Buckeye’s volleyball team lost the Medina County MVP and its fine libero to graduation, and had its longtime coach take another job in the offseason.
Despite those earthquake-caliber changes, the Bucks still have a chance to become the first team in county history to win four consecutive division championships.
With six matches left in the season prior to Thursday, Buckeye owned the third-best record in the Patriot Athletic Conference at 8-2. The bad news is the two teams ahead of the Bucks also are in the Stars Division: Brookside at 10-0 and Keystone at 11-1 through Wednesday.
“When we play them both the second time, we are going to play better,” Buckeye coach Craig Peterson vowed. “Hopefully, we’ll also have improved a little bit by that time and can show everyone what kind of a team we can be.”
The Bucks are a senior-laden squad led by setter Alexa Weiland and hitters Krystin Estes, Erin Leneghan and Gabrielle Beck.
The 5-foot-5 Weiland is the single-most important player to her team in the county — and the PAC — because of her athleticism, leadership and court smarts. She also has an uncanny knack for cleaning up bad passes, which Buckeye has been infamous for throughout its league championship reign.
“We’ve got such talented hitters in Erin, Gabbie and Krystin, and our big freshmen hitters are really coming along,” said Weiland, a four-year starter. “It’s just a matter of putting it all together at the same time.”
Freshman Danielle Jenkins entered Thursday averaging 4.6 blocks in five matches since her full-time promotion to the varsity. She also had a career-high eight kills at Elyria Open Door.
• Sophomore Emily Cartwright had led the Pirates in assists in their last three contests prior to Thursday, averaging 20.0 per match.
Senior Morgan Ritchie has shifted from outside hitter to setter, as coach Mande Pyzik had planned to do during the preseason. The move paid immediate dividends, as the Blue Devils took state-ranked Strongsville to five games, then swept Normandy.
• Brunswick entered Thursday 2-2 in its last four matches after dropping five in a row. The Blue Devils’ next two NOC Valley Division matches are against the teams immediately ahead of them in the standings in Elyria and Solon.
Two of the Colts’ first four victories occurred in matches that went the distance and one came in a four-gamer. They rung up their first sweep of the year at Green.
The Hornets entered Thursday tied for third place in the Suburban League, which would be their highest finish in the conference since 2000. Their only upper-half finish since then was a fourth in 2008, when their coach was current Wadsworth mentor Jill Quayle.
• Saturday, the Hornets travel to Massillon Jackson, which is undefeated, No. 4 in the OHSVCA Division I poll and a legitimate state championship contender.
Medina coach Jason Schellenberger entered Thursday tied with Joe Kolodka for 12th place in county history with 87 career victories.
• One year ago on this date, the Bees were 3-13. They entered Thursday 9-6.
Sophomore Peyton Booth ripped a career-high 11 kills twice in the Grizzlies’ last three matches prior to Thursday.
• The Grizzlies have clinched their eighth consecutive winning season, which is the top current run in the county. Buckeye is working on a six-year string, but has not yet extended it this fall.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.