Girls Volleyball: Recent work paying off for Groveport Madison

DAVE PURPURA
dpurpura@thisweeknews.com
Senior libero Emi Waller is expected to be among the key contributors for the Canal Winchester girls volleyball team and third-year coach Kellina Snyder.

Groveport Madison girls volleyball coach Jodi Good believed she had every reason to be optimistic entering her first season with the Cruisers.

Not only do four starters return, three of whom are seniors, but turnout increased for preseason tryouts after all volleyball teams were able to work together throughout the summer because of a waiver increasing the usual 10 coaching days amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"Being able to instruct them more this summer has helped (make up for the) time lost in the spring," Good said. "We are a stronger unit than we were at the beginning of the summer. Players of the program have committed to this new transformation. They have been showing up when asked, sometimes more than asked, and giving 100 percent effort. We will be a much more cohesive and competitive group this year."

Seniors Sydney Morant (middle blocker/outside hitter), Aniya Owens (middle blocker) and Grace Seipel (defensive specialist) and junior Natalie England (setter/right-side hitter) started last year and are back to lead the Cruisers, who were 1-1 before playing Marion Harding on Aug. 29.

Good succeeded Matt White, who resigned after five seasons.

Groveport went 3-20 overall and 2-8 in the OCC-Capital Division last season and will be in the OCC-Buckeye this fall as part of conference realignment.

Good, a 1992 graduate of Amanda-Clearcreek who was a three-sport athlete for the Aces, has coached high school and club volleyball for the past few decades, including at two clubs in the Lancaster area. She coached her alma mater in 2015 and 2016, going 35-15.

Groveport opened Aug. 21 with a 25-15, 25-14, 25-17 home win over Amanda-Clearcreek and lost 25-11, 25-14, 25-11 at Thomas Worthington on Aug. 25.

The Cruisers begin OCC-Buckeye Division play Sept. 10 at home against Rey-noldsburg.

Rounding out the roster are juniors McKenna Lowe (defensive specialist), Kalista Milne (outside hitter/opposite hitter) and Natalie Stauffer (defensive specialist), sophomore Ka'Liya Howard (defensive specialist) and freshmen Yanniery Lizardo-Martinez (setter/defensive specialist) and Devin Williams (middle blocker/right-side hitter).

"We have some great athletes who are strong, quick, aggressive and jump well," Good said. "Their weakness is just a lack of overall game-like concepts, which means we sometimes struggle with appropriate decision-making based on different situations. However, we are getting there."

Indians trying to replace strong class

Third-year Canal Winchester coach Kellina Snyder is confident she has a strong quartet of senior leaders in middle hitter Ally Hawkins, setter Avery Huntzinger, promising outside hitter Maddy Koehler and libero Emi Waller, but Snyder admits there have been struggles early this season.

The Indians, who were 0-3 before playing Fairfield Union on Aug. 29, are trying to replace the graduated trio of Shalea Byrd, Amanda Rarick and Natalie Rarick, all of whom now play at Rio Grande. They combined for 553 kills last year as Canal Winchester went 15-8 overall and 7-3 in the OCC-Capital.

"It's been a struggle graduating six seniors, and those were impact players. It's hard to replace that in a calendar year, minus a preseason because of COVID," Snyder said. "We're improving. We have some young players who are playing freshman, junior varsity and varsity. Some others are playing j.v. and varsity. That's the way our program is right now. We're down a little in numbers and we're down a little in talent. We have to make up for that by being creative and making each other better."

Hawkins had 103 kills last year. Huntzinger had 693 assists and began this season with 1,133 for her career, and Waller added 359 digs.

Canal Winchester opened Aug. 24 with a 25-16, 25-12, 25-16 loss at Chillicothe Zane Trace and fell 25-17, 25-15, 25-12 two nights later at New Albany before falling in its home and OCC-Capital opener to Worthington Kilbourne 25-20, 25-27, 25-11, 25-19 on Aug. 27.

"We're still developing depth and we have to find consistency," Snyder said. "We're leaning on our senior leadership. We expect big things out of Maddy Koehler. She is very versatile with great hands. She's a great hitter and a great blocker, but the game of volleyball is so much about the pass."

Rounding out the roster are senior Jordan May (defensive specialist), juniors Kaitlyn Householder (hitter/setter), Marria Iulianelli (hitter), Emily Keyse (hitter/setter), Amanda Le (defensive specialist) and Ellie Thompson (defensive specialist) and freshmen Leila Bester (hitter), Abby Hawkins (hitter) and Megan McConnell (defensive specialist).

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

At a glance

CANAL WINCHESTER

*Coach: Kellina Snyder, third season

*Top players: Ally Hawkins, Avery Huntzinger, Maddy Koehler and Emi Waller

*Key losses: Shalea Byrd, Amanda Rarick and Natalie Rarick

*Last season: 15-8 overall

*2019 OCC-Capital standings: Big Walnut (10-0), Canal Winchester (7-3), New Albany (6-4), Newark (5-5), Groveport (2-8), Franklin Heights (0-10)

*2019 postseason: Lost to Pickerington Central 21-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-17 in first round of Division I district tournament

GROVEPORT MADISON

*Coach: Jodi Good, first season

*Top players: Natalie England, Sydney Morant, Aniya Owens and Grace Seipel

*Key losses: Michela Ayers, Aries Clay and Lizarely Martinez

*Last season: 3-20 overall

*2019 postseason: Lost to Hartley 25-5, 25-8, 25-8 in first round of Division I district tournament