Jonathan Alder’s Kennady Izzard passes the ball during a 2020 match. The Lady Pioneers recently completed a standout season with a berth in the Division II state Final Four. (Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
The sting of defeat lasts for a while with any sports team.
After a time, however, the hurt gradually goes away and athletes can really begin to appreciate the type of season they had.
That can be the case for the Jonathan Alder High School volleyball team.
The Lady Pioneers recently recorded their best season in five years when they advanced to the Division II state semifinals at Vandalia-Butler High School.
Although Alder fell to Chardon Notre Dame Cathedral Latin, 3-0, during last Friday’s semifinals, it can’t take away the stellar campaign the girls accomplished.
“We went into our summer workouts not knowing how much or whether we could have a season,” said second-year head coach Joe Ross. “There were so many questions surrounding COVID-19.
“The girls faced that challenge and we didn’t allow outside restrictions to bother us that much,” he said. “The ladies used the word ‘unconditional’ in preparing for whatever type of season we had.
“I was really surprised we played as many matches as we did,” said Ross. “I’m glad we got that many matches played.”
Those matches added up to quite a remarkable season.
The Lady Pioneers won an early-season match in five sets against local rival North Union.
Alder proceeded to claim 22 consecutive triumphs before falling to the Lions in the state semifinals.
“The girls worked hard and did all that was asked of them,” said Ross. “They put themselves in a position to play as many matches as we did.”
“We knew the type of things we had to avoid,” said senior defensive specialist Kennady Izzard. “We passed up some fun activities, but this (playing in the state Final Four) was so much greater than what we could have done the past few months.”
Ross was asked what the 2020 seniors meant to the team.
His voice cracked with emotion shortly after JA’s final match and said, “please don’t ask me that question right now.”
Fourth-year players on the 2020 roster included Ava Francis, Emma Shepherd, Izzard, Alexa Kaltenbach, Ellen Kennedy, Gracie Nees and Kate Stroupe.
Francis finished the season with 394 kills.
Shepherd tallied 216 kills and a team-leading 69 ace serves.
Izzard notched 281 sets and came through with 303 digs to lead the squad.
Kaltenbach earned 118 assists and came through with 47 digs.
Kennedy finished the campaign with 199 digs.
Stroupe put 285 serves in the books. Of that total, 43 were aces.
Nees notched 94 kills.
“One of the greatest acts we can all do is leave things better than they were when we found them,” said Ross. “That’s what this senior class has done for our volleyball team.
“These girls truly love each other and this is a season they will long remember.”
Although the Lady Pioneers are losing a number of key seniors, there is talent returning for the 2021 campaign.
Junior Lizzie Lombardi finished with 655 assists, while classmate Ellie Heisler tallied 255.
Junior Jaden Phelps notched 104 kills and 38 blocks.
“Our JV team finished at about .500 for the season and our middle school teams played well,” said Ross.
“I also hope the type of season we had with the varsity will inspire more girls to want to join our program.”