The Olentangy Liberty girls volleyball team is holding out hope that the postseason results it desires still are attainable.
For program veterans such as senior outside hitter Claranne Fechter, it's just going to take some extra mental fortitude.
"I really feel like we're building the bonds chemistry-wise to go further," said Fechter, whose team lost in a Division I state semifinal last fall. "We've brought a few freshmen up to play middle (hitter) and we're trying to keep them really welcome, give them some tips and pointers to make our team the best it can be and focusing on being a family and working together, pushing through adversity. Our bench is really deep, so anyone can play, which is helpful."
In terms of what the Patriots have been forced to overcome, there has been much from a physical perspective.
Fechter, who was the OCC-Buckeye Division Player of the Year last season, has been a part of that firsthand considering she has missed three matches with a left knee injury.
Before playing Westerville South on Sept. 24, the Patriots were 10-4 overall and 4-2 in the league with both of its OCC-Buckeye losses to Orange.
Liberty lost sophomore middle hitter Michelle Ezenekwe to a season-ending injury during a 25-22, 22-25, 21-25, 25-20, 15-13 loss to Orange on Sept. 3.
In the rematch with the Pioneers on Sept. 19, Fechter had 13 kills and senior outside hitter Raegan Rosi had eight kills but Liberty lost 25-18, 25-18, 25-16.
Senior Taylor Killen and freshmen Katherine Donahue and Nicole Russell both have taken on more extensive roles at middle hitter.
"We're just trying to stay healthy," coach Jen Chapman said. "We hit some roadblocks just with the injuries and trying to figure out a lineup, but other than that I think we've got some good things going on. We're finally getting Claranne (going). She had a little injury going on as well at the beginning of the season, so she's finally getting her legs underneath her. The (first) Orange (match) was a tough loss because we were in the fifth set and lost 15-13 (after) our middle went down. (I) wish we would have had a couple of the other sets back because we had opportunities to win and maybe it wouldn't have even gone to a fifth set."
The 5-foot-10 Fechter was diagnosed with strained joints in her left knee during the club season over the summer and missed preseason time with the Patriots, as well as the first week of the regular season.
A commit to Campbell University, which is located near Raleigh, North Carolina, Fechter believes she's back on track physically with her final prep postseason approaching. She helped the Mintonette m.71 team earn an AAU national title this summer.
"I've just been more consistent overall, my blocking has improved and my serving has improved a lot (over the last two seasons)," Fechter said. "I missed three matches with a knee injury that was from club so it was from a long time ago and kept getting worse. I feel like I'm back and it's a lot better than it was a few months ago."
Boys soccer team not dwelling on ranking
The boys soccer team was 9-0-1 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing Westerville North on Sept. 24.
The Patriots are ranked third in the Division I state poll, with Medina first and Cleveland St. Ignatius second.
"We've been in the top two or three for the past three years," coach Marc D'Auteuil said. "It's cool to be recognized, but now we're at the point where it doesn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things. A couple years ago we were pretty excited about it. Medina is the defending state champion and St. Ignatius is No. 1 in the country (according to topdrawersoccer.com)."
Liberty posted seven shutouts in its first 10 games. It played St. Charles to a scoreless tie Sept. 12.
The Patriots followed that with a 7-0 win over Westerville South on Sept. 17 and a 4-0 win Sept. 21 over Whitehouse Anthony Wayne, a Division I district runner-up last season that was 8-1-1 entering this week.
Senior forward Jaggar Brooker had two goals against South, and senior forwards Ludwig Conrad and Liam Garcia each scored two against Anthony Wayne.
Liberty also has earned wins over Mason (5-1 on Sept. 7), which is ranked 12th in the state, and Hilliard Davidson (4-1 on Aug. 27), which was 7-2-2 before playing Central Crossing on Sept. 24.
"I still think we're a work in progress," D'Auteuil said. "We're trying to get an idea of what our identity is. We do have a lot of kids back that started for us last year, but at the same time we've got a couple kids we're looking to grow into the season. It's going well, but it's the same old thing where we're getting everybody's best shot and we're everybody's biggest game. That's been the case the past two years, but it still kind of takes some getting used to."
Defense leading girls soccer team
Before playing Westerville North on Sept. 24, the girls soccer team had posted back-to-back shutouts to give it five for the season.
The Patriots were 3-5-3 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Buckeye before facing North and have just two games remaining to strengthen their Division I district tournament resume before the draw is held Oct. 6.
After losing to Dublin Jerome 3-0 on Sept. 5 and Orange 1-0 on Sept. 10, Liberty tied Canal Winchester at 2 on Sept. 12 as senior forward Emma Lindsey and junior forward Rachel Davidson both scored.
Then in a 6-0 win over Westerville South on Sept. 17, senior midfielders Mia Hill and Elisa Koshan, junior defender Olivia Brinkman, sophomore forward Jazlyn Brooker, Davidson and Lindsey all scored and goalie Maddie Kelley made one save.
Liberty played Hilliard Bradley to a scoreless tie Sept. 19 as Kelley had three saves.
The Patriots have league games remaining Oct. 3 at Westerville Central and Oct. 10 at home against Olentangy.
Below are the coming schedules for the Liberty cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 28 -- Bear Den Dash at Berlin
Sept. 28 -- Home vs. Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame
Sept. 30 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome
Sept. 26 -- Delaware County Cup at Mill Creek
Sept. 28 -- Jerome Honorary Invitational at the Country Club at Muirfield Village
Oct. 1 -- Division I sectional at Darby Creek. The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.
Sept. 26 -- Olentangy Cup at Oakhaven
Oct. 1 -- Division I sectional at Mentel Memorial. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 8 at New Albany Links.
Sept. 26 -- Home vs. Jerome
Oct. 1 -- At Gahanna
Sept. 30 -- At New Albany
*Sept. 26 -- Home vs. Westerville North. The Patriots beat the Warriors 25-9, 25-20, 25-11 on Sept. 10.