promising underclassmen include juniors Erin Murphy (middle hitter) and Amelia Van Arsdale (setter) and sophomores Jenna Harold (defensive specialist/outside hitter), Macy Medors (libero) and Sophia Schweisthal (middle hitter).

Harold had 149 kills, 27 aces and 137 digs as a freshman. Medors, whom coach Van Arsdale called "one of the best defensive specialists in the area," had a team-high 213 digs and Hayek led the Bears with 544 assists.

Rounding out the roster are juniors Carly Ness (defensive specialist) and Hannah Sprouse (libero/defensive specialist) and freshman Lilian Entenmann (middle hitter/outside hitter).

UA opened Aug. 20 with a 25-12, 25-20, 27-29, 25-23 home loss to Westerville Central and lost 25-16, 25-16, 25-19 at Olentangy on Aug. 22 before splitting two matches Aug. 24 at New Albany, defeating the host Eagles 20-25, 25-16, 25-21 and losing to Worthington Kilbourne 25-21, 22-25, 25-17.

The Bears placed second in the OCC-Central last season behind Dublin Coffman (10-0). They begin league play Tuesday, Sept. 3, at Central Crossing.

"I told the girls that there's a lot we can accomplish," coach Van Arsdale said. "If we fit all the pieces into the puzzle, this could be a special year."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis, girls volleyball, boys water polo and girls water polo teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Aug. 31 -- Boys: Asics Hot Summer Bash at Hilliard Davidson

FIELD HOCKEY

Aug. 30 -- Home vs. Gates Mills Hawken

Sept. 3 -- At Columbus Academy

BOYS GOLF

Aug. 31 -- Pinnacle Classic at Pinnacle

Sept. 3 -- Akron Hoban Invitational at Portage Country Club

GIRLS GOLF

Sept. 3 -- New Albany Invitational at New Albany Country Club

Sept. 4 -- OCC-Central at Blacklick Woods

BOYS SOCCER

Aug. 29 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg

Sept. 3 -- At Westerville South

GIRLS SOCCER

Aug. 29 -- At Watterson

Sept. 3 -- Home vs. Westerville South

GIRLS TENNIS

*Aug. 29 -- At Westland

*Sept. 3 -- Home vs. Marysville

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Aug. 29 -- At Westerville South

*Sept. 3 -- At Central Crossing

BOYS WATER POLO

Aug. 30-31 -- McDowell Cup at Erie (Pa.) McDowell

Sept. 4 -- Worthington Kilbourne at Thomas Worthington

GIRLS WATER POLO

Aug. 30-31 -- McDowell Cup at Erie (Pa.) McDowell

Sept. 4 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne

*League contest