Big Walnut Roundup: Girls volleyball team finds positives in tough season

Scott Gerfen
ThisWeek
Senior Raegen Bickley sets the ball for junior teammate Andie Stewart, front, as senior Olivia Pollock watches during a match at Westerville North earlier this season. The Golden Eagles, who finished 11-14, overcame injuries to reach a Division I district semifinal.

The Big Walnut girls volleyball team encountered plenty of hardship on its way to a Division I district semifinal, where the season ended with a loss to the top-seeded team.

Big Walnut, seeded 18th, finished 11-14 overall with a 25-11, 25-11, 25-15 loss to Olentangy Orange on Oct. 29. It marked the Golden Eagles’ first losing season since 2007, when they went 12-13.

“We dealt with a lot of injuries to different kids,” coach Ron Lehman said. “But I come away from the season being proud of the girls the way they handled it. There were several kids who ended up playing multiple positions this year because we were shuffling pieces around trying to keep things going, and they did a great job.”

With three of its top contributors out, Big Walnut lost three of its first four contests but rallied to win four of its next six.

The Golden Eagles also won three of their final four matches, including tournament victories over 24th-seeded Hilliard Darby (25-17, 25-20, 18-25, 26-24 on Oct. 22) and 26th-seeded Reynoldsburg (24-26, 25-21, 25-20, 25-10 on Oct. 20).

Junior outside hitter Caroline Speelman and sophomore setter Jackie Myers eventually returned to the lineup from injuries. However, junior outside hitter/middle hitter Zoe McFadden suffered a season-ending broken ankle.

Senior setter Raegan Bickley also played with an ankle injury.

“I think we made the most of it, and it really taught us lessons about pushing through and working hard and staying determined,” Speelman said. “It just made us all closer in the end.”

Speelman, a first-team all-league honoree, led the team in kills (322) and hitting percentage (24.6%).

Bickley, who was second-team all-league, had the Golden Eagles’ best serving percentage (93%), ahead of sophomore outside hitter Mackenzie Krous (91.4%), who was honorable mention all-league.

Also expected to return are juniors Ashleigh Westervelt (libero) and Andie Stewart (middle hitter/setter) and freshman Teagan Ng (outside hitter).

“In one of our scrimmages, we had two players get injured on one play, and we had to go get Teagan from the junior varsity team,” Lehman said. “She stepped right in and did a great job. She never left the lineup after that. It was a great opportunity for her, and she took the opportunity and ran with it.”

In the OCC-Capital Division, Big Walnut finished fourth (9-5) behind champion Dublin Scioto (14-0).

A year ago, the Golden Eagles went unbeaten in the league, capturing their 16th league title in 20 seasons.

“It wasn’t the season we expected, but we grew a lot,” Speelman said. “We have a lot to prove next season.”

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GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Record: 11-14 overall

OCC-Capital standings: Dublin Scioto (14-0), Worthington Kilbourne (11-3), Delaware (10-4), Big Walnut (9-5), Canal Winchester (5-9), Westerville South (5-9), Westerville North (2-12), Franklin Heights (0-14)

Seniors lost: Raegan Bickley, Olivia Pollock, Taylor Schirtzinger and Sarah von Hollen

Key returnees: Mackenzie Krous, Jackie Myers, Teagan Ng, Caroline Speelman and Andie Stewart

Postseason: Defeated Reynoldsburg 24-26, 25-21, 25-20, 25-10; def. Hilliard Darby 25-17, 25-20, 18-25, 26-24; lost to Olentangy Orange 25-11, 25-11, 25-15 in Division I district semifinal