Last week's volleyball match between Kenston and Chagrin Falls figured to be an important test in the Chagrin Division of the CVC. Some local writers opinioned the Tigers higher than the Bombers.
Sure, the Bombers had won eight consecutive conference championships that spanned 83 consecutive Chagrin wins. That's 10 straight wins for eight seasons in the CVC and three this season -- 83 wins without a loss.
But this year's Kenston group is young, playing two juniors -- Molly Goldsword and Alexis Taylor -- the rest sophomores including, Taylor Curtis, Emily Newell, K.T. Coverdale, Stephanie Bindernagle and Jaime Kosiorek.
Kosiorek is the best outside hitter in the CVC, says her coach Danny Coughlin, in his third season at the helm.
Yet with all eyes on the Chagrin Falls game, it was never close: 25-13, 25-15, 25-19. The Bombers extended their streak and are now 3-0 in the CVC, with a 3-0 win against Orange and 3-1 against West Geauga.
Talking to Coughlin, despite all the past success, you get the feeling he's a little peeved by the lack of respect his Bombers have gotten this season.
The Bombers were swept out of their own Kenston Invitational tournament last weekend, losing in nine straight games to North Royalton, Columbus Bishop Hartley and Padua. Their record stands at 3-6.
"This season is unique for us because of our six losses at this point," Coughlin said Monday. "We haven't played anyone not ranked in the top seven in Ohio. My schedule is probably the hardest in the CVC, hands down. I put this schedule together for a reason."
Coughlin said the Kenston program is expected to advance through districts into the regionals every year; the CVC, he said bluntly, hasn't challenged his team in eight seasons.
"These kids need to be ready come postseason," he said. "Even take the games we lost, we haven't scored less than 20 points in any of those losses. We haven't been blown out of the water by anybody. The purpose to that is we're used to fast-paced volleyball. When we play big-time teams, we won't face anyone in the district or regionals like that. We're going to be prepared and ready."
Because of their youth, Kenston has struggled in close games.
"Technically, I have a JV team," Coughlin said. "Take the Padua game. We were ahead 22-17 and went error, error, error, consecutively all the way to 25. Sometimes the young players can't handle the pressure." He added Curtis had 19 kills in that game.
Coughlin has been with the team for seven seasons. He said Kenston has been so successful because the Bombers no longer lose players to private schools, like Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin or Lake Catholic. "It's kind of a tradition now," he says. "It sounds cliche but all of our kids are playing JO at 11 years old. This team is all home grown."
Chagrin Falls coach Dan Kerul's team has undergone a major overhaul from 2010, returning only three players in Ashley Watson, Katie Schmiedicker and Hanna Roush. Roush is last year's lone starter.
In an email, Kerul wrote: "Overall, we are a young team. But that doesn't mean we aren't talented. We started the year 5-0 by defeating GlenOak, Barberton, Berkshire, Cardinal, and VA-SJ.
"We are currently 8-4 after tough losses to Perry and Kenston in the CVC. As we go through this season, the most important thing is that we grow as a team. I want us playing at our best in October."
Kenston has bumped up to Div. I, leaving Chagrin Falls in Div. II. Kerul noted that Chagrin Falls is just "two girls away from being in Div. III."