PEMBERVILLE - The Eastwood Eagles apparently don't mind sharing when it comes to Suburban Lakes League volleyball titles.
Last year coach Jeff Beck's team split the SLL title with Otsego, and this year the Eagles earned a co-championship with Genoa.
The Eagles - led by seniors Katie Primeau (setter), Christine Foster (libero), and Whitney Hoodlebrink (outside hitter) - actually feel fortunate to have that title share.
After being served notice that a repeat would not be easy in a humbling season-opening SLL loss (22-25, 23-25, 25-23, 25-21, 15-13) to visiting Genoa, Eastwood needed a win over the Comets in the second league meeting between these two evenly matched squads to secure a piece of the title.
The Eagles prevailed in an equally hard-fought rematch, 11-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-27, 15-12, and the teams eventually finished tied at 11-1 in SLL play.
"Last year was more of a surprise for us," said Beck, in his third season as Eastwood head coach. "Otsego was more like we were this year. They had five returners last year and we just came up on them and took a match and continued to win throughout the league.
"This year we had the target on our backs. Everyone knew that we had five starters coming back and had shared the title last year. But Genoa also had all their starters coming back, so we knew it was going to be a battle. We never thought that we were the shoo-in to win."
Eastwood, which is 20-4 overall after beating Scott and Wauseon in sectional tournament play, has reached Wednesday's Division II district semifinals at Liberty-Benton.
Last season Beck's Eagles advanced to the district final at Liberty-Benton before falling in three games to Celina.
They are hoping for more this time around.
"We know what we did last year and this year we want to do better," Primeau said. "We set goals at the beginning of the season to defend in the league and go farther in the tournament."
Although he sees the odds stacked against his team making it to state this season, Beck hopes it's something his girls can experience and he knows upsets are always.
While he was head coach at Perrysburg (2004-07), Beck guided the Yellow Jackets to a Division I state semifinal berth with a regional final upset of powerhouse St. Ursula, which had won six consecutive regionals prior to that point.
During regular-season play, the 5-10 Hoodlebrink led the Eagles' attack with 236 kills. Courtney Rolf, a 6-1 middle hitter was next at 190, and 5-10 senior MH Victoria Bruning contributed 112 kills.
Primeau was the catalyst of the offense with 611 assists, and Rolf and Hoodlebrink paced the serve game with 41 and 38 aces, respectively.
Primeau hopes to continue her volleyball career in college, and is weighing her options to do so at either Muskingum or Defiance.
Defensively, Foster proved the most proficient with a team-high 286 digs, followed by Hoodlebrink with 182 and senior OH Jordan Frobose at 175.
"Christine Foster was a setter and we moved her to the libero position," Beck said. "She has embraced that role, and she's worked a lot with [Eagles assistant coach] Chelsey Meek, who was a libero at Bowling Green State University. That connection has worked so well.
"Christine caught on very quickly, and she's put in a lot of hours after practice. She's led us in digs the past two years, and she's also led our team in serve-receive."
Rounding out the regular rotation for the Eagles have been junior MH Brittany Firsdon and senior serve specialist Amanda Selhorst.
"It starts with the girls," Beck said Eastwood's consecutive 20-win seasons. "They just bought into our philosophy as coaches, and I think they believe in what myself and Chelsey Meek say. Chelsey is an amazing coach. She was one of the best college players around, and she's a great role model for the girls. They look up to her.
"I'm stern and run the show, and Chelsey is so knowledgeable and good. She jumps into the drills," Beck said.
"We all get along really well and are good friends," Foster said. "We all have the same motivation, and the heart to want to play together and do well. We have a great bond, and that helps."
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Eastwood Eagles apparently don't mind sharing when it comes to Suburban Lakes League volleyball titles. Last year coach Jeff Beck's team split the SLL title with Otsego, and this year the Eagles earned a co-championship with Genoa.