Big Walnut Roundup: Injuries lead to 'tough start' for volleyball team

SCOTT GERFEN
editorial@thisweeknews.com
Senior setter Raegen Bickley is one of the top returnees for the Big Walnut girls volleyball team and 31st-year coach Ron Lehman.

It's not the way Big Walnut girls volleyball coach Ron Lehman envisioned his 31st season would begin.

Three top contributors are out with injuries, and the Golden Eagles didn't win a set in their first two matches.

"We've got four bad ankles right now," Lehman said. "One is still playing, but three of them are out and one for most of the year. It's been kind of a tough start."

Junior outside hitter Caroline Speelman and sophomore setter Jackie Myers are expected to return. However, junior outside hitter/middle hitter Zoe McFadden has a broken ankle and likely will miss most of the season, Lehman said.

Senior setter Raegen Bickley has a swollen ankle but has been playing.

"It's given some other kids a chance to gain some experience, so hopefully that will pay off down the road," Lehman said.

Other contributors returning from last season include juniors Ashleigh Westervelt (libero) and Andie Stewart (middle hitter) and seniors Sarah von Hollen (opposite hitter), Olivia Pollock (opposite hitter) and Taylor Schirtzinger (middle hitter).

The Golden Eagles were 0-2 over before playing their first OCC-Capital Division match Aug. 27 at Delaware. They lost to Upper Arlington 25-21, 25-18, 25-20 on Aug. 25 and to Olentangy Liberty 25-15, 25-19, 25-11 on Aug. 22.

"Our schedule is usually pretty tough at the beginning of the year," Lehman said. "So, we have in the past started out kind of slow."

Last season, Big Walnut started 0-3 before winning nine of its next 10 matches. The Golden Eagles went on to finish 18-7 overall and 10-0 in the OCC-Capital, capturing their 16th league title in 20 seasons.

With OCC realignment, Lehman expects a stronger league schedule.

Big Walnut, Canal Winchester and Franklin Heights remain in the OCC-Capital and now are joined by Delaware, Dublin Scioto, Westerville North, Westerville South and Worthington Kilbourne.

"Dublin Scioto traditionally has a strong program, and Worthington Kilbourne has been good over the years," Lehman said. "I think it will definitely be more competitive top to bottom than it has been in the past. We're looking forward to it. It will be good to see some new teams."

Football team preps for Wildcats

Football coach Rob Page knows his defense must be prepared for speed and a group of solid skill-position players when the Golden Eagles visit Westerville South on Friday, Sept. 4.

"It's even more paramount that we get lined up, we set edges and we gang tackle," said Page, whose team opened Aug. 28 against visiting Delaware. "We don't want to let them get going. We can't let their star receiver get loose."

Junior Kaden Saunders, who has committed to Penn State, is a key receiving threat for the Wildcats.

South opened Aug. 28 against Scioto with senior Peter Pedrozo expected to start at quarterback. He missed the second half of last season with a broken right collarbone.

The Wildcats qualified for the playoffs last fall in Division II, Region 7, losing to Toledo St. John's 42-34 in the first round to finish 6-5.

With only one preseason scrimmage, Page expected to learn much about his team in the season opener.

"I think every coach realizes we aren't where we usually are at this point in the year, and we have to make sure we figure out what we're good at and keep it simple," he said.

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At a glance

FOOTBALL -- WEEK 2

BIG WALNUT at WESTERVILLE SOUTH

*When: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4

*Last meeting: 2017, South 47-14

*Big Walnut to date: Played Delaware on Aug. 28

*South to date: Played Dublin Scioto on Aug. 28

*Top Golden Eagles: Zach Barnecut (WR/DB), Jagger Barnett (QB), Brady Hershberger (WR/DB), A.J. Leasure (TE/LB), Mark Ruffing (OL/DL), Mahlon Spangler (OL/DL), Gage Sutton (TE/DL), Cole Wecker (OL/DL) and Caden Williams (RB/DE)

*Top Wildcats: Brandon Armstrong (RB/DB), Matthew Bame (WR/K/P), Zane Boszor (LB), Jesse DeVore (WR/WB), Elvis Gyabeng (H-back/DL), Tyler O'Reilly (OL/DL), Devin Oteng-Achamfour (HB/DL/LB), Peter Pedrozo (QB), Kaden Saunders (WR/DB) and Javi'er Wills (WR/DB)

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Coach: Ron Lehman, 31st season

*Top players: Raegen Bickley, Olivia Pollock, Taylor Schirtzinger, Caroline Speelman, Andie Stewart and Sarah von Hollen

*Key losses: Alex Billings, Kassie Bowmar and Morgan Schull

*Last season: 18-7 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: Defeated Westerville South 22-25, 25-18, 25-15, 25-9; def. Dublin Coffman 25-18, 25-19, 25-21; lost to Grove City 26-24, 25-22, 15-25, 25-21 in Division I district semifinal