By Garth Shanklin
The New Richmond Lady Lions volleyball team entered the 2016 season looking to repeat their Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference American Division championship run from a year before.
Based on how the team started the season, they seem to be well on their way to doing just that.
The squad started the season 11-0, including wins over teams from Reading and Taylor. Those two squads combined to post a 20-7 record on the season as of this writing, making those wins all the more impressive.
New Richmond head coach Carla Corbin said victories over tough teams like that allow the squad to prepare for battles that lie ahead in conference play.
“When we play tougher competition, it forces us to play better to compete with the other team,” Corbin said. “Playing tough teams before the league play helped us to be ready for those games.”
One of those tougher conference games came on Sept. 13 when the Lady Lions played host to the Goshen Lady Warriors. New Richmond swept the match in three sets, but they were closely contested. The Lady Lions won the sets by scores of 26-24, 25-16 and 25-23.
Corbin said the team’s ability to work together and their aggressive play allowed them to pull out the victories in that match, but the team also had a bit of help from the sidelines.
“That was the largest crowd I can ever remember in all the years I have been coaching,” Corbin said. “It was our first youth volleyball night, which brought in several 3rd-6th graders and their parents to the match. Also, since Goshen also had red as one of the school colors, we decided to have a blackout. I think it is exciting for the girls to play in front of a full gym, and it is great knowing how much the sport has grown.”
The Lady Lions endured a bit of a losing skid after that contest. After a four-set win over Blanchester on Sept. 15, the team dropped their next three contests to CHCA, Indian Hill and Williamsburg. All three opponents were highly-ranked, and the Lady Lions had to adjust their preparation due to a busy schedule. Corbin said the team has to figure out how to maintain their intensity in games like those.
“I think, still being undefeated, we lost a little of our focus going into [those games],” she said. “All three of the teams we have lost to are ranked in the top eight in the city. They were strong teams and we need to refocus on working as a team and staying energetic from the very beginning of warm-ups. We have played six matches in the last eight days with only two opportunities to practice, so it has been more of a challenge for us to work on specific things.”
Early results seem promising, as the team rallied for three-set wins on the road at Georgetown and Miami Valley Christian Academy in their last two matches. They faced Clermont Northeastern in another tough challenge on the road in a game that was not finished before press time on Tuesday, Sept. 27. Corbin said the team knows what they need to do to win games against quality opponents and, in turn, the SBAAC American Division title.
“We need to play our game,” Corbin said. “We need to stay aggressive and execute plays on our side of the net.”
The Lady Lions face off against the Batavia Lady Bulldogs at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 29 in New Richmond. After a pair of road games against Amelia and Norwood, the team returns home for the regular-season finale against Western Brown on Oct. 11. They finish the regular season with a road trip to Goshen on Oct. 13.