It was nice while it lasted, says Fayette cross country coach Bryan Stambaugh, but the end is probably here. Fayette's days of having a full girls team appear to be ending.
The girls went a couple of decades without fielding a full team until 2006 and since then they've had a string of quality squads. But this year there are only four girls on the varsity team and only two on the junior high squad.
"After this year it's going to be a struggle for a while," Stambaugh said. "The program is going to be down for a while."
There will be no team scoring for the girls this year, but Eagle runners will make their presence known.
Stambaugh expects senior leader Jill Stuckey to come through with her best season yet.
"She's had some trouble adapting to the number one position in the past," he said, "but she's looking really good."
Stuckey opened the season with a 22:14 at the Defiance run.
Sophomore Emilie Keiser showed strong improvement in her initial year as a runner in 2012, but she's behind in miles and has some catching up to do this year, said Coach Stambaugh.
Madelyn Maginn is back for her fourth and final season, and her sister, Liz, returns to the squad for her junior year.
Junior Skylar Lantz is back to lead the boys squad and he's showing some early-season improvement. His season-opening time in Defiance was 19:25 as a freshman, 18:04 as a sophomore, and continued downward to 17:11 as a junior. His seventh-place finish at Defiance Aug. 24 was the best among small school runners.
Lantz came close enough to a trip to the state meet last season that he's motivated to make it happen in 2013.
Stambaugh is pleased with the leadership Lantz is showing, also, and that goes for Ian Schrock, as well, the squad's only senior.
Lantz will be backed up by juniors Jared Wagner and Dylan Stannard, sophomores Casen Burkholder and Garett Reinking, and freshman Austin Lopez. The Eagles have six other freshmen and some of them, along with Schrock, will be vying for a scoring position. That includes Christian Suarez, Alex Jaramillo, Bryce Conklin, Jason Stuckey, Cole Stuckey and Mason Maginn.
"It should take a few meets to really see what they can do," Stambaugh said. "I think once they all get together and mesh they should be a pretty good group."
The Eagles travel Saturday to the Tiffin Invitational and play host to their own invitational at Harrison Lake on Sept. 14. After that the first of three league jamborees gets underway.
FAYETTE VOLLEYBALL: By DAVID GREEN
Fayette's volleyball squad is opening the season late this year, and starting with a big dose of adversity following the death of teammate Mikayla Smith.
The first three matches were canceled and instead the Eagles open at home Thursday with a league contest against Hilltop.
"Mikayla was a huge loss," said Danni Keefer, who coaches Fayette's varsity and junior varsity teams alongside Matt Schaffner. Smith's absence will be felt not only as an athlete but as a team leader and a friend to so many of the girls.
"It's a tough situation," Keefer said, "but I have a great bunch of girls and I have confidence they're going to help each other through it. We need to heal and all get together."
Together, she thinks the Eagles are capable of playing some good volleyball this season.
"I think we will have a pretty strong team once we get back in the groove," she said.
The opener should be a challenge, though, as the first match of the season comes during fair week when school is closed. She and Coach Schaffner are splitting duties in an effort to get in some practice time this week when team members can break away from 4-H and FFA activities.
Keefer has three returning seniors: Jena Myers and Taylor Hartman who are likely to play all the way around the court and Kahner Galloway who will play in the back row. Myers and Hartman spent most of their time in the back row last season, but they have some setting and hitting skills in addition to their passing.
Back row player Megan Garza returns to the court after taking a year off last season, and Alejandra Gonzalez moves up from last year's JV squad to play mostly in the back row, along with some hitting.
Junior Paige Keefer returns to the front row after lettering as a sophomore, and she may play around the court. Classmate Ceiria Keller moves up from last year's JV team to do some hitting or back row work, depending on the flow of the game, Coach Keefer said.
Sophomores Jessie Wheeler and Michaela Bates bring new height to this year's team. Both of the front row players got in a little varsity experience late last season.
Sophomore Rylee Ruger and freshman Makenzee Schaffner were recently moved up to the varsity squad, Ruger to play all around the court and Schaffner to take over setting duties.
"Makenzee needs to adjust to the varsity pace, but she's fast and adjusting well," Keefer said.
Keefer sees a lot of talent developing on the JV squad.
"There are lots of quality athletes to choose from," she said. "Some are new to volleyball, but they have natural abilities. I look at the JV squad and see a lot of good things coming."
And for this year, Coach Keefer thinks her varsity squad has the potential to play some strong volleyball if they pull together and turn their adversity into a positive force.
MORENCI CROSS: Morenci’s cross country girls will have a full team again this year while the boys squad slips to only three runners.
Five of the six female runners are back from a year ago when the team managed to qualify for the state meet. Seniors Tatyana Pless and Mariah Gillen placed third and fourth last year at the regional meet and Madi Gleckler, then a sophomore, placed in the top 20.
Samantha and Andrea Mikuski also return to the squad, along with newcomer Aubrey Stowell.
Senior Reagan Stowell is the only runner returning to the boys squad. Stowell was also a state qualifier last year when he ran his career best at the regional race. He is joined by junior Kelvin Kellk and freshman Nate Smith.
Burt Cebulski Inv.
Morenci came through with three top-20 finishers Aug. 28 at Adrian’s Burt Cebulski Invitational at Heritage Park.
Pless placed seventh with a time of 23:22 and Gillen ran her first race of the year to finish 17th at 24:12, only two places out of medal contention.
Gleckler finished 19th with a time of 24:35, shaving 1:13 off her time from the previous week despite a much tougher course, said coach Keith Stowell.
Samantha Mikuski finished in 38th place with a time of 28:36, Andrea Mikuski finished 51st at 34:16 and Aubreigh Stowell placed 58th with a time of 42:30.
In the boys' race, the Bulldogs were led by Reagan Stowell who finished 27th with a time of 20:08, which was an improvement over last year's time on the same course. Kellk took 72nd with a time of 24:42 and Smith finished 83rd at 27:54.
Morenci opened the season at the County Preview race Aug. 24, with part of the squad participating.
In the girls' ninth and tenth grade race, sophomores Andrea Mikuski placed 34th with a time of 36:04 and Aubreigh Stowell took 38th at 41:40.
In the girls' 11th and 12th grade race, Pless placed ninth with a time of 23:45 and Gleckler took 24th place by running 25:48.
Stowell was the only male competitor for the Bulldogs, finishing 12th with a time of 19:54.
MORENCI FOOTBALL: By DAVID GREEN
Morenci varsity football coach Mike McDowell saw some encouraging play from his small squad last week in a 28-13 victory against Lenawee Christian School, but he knows there are lots of tough challenges ahead.
The first hurdle comes Friday when the Bulldogs travel to Hudson to face the Tigers who just lambasted Addison, 46-0.
"We made some mistakes last week," he said, "but they're all correctable."
But he knows there will be additional corrections ahead after seeing what Hudson throws his way, and then Madison, then Summerfield, etc.
"I know we're a better team than last season," McDowell said—a year with five sophomores starting, "but our league looks pretty good, also. Everyone is improving."
McDowell has another young team this year with only two seniors on the squad plus six sophomores, several of whom will take starting roles.
"There are only two seniors, but the others are improving and learning," he said. "They worked hard during the off season. I have 19 kids who can all contribute."
Junior Torin Merillat is back to lead the offense at quarterback and he'll have backup from junior Austin Sandusky, who saw some action behind center last week, and from sophomore Alex Thomas.
Sandusky and Thomas are joined in the backfield by junior fullback Michael Heinze who bulled his way for 195 yards against LCS and junior Bobby Black.
Junior Shawn Feltz returns to the center position and he'll be flanked by junior returning guard Nick Stutzman and junior Malachi Hoffman who was moved up to varsity last year to replace an injured player. The tackle spots will be filled by a pair of sophomores, Cody Tule and Koty Dillon. Junior Austin Vanderpool will also put in some time on the line, along with returning junior Jacob Morin.
McDowell will put senior returner Daiton Lemmon at flex end, along with junior Hunter Borton and sophomore J.J. Elarton. Elarton is new to football, McDowell said, but he has good instincts and should soon learn the position.
Eli Decker is the squad's other senior and he's expected to focus on defensive duties. Junior Nick Pless moves up from last season's JV squad along with sophomores Austin Gilson and Brandon DiCenso. All three should all see some time on defense, while Gilson and DiCenso will also serve as ball carriers.
The Bulldogs didn't give up much yardage on the ground last week and all but 30 of the Cougars' 94 yards came on one break-away play. LCS was forced to go to the air for 200 yards and another big play—a 65-yard pass—led to their first touchdown.
"Other than those two plays, we did well defensively," Coach McDowell said. "We made them go to the pass and we had some breakdowns."
The Bulldogs went to the end zone on their first offensive play, only to have the score nullified by a penalty. They soon drove to the goal line, scoring on a six-yard run by Heinze. Sandusky stopped the Cougars with an interception, but it wasn't until later in the second quarter that Morenci added a second score.
Thomas returned a punt for 39 yards, followed by an 18-yard run by Black. Merillat covered six yards on a keeper and Black kicked the first of four extra points for a 14-0 lead. The Cougars came back with a touchdown, but Morenci opened the second half with an 89-yard drive, capped by a 13-yard run by Heinze. The junior carried for all but six yards of the drive.
"That's what they were giving us," McDowell said about Heinze's big night. LCS was closing down the Bulldogs' outside run, but Heinze found holes up the middle all night long.
The Bulldogs drove deep near the end of the third quarter, but lost possession on a fumble.
In the fourth quarter, Heinze picked up three first downs before Merillat passed to Thomas in the end zone for a 28-7 lead. LCS came back with a touchdown and the Bulldogs threatened to score as time ran out.
Pless got praise from his coach as he led the defense with six tackles, two for losses. Decker finished with five.
• "We'll have to stay alert against Hudson," Coach McDowell said. "They'll be gunning for us after the loss last year. What they did last week they did very well."
For the most part, he said, they run and run and run, but then slip in a pass for a surprise. Against Addison, that meant two touchdown passes.
"The big plays are what hurt us last week," McDowell said, "and we can't give any of those away against Hudson."
JV FOOTBALL: Morenci's junior varsity football team racked up a big lead last week at Goodrich before hanging on for a 36-20 victory.
All but four of Morenci's JV team members are freshmen, so the contest against the larger Goodrich freshman team proved to be a good match.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Bulldogs scored four second-quarter touchdowns to lead 28-6 at intermission. Goodrich scored twice in the second half while Morenci added one more touchdown.
Garrett Smith and Griffin Grieder each scored for the Bulldogs while Bladen Mellon scored on a punt return and a long run. Morenci quarterback Tyler VanBrandt caught two interceptions while playing defense.
"I'm proud of our effort for our first game," said coach Ryan Love.
MORENCI VOLLEYBALL: By DAVID GREEN
Five seniors sounds good for Dennis Owens and Morenci's varsity volleyball team, but there's a catch to that: Only one of them saw much time on the court last season during the Bulldogs' strong showing.
"On paper we probably lost more than anyone in the league," Owens said, but he likes the way this team is coming together. "These are quality girls and they've been working hard. I think we made a reasonable showing at Addison, not knowing what to expect."
He said Morenci played its best volleyball of the tournament in a close loss to Columbia Central, a team that only lost to the champions from Madison.
Part of their effort to gain experience comes from learning their positions, he said, and part of it is learning about each other.
"They haven't been on the floor much together during the last two seasons," Owens said. "They came back for a win against Reading. That's very encouraging. I was very pleased with their determination."
Emma Binegar is the only senior who put in a lot of time on the court last season and she returns to her role as a setter. Ali Piercy, a strong side hitter, has good skills, but there were a lot of good hitters ahead of her last season. In addition to her hitting skills, she's a good encourager, Owens said, and she holds the team together.
Owens enjoys talking about senior Hillary Falor because she was cut from the squad as a freshman. She didn't give up. She came back the next year and kept working hard at improving. She'll serve as a middle hitter and blocker this season.
Julie Terry will wear the team's libero jersey. She met a fate similar to Piercy last season, Owens said: Too many good passers ahead of her. Chloe Molitierno is the fifth senior and she will put in time in the back row.
From the junior class Becca Heinze will serve as a middle hitter and blocker. She showed a lot of improvement as the JV season progressed last year, Owens said. Brooke Baumgartner worked hard in the off-season and will play in the back row as she moves up to varsity.
Emily Schmidt is an all-round player who can fit in wherever she's needed and Coach Owens is still finding out what Lindy Mynhier will offer the team after her move from Wauseon.
"She has great hands for setting, is a good passer and has a great attitude," he said.
Two sophomores were moved to varsity—Sydney Weeks and Allison VanBrandt—and both played important roles at Addison. Both are capable all around the rotation.
"I was pleased with their first day of varsity competition and I expect them to keep getting better," Owens said.
The Bulldogs are starting the season with a big loss of firepower over last year, the coach said, but he expects it to develop through the weeks.
"We just have to be a good defensive team that scraps and decides the ball is not going to touch the floor," he said. "We have to be one of those annoying teams that no one likes to play."
Return the ball, return the ball, return the ball. It takes mental toughness to play that style, he said, along with good physical conditioning.
Owens looks for tough going in league play. Madison and Whiteford are not backing down from their strong showing last season and Clinton has a couple top hitters returning. He expects that all the teams that finished lower in the standings last year will be making improvements.
After some weak seasons, it took a while for Morenci's volleyball program to learn to win, then a while longer for the girls to expect to win. He wants the Bulldogs to preserve that expectation while gaining experience during this rebuilding season.