Over the past few weeks, Watterson girls volleyball coach Stephanie Grieshop had no trouble making sure her team was focused on the numerous protocols that were put in place because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The passion the Eagles have to compete, particularly after having their past two seasons end with losses in Division I regional semifinals, is something Grieshop believes made all of the necessary adjustments easier to accept.

"It's been great," said Grieshop, who is in her fourth season. "We started with the June 1 date where we went into Phase 1 and, knock on wood, we've been able to safely and healthily run our program. We're pretty strict with the girls. They're doing a really good job of keeping their circles small right now and have been following all the rules and guidelines. We're making sure we're being extra careful because we have a really bright year ahead of us."

The Eagles went 21-6 overall last season, losing to eventual Division I state champion DeSales 25-15, 17-25, 25-12, 25-14 in a regional semifinal. The Stallions won the CCL at 5-1, with Watterson second at 4-2.

The Eagles opened with a 25-23, 25-14, 25-16 loss Aug. 22 to Cincinnati Ursuline Academy, which was a regional runner-up last fall. They open CCL action Tuesday, Sept. 8, at home against DeSales.

Four of Watterson's eight seniors have committed to play collegiately.

Senior Sydney Taylor has committed to Ohio State as a libero but is playing outside hitter for the Eagles after earning first-team all-league honors last fall.

Senior right-side hitter Olyvia Kennedy, who has committed to George Mason, also was first-team all-league.

The other senior commits are libero Margo Lawson (Miami University) and setter Sophie Mangold (Nevada).

Rounding out the senior class are Gina Grden (middle hitter), Sophia Higgins (middle hitter), Anna Jannot (defensive specialist) and Hope Uptegraph (defensive specialist). Grden and Mangold were second-team all-league.

Sophomores Ava Hoying (outside hitter), Mercedes Motton (middle hitter) and Clara Vondran (outside hitter) also are returnees.

Grden is 6-foot-1, Kennedy and Vondran are 6-0, Hoying is 5-11 and Motton is 5-10.

The only key players lost from last season are Abby Stratford, a 2020 graduate and West Point freshman who finished second on the team in kills and was second-team all-league in her only season with the program, and junior Sierra Peterson, who is no longer with the team.

"This group, I have to say this senior class, since they were freshmen, have been on a mission," Grieshop said. "Any time they go into the gym, they're extremely focused and want to put the cherry on top of their senior year. Hopefully we can make it to the regional finals and the (state tournament). The leadership is exceptional."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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