Coming off a 21-4 season with six players returning, Monroe High School volleyball coach Stephanie Stenger knew her team would be pretty good.
So when the Hornets posted a perfect regular season mark of 22-0 and were still the third seed in the Division II Lebanon sectional, it was only a mild shock to Stenger. Talawanda, whom Monroe defeated after the tournament draw, and Alter were the top two seeds. The Hornets are ranked 10th in the Division II state poll.
“We really haven’t seen any reflection of our accomplishments,” Stenger said. “That’s been the fuel to our fire. What we are ranked and who we are ranked behind have been a lot of motivation for us to accomplish our goals. We feel like we have been disrespected in a lot of regards.”
Preble Shawnee coach Krsity Cottingim was in the same boat as Stenger.
The Arrows returned the bulk of their squad from a 18-3 season and have also ran off a perfect 22-0 campaign. However, Preble Shawnee enters the tournament as the top seed in the Division III Fenwick sectional. The Arrows are ranked sixth in the Division III state poll.
“We had further expectations for the league and going further in the tournament,” Cottingim said. “But undefeated? I never really thought about it. Then we got on a roll and it was like, ‘Wow. This could happen.”
Both teams had a moment in their season when they knew there was a chance they could run the table.
Monroe’s came when they battled from a 0-2 hole against Fenwick to claim a 3-2 win.
“The fight we showed was amazing,” Stenger said. “It showed we are not afraid to step up to a challenge. People may not want to give us credit, but they won’t know what hit them when it’s over.”
Preble Shawnee’s moment came when they lost their middle hitter in the first game of their county showdown with Eaton, only to run off the 3-0 win.
“I thought that was the time the team was going to fall apart,” Cottingim said. “We put in a 5-foot-5 girl that has never played middle, made adjustments and won. We have a lot of matches where we have shown that confidence to come back, and that is different from last season.”
Both have run through the season embracing the team concept.
After switching to a 6-1 this year, Shawnee has received valuable efforts from setter Kelsey Cottingim, libero Hope Hurd and hitters Abby Woodard and Emma Wackler.
“We are where we are because of we are a team,” coach Cottingim said. “Last year, we felt like we were undervalued as individuals because everyone said we had a good team. Our goal was to make sure no one could doubt how good our players were. We are a good team, but we wanted them to see how good everyone is. Each match we have different people stepping up and that makes it hard for teams to prepare for us because you never know where it is going to come from each night.”
Shawnee opens the tournament Tuesday against the Madison-Carlisle winner. A matchup against second-seeded Fenwick is likely in the sectional finals.
The Hornets have benefitted from big seasons from hitters Samantha Streibeck, Holly Richardson and freshman Kaylee Prebles and the serving of Kayla Mulvihill, Chelsea Shanklin, Lauren Chapman and freshman Sydney Shanklin.
“I think we have a lot more understanding of each other,” Stenger said. “We’ve had a lot of dedication and commitment and the right mindset and that was big because of how much we toughened up our schedule.”
The Hornets open postseason play on Wednesday against the Bellbrook-Thurgood Marshall winner. A likely matchup against No. 4 Chaminade Julienne looms in the sectional finals.
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