New Albany Roundup: Emily Heintzelman stepping up as leader on court

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Emily Heintzelman, a junior outside hitter, has been among the top performers while taking on an increased leadership role for the New Albany girls volleyball team.

Immediately after a 25-20, 25-11, 25-15 loss to Pickerington North on Sept. 22, New Albany girls volleyball player Emily Heintzelman planned to head home and break down video of the match. 

That is something she might not have done in years past, but experience and increased leadership responsibilities have changed her habits. 

“My parents usually record, livestream and put video into a Google drive so we can use it,” Heintzelman said. “I watch a lot of that and I feel like it helps. I see myself, how I’m positioning myself in relation to the ball, things like that. I’m really trying to improve myself on a weekly basis. 

“I love watching film to see different situations and see what I could do better or what I’ve done well at a given time.” 

Because of the school’s hybrid scheduling caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Heintzelman was scheduled to learn from home the next day and planned to make time to watch more tape. 

The junior outside hitter was a model of consistency for the Eagles throughout an injury-hampered first month of the season. She led the team in kills (146) and aces (30) and was second in blocks (14) and digs (54) with a 92.7% success rate in serving, helping New Albany to records of 5-8 overall before playing Upper Arlington on Sept. 29 and 1-4 in the OCC-Ohio Division. 

“I would just say it’s her consistency,” coach Karen Morlan said. “As an outside hitter, we need somebody who can put the ball away. Em is doing a nice job of that. Her serving is pretty aggressive on a nightly basis. I’m happy with her performance. She is a leader. She could be more vocal, but as a junior and third-year letterwinner, she is playing how I would expect.” 

Heintzelman, a three-year starter, led the team in kills (276) and was second in aces (38) as a sophomore. She recorded 122 kills, 58 blocks and 19 aces as a freshman. 

While Heintzelman said her serve receive and hitting have improved, she has played beach volleyball each of the past two years in the Hamilton-based Ohio Valley Beach organization and as a result noticed growth with passing and playing out of system. 

“Beach has a huge impact on my indoor performance,” she said. “I’m more aware of my surroundings, like the blockers and where the defense is set up, so I can see open spots and hit to them.” 

The Eagles, who begin the second round of OCC-Ohio play Thursday, Oct. 1, at Grove City, have played with a healthy lineup the past few weeks. Senior middle blocker/right-side hitter Hope Cook missed a few early matches because of a sprained ankle and senior setter Haley Dennis had knee surgery in June but returned in early September. 

“The girls did a great job adjusting to every lineup I gave them and whatever position they happened to play,” Morlan said. “That was an adjustment, just shifting people into different roles and different positions. I just wish they’d play with more confidence because I feel like they’re capable of achieving great things.” 

Consistent lineup  

pacing boys runners 

Boys cross country coach John Galbreath said a simple formula has helped his top seven continue to drop times this season. 

“They enjoy improving. Great weather has helped with times, but this is the same bunch of guys we’ve had for a few years now and they continue progressing and keep giving us a chance to be competitive,” Galbreath said. “They just work hard and enjoy pushing themselves.” 

Victor Orsinelli was the Eagles’ top runner in each of their first four races and recorded the team’s best time of the season – 15 minutes, 50.2 seconds – in finishing fourth in the Central Ohio Invitational on Sept. 19 at Three Creeks Metro Park. Will Benseler was sixth (16:08.2) and Ethan McNichols was 12th (16:38.3) among five runners in the top 17 to lead New Albany to 51 points and first place out of 10 teams, two points better than runner-up Dublin Jerome. 

Those three, along with Colin Swincicki and Luke Weibel, were in the top seven in each of the first four races. Aditya Akula, Lleyton Axline and Evan McClelland also saw time in that group. 

“One of the most exciting things for me is it’s not just guys in the top seven who are dropping times,” Galbreath said. “We won the open race (at the Central Ohio Invitational), too. We’ve had a nice mix of long runs and speed workouts and those are paying off, too.” 

The girls team finished no lower than sixth in any of its first four meets, winning the Canal Winchester Invitational on Sept. 2 with 47 points. Ellie McClelland was the Eagles’ top runner in each of the three meets she ran in that time, with Stephanie Thomas finishing first once. 

Gabby Abbruzzese, Alexis Curren, Regan Davies, Isabel Goldstein, Ellie Haffer, Mary Schultz and Nicole Stewart all have spent time in the top seven for the girls, who like the boys team will compete in the Midwest Meet of Champions on Saturday, Oct. 3, at Hilliard Bradley. 

Tennis team learns 

from setbacks 

Girls tennis coach Marc Thomas pointed to a pivotal two-week stretch in late August and early September as one that has made his team better heading toward the postseason, even if those improvements came after losses. 

The Eagles lost 3-2 matches to Cincinnati Sycamore on Aug. 29 and Olentangy Liberty on Sept. 11, the latter in the second round of Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I district tournament, and both featured competitive showdowns on every court. 

New Albany was 11-3 before playing Olentangy Berlin on Sept. 30, and last week recorded one of its biggest wins of the season when it defeated visiting Jerome 5-0 on Sept. 22. Jerome recently won the OCC-Cardinal championship. 

“We used those (Liberty and Sycamore) matches to respond and get better and we have,” Thomas said. “We won four courts in three sets (against Jerome) and that’s a team that is always very good. We’ve had to play around with who’s been on what court depending on whether some of our multisport athletes aren’t with us. We’ve had a few girls step up big and that comes down to leadership.” 

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekDave