With just four seniors in the program, along with 11 freshmen and five sophomores, Grove City Christian girls volleyball coach Joe Bradford realizes his team will endure some growing pains.
He's hoping for a strong second half of the season with the Eagles playing at their best leading into the Division IV district tournament, which begins Oct. 15.
Grove City Christian, which is 5-8 overall and 2-3 in the MSL-Cardinal Division, enters its contest against Harvest Prep on Thursday, Sept. 19, looking to snap a two-match losing streak.
Bradford believes Fairfield Christian and Berne Union are the favorites to win the league, but he hopes the Eagles play a role in determining the champion.
"We just want to keep getting better," he said. "We understand that this year there's some new entries in Division IV and as you get to the end of the year and tournament time, things are going to be a little bit tougher than what they've been. We want to maybe assert ourselves into the league race as far as being a spoiler."
Galion Northmor, Howard East Knox, Madison Plains and Newark Catholic have moved from Division III to IV. Northmor won a district title last season.
Grove City Christian defeated Harvest Prep 25-15, 25-8, 25-15 on Aug. 27 and Millersport 25-16, 20-25, 25-12, 25-15 on Sept. 3 for its league wins.
"There were a couple of matches that we let get away from us a little bit, but we're pretty close to where I thought we might be," Bradford said. "We struggle with consistency. Part of that is being as young as we are, so you expect some of that. I think we're progressing. The younger players are progressing."
Through 12 matches, sophomore Bryanna Trout led the team in kills with 44, followed by sophomore Alayna Riggs (42), senior Ashley Stoll (41) and juniors Tara Johnson (25) and Brooke O'Dell (22).
Junior Alaina Dawson led in assists with 166, and Stoll (19), Dawson (18) and O'Dell (16) led in aces. O'Dell and Stoll led in digs with 64 apiece, and Trout led in blocks with 19.
"We're focusing on skills and fundamentals," Bradford said. "The program is so young. There's a lot of youth, so anytime we can just take time and say we're just going to spend a day doing skill work instead of doing team servicing or team defense is always a really good thing for us."
Runners compete in McGowan meet
The boys and girls cross country teams continue to prepare for the postseason, which begins Oct. 19 with the Division III district meet.
The Eagles competed in the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 7 at Watkins Memorial. In the Division III race, Dylan King led the boys by finishing 35th (19 minutes, 26 seconds), followed by Andrew Chalupa (92nd, 23:03.9), Luke McCoy (95th, 23:12.1) and Michael Flowers (111th, 24:30.7).
Madeline Bliss led the girls by finishing 110th (30:54), followed by Hannah Allen (121st, 34:05.9) and Natalie Bankey (123rd, 35:05.1).
Boys soccer coach likes team's progress
The boys soccer team was 3-3-1 overall and 1-1 in the MSL-Cardinal before playing Millersport on Sept. 18.
The Eagles defeated Harvest Prep 5-0 on Sept. 11 in league play as Zach Lauron scored two goals.
Lauron also scored as Grove City Christian lost to Central Crossing 2-1 on Sept. 14.
"We are steadily progressing to our full potential," coach Dan Milam said. "We unfortunately experienced some early season injuries, but the team is coming together and other players are stepping up their play. We've had glimpses of that full potential ... but have yet to play a complete game at that high level.
"I see the potential in each player and our team as a whole. I'm looking forward to that game when we click on all cylinders as a team."
Below are the coming schedules for the Grove City Christian cross country, boys soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 21 -- Marion & Ruth Gray Invitational at Madison Christian
Sept. 21 -- At Amanda-Clearcreek
Sept. 23 -- Home vs. Hamilton Township
*Sept. 19 -- At Harvest Prep. The Eagles defeated the Warriors 25-15, 25-8, 25-15 on Aug. 27.
*Sept. 24 -- Home vs. Zanesville Rosecrans