Golden Eagle girls volleyball ready for run at OCC Capital title
By GARY HENERY
News Managing Editor
A warning for Big Walnut’s 2012 opponents — Ron Lehman’s Golden Eagles are expected to be stronger than they were a year ago.
Big Walnut, posting a 16–8 record, which included a runnerup finish to Hilliard Bradley (13–1) in the Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division with a 12–2 record, returns eight one-year letter winners for the Golden Eagles’ highly-successful head coach.
Leading the returnees are senior middle hitter Natalie Chatterton, a First Team All-OCC and Second Team Division II All-Central District selection; junior setter Morgan Alley, a Second Team All-OCC and Honorable Mention All-District choice; senior defender Kylee Williams, a Special Mention All-OCC pick; and senior Alexis Newman, an Honorable Mention All-OCC selection.
Williams (Coaches Award), Chatterton (Rookie of the Year Åward) and Newman (Best Defensive Player Award) were recognized with special awards at the postseason awards banquet.
Also back are senior outside hitter Abby Painter, junior middle hitter Kalynn Bowmar, junior outside hitter Kayla Walaszek and sophomore outside hitter Claire Chatterton. Walaszek was recognized with the 2011 Most Improved Player Award.
“Having Morgan return as our setter is a plus for our offense,” said Lehman who was voted the District Coach of the Year. “And having Kalynn and Natalie back at middle hitter will help our strength on the block as well as attacking. And having Alexis as our returning libero will anchor our passing and back row defense.”
While Big Walnut lost only one letter winner to graduation, outside hitter Samantha “Sammie” Ebright, her loss was huge. A four-year letter winner, Ebright. a First Team Division II All-Ohio selection, earned First Team recognition in both the Central District and OCC as well as Player of the Year honors.
“It’s aways tough to replace a Player of the Year of Sam’s calibre,” Lehman said of Ebright who was the recipient of Big Walnut’s Most Valuable Player and Leading Scorer awards, “but with several returnees we can share the burden of replacing her offensive production.”
Junior outside hitter Brooke Hatfield and sophomore outside hitter Krista Schmidt move up from the Big Walnut JV squad to add depth to the varsity roster.
“Krista and Brooke will give us the depth we will need at the outside hitter position,” Lehman said.
Lehman said the Golden Eagles’ strengths lie in their serving and middle attack.
“We should serve well and have a strong middle attack, but our outsides have less experience, so they need to improve quickly,” he said. “We have several good passers who will help make our offense successful.”
Lehman’s keys to the team’s success?
“Passing well so we can use our middles, serving tough to get our opponents out of their rhythm and playing good defense,” he said, adding “Staying healthy in the middle.”
Big Walnut’s season goals remain unchanged.
“With our returning experience we expect not only to challenge for the league championship but for the District crown as well,” Lehman said. The Golden Eagles, who were seeded third in the District last season, lost to fourth-seeded Jonathan Alder in the District semifinals.
Big Walnut opens its 2012 schedule Saturday, entertaining Bishop Hartley at 12:15 p.m. in the Golden Eagle gym. Next Tuesday, August 25, Lehman’s troops open OCC Capital Division play at home with rival Olentangy at 7 p.m.
Lehman, entering his 22nd season leading the Golden Eagle volleyball program, brings a 422–142 (.748) record into the 2012 season. The veteran coach has compiled a 516–277 (.561) over is 31-year career on the volleyball sidelines.
Lehman will be assisted by Chris Podraza at the varsity level, Matt Schoonover at the JV level and by former Golden Eagle standout Summer Hale at the freshman level.