By Garth Shanklin
Last season, the New Richmond Lady Lions volleyball team racked up 17 wins and a conference championship en route to a sectional tournament finals loss to Wyoming.
The battle for the division championship was tight, as it went down to the very last day before determining a winner.
“Last year was a battle,” head coach Carla Corbin said. “With two matches left in the season, there were four teams that could have won or tied for first. Several teams were very close and we didn’t know until all the results were in on the last night we were the sole champions.”
The difficult slate of games teams in the Southern Buckeye Academic and Athletic Conference, like New Richmond face on a nightly basis set them up well for success, according to Corbin.
“It’s good preparation to play tough teams,” Corbin said. “As you advance, the competition gets increasingly more difficult and if we hadn’t played tough teams all season, we probably wouldn’t have made it to the sectional finals.”
As the team looks to advance even further in the tournament in 2016, they’ll do so with primarily the same lineup as last year. The only senior on the 2015 squad was Adrianna Flood, who served as a leader on the team, according to Corbin.
“Being a senior who participated in post-secondary options at the UC, she brought maturity and a different perspective on things to the team,” Corbin said. “She was a leader by her work ethic in practice and she contributed to the team’s success as a left-front hitter.”
The team had five players earn all-conference honors in 2015, and four of them will return in 2016. Seniors Rachel Riffle and Courtney Smith earned first-team all-SBAAC nods in 2015, as did junior Aubree Story. Another senior, Anna Hamilton, received a second-team all-conference nod.
In addition to that quartet, team will also feature Natalie Holdsworth and Emily Kidd on the court, while Sadie Fischesser and Jody Lytle each will gain more varsity experience this season.
Two new players to the varsity team, Kaylee Chapman and Quincy Ipsaro, are expected to play in the front row, according to Corbin, while Batavia transfer Abbi Oelker will play in the back row.
Corbin said with so many players returning this year, the team expects to repeat as SBAAC American Division champions. They began the path to the championship earlier this week, when they hosted Taylor in their season-opening match. The Lady Lions defeated Taylor 3-1, and will now look to pick up two more victories in a home tri-match this weekend.
The team hosts Mariemont and Clark Montessori, with the first match of the day taking place at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27.