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July 14, 2020

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Lady Bulldog spikers hope to contend for NWC behind Light, Wills

Four letter winners and three starters return from last year's squad

By Cort Reynolds
ADA - The Ada varsity volleyball team enters its second season under head coach Kyleigh Tabor looking to return to the upper echelon of the Northwest Conference this fall.

Four letter winners and three starters return from last year's squad that finished 12-12 overall against a tough schedule. The Lady Bulldogs started out 3-0 in the NWC yet ended up 4-4 to finish fifth in the nine-team loop, ending their historic three-year run as league champions.

The Lady Bulldogs advanced to the district semifinals but lost to powerful Arlington.

This season, Ada lost a key three-year starter in senior setter Sidney Gossard, who decided at the last minute to play soccer this fall.

The Bulldogs will employ a 6-2 offense this season, with sophomore Kirsten Poling and versatile junior hustler Miranda Wills sharing the important setter duties.

In 2019, the purple and gold will again face the likes of strong non-conference MAC foes St. Henry and Coldwater, as well as Ben Logan, to help prepare them for the conference race and the post-season.

Tough early schedule
"Our tough early schedule can help us get ready for the NWC," said Tabor.

Junior middle hitter/blocker Megan Light made a big jump from tentative freshman to first team All-NWC in 2018. Her confidence grew as she blossomed into the team's go-to hitter and a timely blocker.

A smart player at 5-11, she is the tallest Bulldog and the team's surest hitter, as well as the top returning blocker.

Teams will be setting their defenses against the heady Light in 2019, so Ada must have others step up to combat the double blocks she will likely face. Tabor said Wills, Aubrey Madison and the Poling girls will have to step up when Light is the opposition's focal point.
"We are looking for Megan to be our big blocker in the front row," said Tabor. She added that Light has improved her defensive skills so she can now stay in the game throughout all rotations including the back row, unlike last year.

Highly-competitive junior Wills will set and be a right side hitter. She is a solid athlete and a maximum effort hustler who never gives up. Wills wears her emotions on her sleeve and leaves her skin on the court. A high-energy player, she leads by example and by vocal encouragement.

"Miranda is just a huge hustler and a very hard worker," said Tabor. She also has multiple skills as a hitter, setter and passer.

Athletic senior Kendal Guagenti will assume the libero position after serving as a key reserve last year behind graduated honorable mention all-league libero Morgan Swick.

"Kendal is a very good leader and a good defensive back row player," Tabor noted. She is a smart and steady player who should blossom with more playing time.

Versatile junior Aubrey Madison moves from middle hitter/blocker to right side hitter and occasional setter, depending on the rotations. She is one of the team's taller players and is a solid hitter.

"Aubrey can do a lot of things well, and she will have to be one of our hitters besides Megan," said Tabor.

Heady sophomore setter/middle hitter Kirsten Poling "stepped up this summer to learn a new position," noted Tabor. She is a solid  athlete as well as a good, poker-faced competitor. Her ability to adjust quickly to a new starting role will be key to the team's success.

Willowy senior Josie Poling moves up from junior varsity standout to varsity contributor this fall. She and junior outside hitter Kylie Acheson will compete for the sixth starter role.

Senior defensive specialist Kelly Preston rounds out the varsity roster.

Three others will play JV and dress varsity to provide depth: junior defensive specialist Kiersten Cortez, athletic freshman DS/libero Courtney Sumner and junior RSH Grace Allison.

Six hitters
"I feel like we have six hitters," said Tabor of the club's hitting depth. "Megan, Miranda, Aubrey, Kirsten, Josie and Kylie can all hit."

The team does lack proven returning depth, but the newcomers will get a chance to show what they can do with playing time.

"We need to work on blocking, and improving our passing and defense," said Tabor. "We are a shorter team, but we have a bit more size than last season. We have a solid back row.

"As always, serve reception is key. Everything starts with passing," she added.

Defending league co-champions Crestview and Columbus Grove (7-1) will be the slight favorites in the NWC. Visiting Crestview ended Ada's 19-match NWC win streak last September 25 in three tough sets.

Lincolnview and Paulding - led by reigning junior NWC Player of the Year Sadie Estle - and Ada round out the five clubs Tabor feels are in the league title hunt. The Lancers and Panthers tied for third at 6-2 last year, and are hungry to upend the co-champs.

Ada beat all four teams who finished behind them last year in the standings, and lost to the four clubs ahead of them. In order to move up, they will have to beat one or more of those top four clubs.

"There are about five teams who have a chance to win the NWC," she said. "If we play hard and well, I think we are one of the five; we have a chance. There are a lot of good teams and it will be another evenly-matched league race, like 2018."

Lindsay Walden new JV coach
Former Bulldog spiker Lindsay Walden joins the program as the new junior varsity coach.

The Lady Bulldogs serve up their season opener Saturday morning, August 17 at non-league local foe Waynesfield.

"We have a lot of good leaders, a lot of hustle and dedication," said Tabor of the team strengths. "We have good team chemistry; it is a very positive team."

Ada will play its home opener vs. MAC power St. Henry August 20.
The first purple and gold league match will be Sept. 10 at 2018 co-champion Columbus Grove.

CG clinched a piece of the NWC crown by winning a five-set thriller in the regular season finale at Ada, and is always a fierce rival for the purple and gold. Whomever wins that opening conference match will gain the early driver's seat in the league race, which promises to be close.

Ada volleyball at a glance
2018 record: 12-12, 4-4 NWC (5th), district semifinalist    
Head coach: Kyleigh Tabor, 2nd year
Offense: 6/2
Letter winners back/lost: 4/4    
Starters back/lost: 3/3
Top returnees: Sr. MH Megan Light 1st team All NWC, Jr. S/OH Miranda Wills, Sr. L Kendal Guagenti, Jr. OH Aubrey Madison, So. S/MH Kirsten Poling