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Bulldog spikers look much improved in 2022

Team photo front L-R) Tessa Griffith, Mariah King, Josie Phillips, Emilee Huffer, Courtney Sumner, Jenna Bassitt, Alyssa Madison. Back: head coach Kyleigh Woodruff, Autumn Andreasen, Anna Conley,  Daicy Robinson, Lily Baumgartner, Ashlyn Madison, assistant coach  Kylie Acheson.

By Cort Reynolds

The Ada High School varsity volleyball team enters its fifth season under head coach Kyleigh Woodruff looking for big improvement as they continue to rebuild this fall.

Last fall, an inexperienced Lady Bulldog squad finished 2-19 overall (0-8 NWC) to finish last in the league. 

Eight letter winners and five full or part-time starters return to improve significantly on last season for Ada.

Two seniors return to the fold to lead the Bulldog spike resurgence. "Courtney and Emilee have been good leaders this summer; so far we are playing with a lot of energy," noted the coach.

Athletic senior outside hitter Courtney Sumner is an athletic two-time letter winner who is very quick and competitive. A hustler, she was named honorable mention all-league in 2021 and also features a good jump serve. 

The versatile Sumner will put her talents to work as team libero this season. "She has always been one of the best defensive players in the league and she looks good in the back row," noted Woodruff.

Senior middle Emilee Huffer played a lot last year and possesses solid athleticism and hitting ability.

"Emilee will play middle for us again and is doing well so far," saod Woodruff. "She is very quick and is a strong blocker. She and Autumn have played together for over a year now, and this should help their connection and for us to have a faster offense."

The Bulldogs will again employ a 5-1 offense with junior Autumn Andreasen back as the starting setter after gaining a valuable year of experience in 2021.

"Autumn has taken a leadership role, and is very smart with her choices," said Woodruff. "She is a lot quicker and a good blocker. She has a solid tip."

Two outside hitters expected to contribute heavily are junior southpaw Mariah King and sophomore Tessa Griffith. "We are looking for them to keep the ball in play and have a lot of kills. Tessa also has a good jump serve.

"Mariah is smart with her placement on kills, she sees the court well," continued the coach. "She can play anywhere on the frontline and has a good attitude. She is a pretty good blocker."

Junior six-footer Daicy Robinson is another veteran right side hitter and middle hitter/blocker. "She works very hard," said Woodruff. "Daicy has been crushing the ball, and is one of the best right side hitters I have seen."

Athletic sophomore Lily Baumgartner was the team's top hitter last season and returns to start as a 5-8 middle hitter. "Lily hustles like crazy and will play middle, but she can play all around for us," noted Woodruff. "She hits the ball hard."

A quick and scrappy pair, junior Josie Phillips and sophomore Jenna Bassitt, are expected to share the defensive specialist role to round out a solid top nine varsity rotation. "Both are very quick, very good defensive players who can pick up anything," said the coach.

Bassitt also possesses a very good line-drive serve. 

"We have a very good serving team," Woodruff noted. "We have good team chemistry. Last year we were so young, so having a year of experience together under our belt, we should be better."

Three other players will dress varsity and see JV action as well. Tall freshman Anna Conley is a promising middle hitter/blocker. Freshman Alyssa Madison is very quick as another DS, and is solid in serve reception. 

Ashlyn Madison, a junior coming back after sitting out a year, also will play middle hitter on JV and serve as a varsity substitute. 

"Our goal is to take one match at a time, but we want to win more games this year," said Woodruff. "We want to make less errors and work together as a team. We are focusing on smaller goals. We want to have fun, work hard and maintain good attitudes."

As far as the Northwest Conference race goes, Woodruff feels several teams could contend for the league title but did not single out any one as the favorite.

"Quite a few teams competed well at the top last year in the NWC," she said. "Whoever is playing well at the time and makes the least errors will be tough to beat. It is a tough conference."

Lincolnview repeated as league champion again in 2021, but shared the crown with newcomer Leipsic and Crestview, as all three teams finished 7-1. 

Promising Allen East came in fourth at 5-3, followed by Bluffton (4-4), Columbus Grove (3-5), Spencerville (2-6) and Delphos Jefferson (1-7). 

Ada was last at 0-8. "I think we have talent but it depends on how we play," said Woodruff. 

"Last year we made a lot of errors; we had many matches with over 40 errors. We have to out-hustle teams. We have a lot of potential, but have to take care of the ball and clean up our side of the court."

Kylie Acheson joins the staff as the new junior varsity coach. There are 10 freshmen on the JV team.

"Our defense is a strong point; we have a very solid and confident back row," said Woodruff of the squad strengths. "Our serve receive is very good. Lily is all over the court defensively too, and Autumn has also improved on defense.

"We have a lot more hitting options this year. Autumn knows what our hitters like, while our chemistry and communication is strong. We have a good serving team," she added.

"We have to be smart with our decision-making."

In 2022, the purple and gold will visit MAC power Coldwater and Patrick Henry in non-league action, and also play in the Cory-Rawson Invitatonal. 

Ada serves up its NWC opener at home on September 13 vs. defending three-time champion Lincolnview. The first home game, one of eight, is August 23 vs. county foe Kenton.

If the young players continue to develop and combine well with the returning older vets, Ada could be much improved in 2022.

"I am really looking forward to this season and we have had a good start with our scrimmages." said Woodruff. "Hopefully it carries over to the start of our season."

The first match is a three-team bout on August 20 at Cory-Rawson.

Ada volleyball at a glance

2021 record: 2-19, 0-8 NWC (9th/9)

Head coach: Kyleigh Woodruff, 5th year

Offense: 5/1

Letter winners back/lost: 8/4

Starters back/lost: 5/1

Top returnees: Sr. L Courtney Sumner, Sr. MH Emilee Huffer, Jr. S Autumn Andreasen, Jr. OH Mariah King, Jr. DS Josie Phillips, Jr. H Daicy Robinson, So. MH Lily Baumgartner, So. DS Jenna Bassitt. 

Top varsity newcomers: So. OH Tessa Griffith, Fr. M Anna Conley, Fr. DS Alyssa Madison, Jr. MH Ashlyn Madison.