The loss of five talented seniors from the 2014 Mid Ohio Athletic Conference Red Division co-champion squad hasn’t dampened the spirit around this year’s Galion High School volleyball camp.
Gone are All-Ohio selection Reanne Neal and All-District setter Addison Zeisler along with All-Mid Ohio Athletic Conference performers Makaila Grimes and Lyndsay McMullen as well as experienced libero Clair Erlsten.
In light of the talent lost to graduation in May, current Tigers’ seniors Bradlee Saterfield, Kiki Staton and Taylor Valentine understand that their roles as individuals and in the framework of the team will be different than they were last season.
“We have five holes to fill from last year,” said Galion head coach Jamie Valentine. “Not only leadership-wise, but also on the court, we’re asking our seniors to take on some new responsibilities and play a bigger part. Bradlee is setting and playing outside (hitter), which is a tough position to play, and Kiki is playing some middle (hitter), some right side and some defense. Taylor’s assuming pretty much the same role, except needing to be a bit more vocal on the court. I think at first it was a little initimidating for them, but they’re coming along. They’re doing better.”
The rest of the 2015 varsity roster features juniors Chloe McCleese (right side/defensive specialist), Callie Wildenthaler (right side/defensive specialist), Morgan Gregory (setter), Ashley Flowers (libero), Gabby Abouhassan (middle hitter/right side) and Dusty Thomas (defensive specialist), and sophomore Marisa Gwinner (middle hitter).
Team and individual goals
Each senior stated that one of their individual goals for this season is to be a leader on and off the floor.
“I want to step up and be a leader and be more vocal,” said Staton. “I want us to win a lot of games this year.”
“Our team goal is to actually come together as a team,” Saterfield stated. “Right now, we’re still individuals on the court. My individual goal is to be the senior and the leader that can have anybody come to me and talk to me.”
“My individual goal is to be a leader and encourage players who might be down on themselves,” said Valentine. “We definitely want to try and win the MOAC again.”
Galion (20-5 overall) and Jonathan Alder posted identical 13-1 league records and shared the MOAC Red Division crown in 2014. The Tigers swept the Pioneers in Plain City and Alder returned the favor with a four-set win on Galion’s home floor later in the season.
“I feel like we didn’t have a bunch of rivals in the MOAC because we were brand new,” said Staton. “But now we do.”
With the split of the season series with Jonathan Alder and a league title under their belts however, Coach Valentine knows her ballclub won’t be sneaking up on the MOAC this season or in the future.
“The target’s on us,” she said. “Jonathan Alder, for sure, will be a rival game. Pleasant will be. Those two teams and us will be real strong in the league this year. Of course, Jonathan Alder coming in here and taking us on our home court, having to share the title put a little sour taste in our mouth.”
Valentine’s ballclub has played three scrimmages so far in preparation for the regular season, which begins on Aug. 25 with a home match at 7 p.m. against Bellevue. The final preseason scrimmage is scheduled for Thursday at Ashland High School. The veteran coach, now in her seventh season, said she’s learned much about her team from the scrimmages.
“The first scrimmage went really well,” Valentine said. “We’ve been playing with our lineup a little bit, trying to figure out where everybody’s gonna best benefit us. After that scrimmage, I made some changes. We played then at Shelby last week, and it was our first evening event. We usually do everything in the morning, so it was kind of nice to change that up. It made me realize they were a little sluggish, so it took them a little while to get organized.
“We didn’t do as well as I wanted us to, and we had a little problem with our serve-receiving,” she said. “We talked a lot about letting teams go on runs on us. That was a huge issue that night. When we had another home scrimmage this past week, we really took charge and did much better at not allowing other teams to get runs on us. Our defense looked great. We made some smart shots. At this level, it’s more about making smart plays. I was really pleased after our last scrimmage. We’ll see what this Thursday brings.”
Moving to D3
With the recent decision by the Ohio High School Athletic Association to remove students who attend community schools and STEM schools from public school enrollment counts, Coach Valentine said she discovered that Galion will now be classified as Div. III instead of Div. II as in previous seasons.
“I’m still trying to go through the list and find out who is in our district,” she said. “It’s exciting because it’s something new for us.”
Fellow Crawford County schools playing Div. III volleyball this season are Colonel Crawford, Bucyrus and Wynford. Other area schools in Div. III include Seneca East, Mohawk, Ashland Crestview, Huron, Willard and Milan Edison.
Galion was a Div. II sectional champion in 2014 and bowed out of the district tournament with a semifinal loss to Norwalk.