Girls Volleyball: Reynoldsburg looking to raise game
With a pair of Division I college recruits among its top players last fall, the Reynoldsburg girls volleyball team improved by three victories from the season before.
The Raiders lost a seven-member senior class that was led by Olivia Kirksey (South Carolina Upstate) and Jessica Ricks (UNC-Charlotte), but they also had five others gain experience last year as they went 8-15 overall and 2-8 in the OCC-Ohio Division.
Now in the OCC-Buckeye -- which also includes Central Crossing, Groveport, Lancaster, Newark and Pickerington Central -- and under a new coach in Cassie Tackett, Reynoldsburg would like to take additional steps forward.
The Raiders opened Aug. 25 with a 26-24, 25-21, 21-25, 25-23 loss at Westerville South and play their league opener Sept. 10 at Groveport.
"We've been doing pretty well," senior Jordan Brooks said. "We need to work as a team to combine it all together. We have a good coach. We want to win (more matches in our league) and do better than how we've been doing the past few years, be aggressive as a team and work together well."
Brooks, who played her first two seasons but was not on the team last fall, is an outside hitter who should be a key part of a five-player senior class.
The other seniors are Mica Crockett (right-side hitter), Arianne Melendez (defensive specialist), Ariyana Peters (defensive specialist) and Syriah Williams (defensive specialist).
Juniors Kaylynn Gianettino (defensive specialist/libero) and Kyra Frasier (setter) join Crockett, Melendez and Peters as key returnees.
The other juniors are Emily Burt (defensive specialist/libero) and Ayanna Neil (right-side hitter).
Freshmen Maren Chang and Sabrina Ripple both are 6-foot middle hitters, and freshman outside hitter Carmen Heckman is 5-10.
Tackett, a Bloom-Carroll graduate who previously served as an assistant at Pickerington Central, is excited about the "potential" she sees.
"It's been really good so far," Tackett said. "We were able to get in the gym about midway through July and have been going pretty hard since then. The varsity has a lot of talent. I think teamwork and discipline are going to be huge for us. We're teaching that throughout the program that that's going to be a game changer. It's just putting it all together with the age difference with the freshmen."
Hawks expect strong season
Hartley has three Division II state runner-up finishes since Mike Rahe took over as coach in 2013.
The Hawks found things a bit tougher in 2017 and last season when they competed in Division I, but they're back in Division II this year and feeling confident about what the future could hold.
There are only two seniors in the program, but both were key players during the 2018 run to a state final. Also, all but three players from last season have returned.
"We've got (almost) everyone back," Rahe said. "We've got all the pieces. When you're starting probably five sophomores, a senior and a junior, we're still pretty young. ... We've got a good core group of kids and these young kids are just talented."
The Hawks were 2-0 before playing Westland on Sept. 1. They play their CCL opener Sept. 10 at Watterson.
Last season, DeSales won the league at 5-1 and went on to capture the Division I state title. Watterson finished 4-2 and was a regional semifinalist, while Hartley went 21-6 overall and 3-3 in the CCL and was a district runner-up, falling to DeSales 25-13, 25-20, 25-17 in a district final.
Senior setter Colleen Sweeney, senior outside hitter Katie Heuser and junior libero Lauren Johnson all were contributors for the state runner-up team in 2018. Johnson has committed to West Virginia State.
Sophomore Ella Brandewie, a 6-foot-3 middle hitter, is considered one of the top recruits in her class nationally, according to Rahe.
Sophomores Jasmyn Crockett (outside hitter), Jocelyn Heuser (defensive specialist) and Kate McLane (middle hitter) also are returnees. McLane is 6-1.
Freshman Kaylee Musick is a 6-0 right-side hitter who is playing a key role.
Most of Hartley's schedule consists of Division I programs.
"Colleen, Katie and Lauren all have the experience of being in the state final in 2018," Rahe said. "They're all good kids and understand what we're trying to accomplish. They work really hard. We've got a couple kids who are going to be role players. ...
"We've got all the pieces and parts, but it's just getting them to play at that high level consistently. Sometimes it's hard for those young kids to maintain that level, but with senior and junior leadership, we'll be able to make a run."
At a glance
*Coach: Mike Rahe, eighth season
*Top players: Ella Brandewie, Jasmyn Crockett, Jocelyn Heuser, Katie Heuser, Lauren Johnson, Kate McLane, Kaylee Musick and Colleen Sweeney
*Key losses: Andrea Bergman, Bealize Kelley and Aiva Smith
*Last season: 21-6 overall
*2019 CCL standings: DeSales (5-1), Watterson (4-2), Hartley (3-3), Ready (0-6)
*2019 postseason: Defeated Groveport 25-5, 25-8, 25-8; def. Hilliard Davidson 25-14, 25-13, 25-6; def. Worthington Kilbourne 25-21, 25-15, 21-25, 25-20; lost to DeSales 25-13, 25-20, 25-17 in Division I district final
*Coach: Cassie Tackett, first season
*Top players: Jordan Brooks, Mica Crockett, Kyra Frasier, Kaylynn Gianettino, Arianne Melendez and Ariyana Peters
*Key losses: Maya Carter, Leah Delco, Kayla Ferguson, Olivia Kirksey, Elysia LaPrade, Jessica Ricks and Jillian Straughter
*Last season: 8-15 overall
*2019 OCC-Ohio standings: Gahanna (10-0), Pickerington North (7-3), Grove City (6-4), Pickerington Central (3-7), Lancaster (2-8), Reynoldsburg (2-8)
*2019 postseason: Lost to Dublin Scioto 25-21, 25-15, 25-20 in second round of Division I district tournament