The Lady Knights have been to the Division II state tournament six times in the past eight years and were runners-up three times in a row from 2002-2004. The Red and Blue will be looking to get back to Fairborn once again this season after advancing to the state tournament last year following a one-year hiatus.
MILLERSBURG – Hidden in the farmland of Holmes County is one of Division II’s most successful volleyball programs.
While the school itself is in rural Ohio, the name West Holmes is known throughout the volleyball landscape.
The Lady Knights have been to the Division II state tournament six times in the past eight years and were the runners-up three times in a row from 2002-2004.
The Red and Blue will be looking to get back to Fairborn once again this season after advancing to the state tournament last year after a one-year hiatus.
“There is no doubt that the skill and talent is in place to get back to the Final Four,” 12th year head coach Jim Park said. “Right now we just aren’t showing the mentality and intensity that we are used to at West Holmes.”
Six letter winners return to this year’s team, but gone are three very valuable seniors including first team All-Ohio selection Keysha Allison. Also gone are Markie McDowell and Brooke Akins.
“Keysha was the most talented one of the group and Markie was our leader but right now the toughest one to replace has been Brooke,” Park said.
West Holmes, members of the Ohio Cardinal Conference, finished the season 24-4 a season ago and were 12-2 in the OCC, which was good enough for second place – the fifth straight year the Red and Blue have been the league’s runner-up.
“We have never set tangible goals like winning the league even when we won the old Mohican Area Conference five years in a row without losing a league match,” Park said. “Our goals every year are to get better every night, be playing our best at tournament time and have fun doing it.”
Three seniors are back at West Holmes including 5-foot-8 athletic setter Destiney Yoder and back row specialists Jill Finney and Dani Atherton.
Size in the middle isn’t an issue for West Holmes as 6-foot-1 junior Sarah Hammond returns in the middle with newcomers Kayla Glassford (5-foot-8, junior) and
Rachel Hammond (5-foot-10, freshman) also expected to help at the net.
Rounding out the returnees are a pair of athletic sophomores on the outside in Noelle Yoder (5-foot-6) and Lindsey Arnold (5-foot-4).
“We just haven’t shown that well in practice or scrimmages yet and my assistants keep telling me that it will come,” Park said. “Right now we need to step up and do things ourselves to replace all the great players we have lost.”
Being ready for the postseason is never an issue for West Holmes as their schedule is one of the toughest around.
The Lady Knights play 24 matches with as many of 14 of them being against Division I opponents. Not only that, but the OCC is one of the toughest leagues around year-in and year-out.
In addition to a pair of matches against all the OCC members (Madison, Ashland, Lexington, Clear Fork, Orrville, Wooster and Mansfield Senior) the Lady Knights also play Manchester, Norton, Kidron Central Christian, Massillon Jackson and Brunswick in non-league competition and will participate in the Jackson Invitational.
“We play in a great league with great competition,” Park said. “Playing bigger schools is a positive for us every night. We could go 15-7 and still be very well prepared for tournament time.”
Wooster won the conference last season and returns several players, while Mansfield Madison and Lexington will both be solid.
“Wooster has a legit shot at the state tournament while Madison and Lexington each have some very good athletes,” Park said.
West Holmes begins its quest towards yet another state tournament on Tuesday, Aug. 28th with a match at Mansfield Senior.