The Ready girls volleyball team's annual goal of being one of the final teams standing in the Division III district tournament won't be any different this fall despite a few obstacles.
Coach Mike Kusan is in the fourth season of his second tenure leading the Silver Knights, who have seen their season end in a district semifinal each of the past three years.
Those finishes came even though Ready ended up with losing records the past two seasons, including 11-14 last fall when there was just one senior in the program.
The Knights are even younger this year, with no seniors, and have loaded the schedule with Division I programs such as Grove City (Aug. 28) and Dublin Scioto (Oct. 8) as well as defending Division III district champion Marion Pleasant (Sept. 26) and a tough CCL slate.
In addition, Ready was forced to spend the summer practicing at one of the district's feeder schools.
"This summer has been very challenging as Bishop Ready's gymnasium is getting an overhaul and they are replacing the floor, so we will be excited to get back into our gym," Kusan said. "I feel we are behind schedule in terms of player development. We have a lot of new players in our program this year. ... But the future is really bright and I'm looking forward to this season and help our student-athletes compete at a high level both in the classroom and on the court. Our goal is to win a district championship on Oct. 26."
Ready opened Aug. 22 with a 25-21, 25-16, 25-8 loss to Hamilton Township and begins league action Tuesday, Sept. 3, at home against Hartley.
The top returnee is junior Bella Illig, who is in her third season as a starter and is at outside hitter.
Sophomores Megan Chesser (middle hitter), Simone Daniel (middle hitter) and Kaitlyn Lancia (outside hitter) all played key roles last season. Chesser and Daniel are 6-foot-1 and 6-0, respectively.
Sophomore Claire Larger is at setter, with sophomore Kaitlan Harlin and freshman Bryn Whitmer serving as defensive specialists. Freshman Jaydan Deal also is a key outside hitter.
Others looking to contribute include juniors Mercy Avila (defensive specialist) and Madyson Reyes (defensive specialist) and sophomores Rebecca Daugherty (defensive specialist), Katie Englebrecht (outside hitter) and Lane Miller (middle hitter).
"At times we look like we are rebuilding since we have no seniors and only one junior starter, but when we're at full strength, we will surprise a few teams this season," Kusan said.
Football team preps for Roughriders
During its 4-6 season last fall, the football team defeated eventual Division V playoff qualifier West Jefferson 30-23 in Week 2.
It also happened to be one of the Knights' best passing games of the season, as 2019 graduate Austin Aiello threw for 238 yards and two touchdowns and Tyrese Hudson, now a junior returnee, finished with more than 100 yards receiving.
Ready has a new quarterback in junior Darius Parham, who gained his first experience at the position Aug. 30 during a 24-7 win over Genoa Area.
On Friday, Sept. 6, the Knights will look for a second victory in as many seasons against West Jefferson when they play host to the Roughriders at Fortress Obetz.
"(Parham shows) leadership and poise," said coach Joel Cutler, who took over in the offseason after Brian Cross led the program for five seasons. "He understands that one of the core concepts is knowing his role, and he said he knows he has to be a leader for this team. He's starting to pick things up."
Senior wide receiver P.J. Daniels and senior tight end Donovan Sanders figure to play key roles in the passing attack along with Hudson in support of senior running back Jack Foley, who rushed for 1,640 yards and 17 touchdowns last season.
The Roughriders had a younger look defensively last season but return senior linebacker Zach Hahn. They also figure to be strong up front with senior end Josh Hahn and junior end Dylan Lambert.
West Jefferson, which opened Aug. 30 with a 53-7 win over Lockland, finished 8-3 last season and should be strong offensively behind an all-senior offensive line, senior running back Gabe Jones and sophomore quarterback Tyler Buescher.
"We were definitely a sophomore-junior team last year," said 18th-year coach Shawn Buescher, who is Tyler's father and has guided the Roughriders to nine playoff appearances. "Our line is the heart and soul of our football team. We hold them to a high standard and as they continue to progress, we've got a chance to be pretty good."
Cross country teams looking for growth
There are four boys and six girls in the cross country program, which is co-coached by Rachel Wayne and Chris Kuhlow. Wayne served as a co-coach last fall with Jeff Brown.
On Aug. 24, the girls finished 14th (356) in the 16-team Newark Catholic Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion behind champion Fairfield Union (69) as sophomore Addison Whitmer finished 62nd (23 minutes, 56 seconds), senior Lindsey Bair was 68th (24:22.6) and junior Ava Hurd was 70th (24:26.2). Also competing were junior Makenna Freeman, sophomore Amelia Freeman and freshman Kate Radwanski.
Running for the boys are senior Hunter McBrayer, sophomore Austin Burgoon and freshmen Ben Johns and Andrew Wolfe.
"Things have been coming together well," Wayne said. "I'm really looking for the athletes to come together as a team and push one another to grow and improve throughout the season. I'm really hoping to see better times this year for the returning athletes and improved times over the season for the new athletes. I'd also like to have some runners make it to regionals this year since we did not last year."
Below are the coming schedules for the Ready cross country, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 7 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial
Sept. 5 -- Grandview at National Road
*Sept. 3 -- At Hartley
Sept. 5 -- At Buckeye Valley
Sept. 7 -- At Delaware Christian
Sept. 3 -- Home vs. Amanda-Clearcreek
Sept. 5 -- Home vs. Tree of Life
*Sept. 3 -- At Watterson
Sept. 5 -- Home vs. Marion-Franklin
*Sept. 3 -- Home vs. Hartley
*Sept. 5 -- At DeSales