Published in the Chagrin Valley Times
October 2, 2008
By Steve Novak
How does a team improve on a 20-plus game season in 2007 in which they only had four losses?
There's an easy answer. During the next season, you try to only lose three games. Or, maybe only two. If you're lucky, perhaps even just one.
But right now, for the Kenston volleyball team, the answer is even more extreme. With more than half of the 2008 season already in the books, the Lady Bombers have yet to lose a game.
Kenston has a record of 15-0 after its defeat of Hawken last week. In the Chagrin Valley Conference, the Bombers have a 9-0 record heading into games with Pery and Orange this week.
Last year, Kenston finished the season with a 22-4 record, suffering losses to Elyria, Huron, Beaumont and Walsh Jesuit.
Kenston head coach Karen Gellen said that most of the 2007 starting team was composed of underclassmen. As a result, the members of this year's team are mostly veterans of the volleyball wars.
As the undefeated streak demonstrates, they have gained tremendous experience from the previous season.
"They have worked really hard to be better than last year," Gellen said. "It's largely the same team that we had last year."
There are numbers to back this up. In 10 of their 15 contests this season, the Bombers won the matches in three straight games. They have played consistently well enough all season that they were voted fourth and picked up four first-place votes in the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association Division II state rankings poll.
Two of the team's most significant victories came a couple of weeks ago. Kenston defeated neighborhood rival Chagrin Falls, winning three games to one. Three days later, the Bombers beat perennial volleyball powerhouse Beaumont, three games to one.
Gellen said that team statistics show that there is no single superstar on the team. The players clearly share the wealth in terms of different floor skills. For example, team statistics showed the leaders in kills came down to a close race between senior Jen Braun and sophomore Lauren Landsman.
In the digs category, the leader was 5-foot-6 Jess Ferguson.
The leader in serving points this year is Megan Wendel. She's a sophomore, and she took over the spot vacated by Rachel Triscaro, who was one of the few seniors on the 2007 Bombers. Gellen said Wendel also leads the team in aces and has already recorded more than 300 assists this season.
Wendel said the team seems more united this year, especially in their shared desire to advance in post-season play.
"It is just in how much we really want to make it to state," she said. "Last year, it was still a really good team, but this year we're a lot a closer and the older players include the underclassmen, too."
Another member of this year's team is outside hitter Lauren Landsman. She said part of their practice routines are already stressing the game tactics they might use in district and regional play.
"We're looking forward to it," she said. "Most of our drills at practice are aimed in helping us make it to state."
There are only two more weeks left in regular-season play for Kenston. Then the post-season begins. It seems as if those drills that Kenston now has at its practices are coming at just the right time.