Toledo Christian won the TAAC championship with top players (front, from left) Angel Brindley, Abby Vinciczky, Allie Lindke, Ellen Huffman, and (back, from left) Hannah Wehrle, Kirsty Reid, Anna Schramm, and Alexandra Kanfield.
Toledo Christian opened the season as one of the area's top Division IV volleyball programs.
The Eagles are 20-3, including a 12-0 mark in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference to win a third straight outright championship.
Toledo Christian is ranked No. 20 in the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association poll.
But the Eagles entered the tournament looking to make another deep run. The Eagles advanced to the Division IV state semifinals last fall.
"I think we have a common goal this year, and we want state," senior Abby Vinciczky said.
Anything less than a return to the state final four would be considered a disappointment for a group that returned seven letter winners.
TC eighth-year coach Dave Conley is encouraged about the Eagles' chances.
"We've stayed injury free and we've had fun and come together and we feel like we can keep going in the right direction to try and reach our potential," said Conley.
The Eagles have received contributions from several players throughout the season, losing only to Eastwood, Stryker and Evergreen.
Senior Ellen Huffman has been one of the team's emotional leaders while also serving as a key on-court performer.
The only four-year varsity starter, Huffman leads the team with 257 kills and has also provided 47 blocks. Anna Schramm (70 blocks) and Vinciczky (288 digs) have also done their part as senior leaders to help TC post its best record in the last four seasons.
Juniors Allie Lindke (130 blocks), Kirsty Reid (99 blocks) and Alexandra Kanfeld (20 blocks) have stepped up.
Conley said many others have contributed in ways that don't necessarily show up in the statistics. Contributions by the others during practice have made a difference on game nights.
"Every season is different and we feel like we have so much more depth," Conley said. "We have 13 girls in the gym that are all contributing, so we're able to go a lot harder in practice and do a lot more with 13 girls as opposed to the past with eight or nine girls.
"In that regard we feel like our program has taken the next step. Hopefully that will translate to the state tournament.
"We don't give up and our defense is a lot better this year. We just play really well together."
The Eagles put in a lot of work on playing better defense.
"There's a lot of pressure this year because our record is better than last year," Huffman said.
"But I think we've actually handled it pretty well. We go game by game, focusing on that game that day and not really looking into the future."
The Eagles began sectional play Tuesday with a victory over Fayette at Archbold.
"It's always tough even to make it out of sectionals, and to do well at districts we know it's a challenge," Conley said.
"We know we have to keep getting better."
Rebels are 20-2
Bowsher captured the City League title with top players (front, from left) Kristen Murray and Amanda Stookey. and (back, from left) Victoria Turnbough, Dominique Yates, Jenny Brasher, and Tierney McClure.
City League volleyball had been dominated for a decade by teams assembled at parochial schools.
The departure of St. Ursula, Central Catholic and Notre Dame to the new Three Rivers Athletic Conference opened the way for a Toledo Public School program to emerge as CL champion.
In a resounding way, Bowsher proved to be that team.
The Rebels dominated CL competition, going 10-0 in league matches before capturing the CL tournament.
Bowsher, which didn't lose a set during league play, claimed its first title since 1998.
Bowsher coach Anita Koenig said winning the title didn't result in the kind of satisfaction it would have a year earlier.
"I think it's hard because of the way the City League has changed since last year," Koenig said.
"I would have preferred the way it was played last year."
Minus the three parochial teams, as well as Whitmer and Clay, Koenig admits the competition in the CL is not where it once was.
"It was always difficult since Notre Dame, Central, and St. Ursula have always had club players that played year-round," said Koenig, whose team finished the regular season 20-2. "But I'm definitely proud of what we've done.
"I'm proud of my girls beating Whitmer and Clay this season and I think we would have been in the top four this season [in the former CL setup]."
Koenig has leaned on a talented group of returning letter winners.
Dominique Yates (132 kills, 107 digs, 29 blocks), Jenny Brasher (89 kills, 39 blocks), Tierney McClure (100 kills, 45 blocks), Kristen Murray (243 assists, 69 kills, 89 digs), Makayla McKinney (204 digs, 22 aces) and Amanda Stookey (47 kills) have led the way.
"I really feel the whole front row is equally [skilled] and I feel our setters have done an exceptional job of distributing the ball," Koenig said.
The Rebels may still end up getting an opportunity to test themselves against their former league rivals. Bowsher will play Clay at 6 tonight in a Division I sectional at Perrysburg. That winner will advance to face St. Ursula on Tuesday.
Contact Donald Emmons at: email@example.com; 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @demmons