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New league name, same championship expectations for Coventry volleyball

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent
Coventry's Ashley Mirka (right) and Miya Gotto (left) both attempt to make a play for the ball during the third set of a Division II district semifinal volleyball game against Revere at Tallmadge High School on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018 in Tallmadge, Ohio.

COVENTRY TWP. Volleyball is in a unique spot as a fall sport.

Unlike its fellow fall sports, it's played indoors, unlike soccer, football, golf and cross country. Some local administrators and officials have pointed to it as a test for how winter sports – all of which take place indoors – can function during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For eighth-year Coventry head volleyball coach Breanna Caslow, any challenges posed by being indoors with less space than an outdoor, open-air sport haven't been an issue.

"It hasn't been bad. I almost think it's easier because we're in a more controlled space and you can't have random people popping in," Caslow said.

While a gym is a smaller venue than an outdoor stadium, with 24 players on the roster, there aren't as many athletes as football, for example.

The process for practice and games has become routine by this point. Five games into the year and with a 3-2 record, the Comets are used to having their temperature taken and daily health check done when they arrive at the gym.

For a team coming off back-to-back undefeated league campaigns and consecutive league titles, keeping that streak alive is a goal, even if the league they won the last two seasons no longer exists.

Gone is the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division, disbanded after the 2019-20 school year. In its place, the newly formed Metro Athletic Conference with the same eight teams.

New league name, it turns out, but the same goal for the Comets.

"They're excited being undefeated the last two years in the league and winning back-to-back league championships," Caslow said. "One of our goals is to go undefeated in the league again."

The overall schedule has remained mostly the same for Coventry this season. The only change is due to a COVID-based rule preventing tri-matches, which high school teams use to get more matches in and play multiple opponents in a single day.

Instead, the Comets have weeks with three or four games scheduled and this week marked the beginning of MAC play.

"The first two weeks have been busy with the freshmen, JV and varsity going," Caslow said. "We're really excited... I have 13 returning players ... five seniors, one junior and seven sophomores.

One hurdle the Comets have had to clear so far is the absence of two-time league Defensive Player of the Year Miya Gotto, who is currently out with a broken thumb but is expected to be back on the court soon.

In her place, sophomore Haley Futrell has done her best in the libero role. A squad where every player competes in Junior Olympic volleyball in the offseason has done its best to cover for the loss of a defensive leader, but with no JO season this year due to the pandemic, the start of the high school season has been even more appreciated than normal.

Beyond another undefeated league season, there is a larger goal in the offing for a team that has performed better in the postseason in recent years, but has a wall it hasn't been able to break through yet.

"We want to make it to district finals ... we've lost in the district semifinal the last three years," Caslow said.

For now, the tournament is still a ways off, but the good news for the Comets is that they have other goals to chase on the road to the postseason.