Jonathan Alder’s Emma Shepherd sends the ball over the net during the 2019 Division II regional title match. The Lady Pioneers posted a 26-2 record last season. (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
The 2019 volleyball season began and ended with a loss for the Lady Pioneers of Jonathan Alder.
What happened in between, however, was pretty spectacular.
The Alder spikers began the campaign under first-year head coach Joe Ross.
After suffering the season-opening setback against Division I Pickerington North, the Lady Pioneers ripped off 26 consecutive victories and captured a Division II district championship along the way.
The campaign came to an end with a loss to Parma Heights Holy Name in the regional championship battle at Lexington High School.
Jonathan Alder lost only two seniors – setter McKenzie Wright and defensive specialist Kyli Ricker – from that squad.
It is a very veteran crew that hopes to once again make a deep run in the D-II post-season.
Much of those dreams will depend on the coronavirus.
The sport of volleyball is considered a non-contact sport and plans are to open the season later this month.
That could all depend on how COVID-19 continues to impact the area.
“Right now, we don’t have any guarantees we’ll even get to play for a district championship,” said Ross. “I know this sounds like a cliché, but we just have to give it our best one day at a time and continue to improve.”
The virus shortened the spring-summer club season for many of Alder’s spikers.
The high school team wasn’t able to get back into the gym for workouts until earlier this summer.
“We were able to get back into an open gym situation the past couple of weeks before the start of preseason practice,” said Ross. “We were able to do some six-on-six drills and we felt more like a team.”
The coach said his squad admits they missed out on a lot of volleyball with the shortened club campaign.
“The girls will tell you we’re not where we would normally be with our preseason work,” said Ross. “It’s been several months since they have competed against other teams.
“We also missed out on a team camp at Miami of Ohio and a tournament at Otterbein University,” he said. “However, everybody else is in the same situation.”
The second-year JA coach said he’s excited for an upcoming season, especially with solid senior leadership that is being provided by Ava Francis (outside hitter), Emma Shepherd (outside hitter), Kennady Izzard (defensive specialist), Kate Stroupe (outside hitter), Gracie Nees (middle blocker) and defensive specialists Ellen Kennedy and Alexa Kaltenbach.
“It’s fun to have these seven seniors,” said Ross. “Several of them earned varsity letters as juniors, so they are the nucleus of our squad.
“I feel very fortunate to coach this group of girls,” he said. “I’m hoping we can continue to move forward, especially for our seniors.”
The Lady Pioneers plan to begin that forward march as they are scheduled to compete in a preseason scrimmage at Miami East on Thursday.
“We’re excited for that because we’re going to play against another school,” said Ross. “Getting to scrimmage against other teams should take off some of the pressure.
“I hope we can stay focused, pick up some steam and have the season progress the way we want it to do.”
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