Big Walnut Roundup: Caroline Speelman emerges as leader for girls volleyball team

Scott Gerfen
ThisWeekSPORTS.com
Junior Caroline Speelman has become a key leader for the Big Walnut girls volleyball team while also working to improve her own game. She calls an early season sprained ankle "a blessing in disguise" because she was able to see the sport from a different perspective while sidelined.

When Caroline Speelman sprained an ankle during the second day of tryouts for the Big Walnut girls volleyball team, the pain was more than physical.

The junior outside hitter was “heartbroken” after hearing she would miss the first two matches of the season.

“I hated sitting out and missing practices,” Speelman said. “I wanted to play so bad. But it made me so much more determined to get into therapy and give myself time to heal.”

Speelman also made the most of her downtime in an unexpected way, and as a leader for a young team that was 7-11 overall and 7-3 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Worthington Kilbourne on Oct. 6.

Not only did the downtime give her the opportunity to help tutor inexperienced teammates, she also was able to break down her own play.

“When I was watching my teammates, I was really able to visualize what the coaches had been telling me,” Speelman said. “I guess it was kind of a blessing in disguise.”

Since her return to the lineup, Speelman has led the Golden Eagles’ attack with 195 kills through 18 contests.

Like many outside hitters, she constantly works to improve her game. Coaches know that great players analyze their abilities themselves along with receiving important input from their coach and teammates.

“When she got back, it took her a couple of matches to get going,” coach Ron Lehman said. “She’s been hitting really well for us. She has a great arm swing, and she jumps well. She’s pretty strong. It’s kind of an overpowering hit, and once she gets past the block, it’s hard to dig her.”

A good outside hitter plays the position smartly, Lehman said. Sometimes, finesse is more important than power.

“She’s really been working on her off-speed stuff,” he said. “Teams tend to sit back on their heels and wait, but she’s getting better at dropping in shots. It’s like a hitter waiting on a fastball, and they get an off-speed pitch.”

While Speelman relishes getting a kill, “it’s even better when you get your opponents on their toes and you drop one right behind the block,” she said.

“It’s been nice to see myself grow and my consistency improve, and my coaches have helped me so much with that.”

Speelman describes herself as an “all-around player” who likes to be involved in every play, passing in every rotation, playing defense in the front row and more.

As a leader, she’s stressed keeping everyone together.

“With such an age difference, like our team, it can be hard,” she said. “We’ve done a lot of the team bonding, and I think that’s translated onto the court. It’s important to have everyone involved and engaged.”

Runners ready 

for OCC meet

The boys and girls cross country teams will compete in the OCC-Capital meet Saturday, Oct. 17, at Westerville North.

“Dublin Scioto is the favorite for both the girls and boys, there’s no question about that,” coach Kevin Lewis said. “I would be surprised if they didn’t end up being a state-qualifying team. Everybody else is running for second.”

Madi Yano, who finished 20th (20 minutes, 57 seconds) in the Olentangy Berlin Bear Den Dash on Oct. 3, was Big Walnut’s only medalist in the 14-team event.

The girls finished ninth (188) behind champion Dublin Coffman (49).

Leading the boys was Christopher Lee, who ran not only his best time at 16:33 but also the Golden Eagles’ fastest time in more than a decade, according to the school’s athletics website.

Lee finished 24th for Big Walnut, which placed 11th  (306) of 15 teams behind champion Dublin Jerome (63). 

Big Walnut quarterback Jagger Barnett throws a pass during a 15-14 loss at Dublin Scioto on Oct. 2. The Golden Eagles opened the Division II, Region 7 playoffs Oct. 9 against visiting Logan.

Football team 

opens playoffs

The ninth-seeded football team was 3-3 before playing 24th-seeded Logan in the first round of the Division II, Region 7 playoffs Oct. 9 at home.

The winner plays eighth-seeded Dublin Scioto or 25th-seeded Mifflin in a second-round game Friday, Oct. 16, at the home of the higher seed.

Scioto defeated the Golden Eagles 15-14 on Oct. 2 on the game’s final play when Amare Jenkins connected with Xavier Lopes for a 36-yard touchdown pass.

The Irish earned an untimed down following a facemask penalty.

Big Walnut running back Caden Williams rushed for 191 yards in the game. 

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