Granville and Johnstown volleyball on the move under new coaches

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GRANVILLE — With more than 40 players interested in competing for Granville’s volleyball program this season, new coach Courtney Ruppert can be excused for feeling a little ragged at times this summer.

The high level of interest, however, is certainly a good problem for Ruppert to have. Her Blue Aces hosted Johnstown for a summer scrimmage on Thursday as she begins to imagine what her college education might look like when the regular season kicks off in a month.

“The most important thing for us is working on communication and trusting each other, just trying to find our way,” Ruppert said. “I’m a really positive coach. The girls really embrace a positive mentality. Let’s take each other back.”

Ruppert coached the seventh year from Granville last fall after his family moved to the area. She was previously the varsity girls track coach at Upper Arlington for one season in 2021 after serving as a longtime assistant at that program.

Johnstown is also under new management after Erin Reilly led the Johnnies to their third Division III district title in five seasons last fall. Brian Votaw returned to the coaching ranks after winning nearly 300 games during stints at Gilead Christian, Highland, Mansfield Madison and Bluefield College (West Virginia).

“I just got itchy again,” Votaw said. “I thought, ‘I still have a race in me.’ Honestly I said there were only a few places I wanted to go Johnstown was open and it seemed like a good choice.

Both Ruppert and Votaw have the luxury of bringing back experienced talent. Granville has six seniors, including setter Rowan Jordan and libero Katlyn Fuhrman.

Granville's Grace Hotchkiss kicks the ball against Johnstown defenders during the summer scrums in the Blue Aces gymnasium on Thursday July 21, 2022.

On Thursday, seniors Paige Hamilton and Ava Gossman and junior Ciara Wildermuth led the way in net, the Blue Aces’ top three leaders for kills last season under Ken Fehrman.

“I have a great group of six returning seniors,” Ruppert said. “Ava Gossman, middle hitter, is a great point guard, and Kaylin Fuhrman, our libero, I really relied on them all summer.”

Johnstown sophomore star Kylie Sharp had an impressive run to the top spot with two blocks and two kills in the third of four sets played.

Johnstown also returns senior Dakota Staffan to middle, and the Johnnies have a young outside hitting squad, including junior Kate Ruffle, who is stepping down from a defensive specialist role. Junior Emily Yanczura will be a three-year starter at the setter position, leading the offense.

“We’re really coming up with a whole new lineup,” Votaw said. “It certainly helps us find our two midfielders and our setter. It’s huge. Everything else is pretty much all starters, all fresh and green. They fit in well, and I’m excited about what I see. so far this summer.”

Makenna Rivard of Johnstown receives a serve from Granville during the summer scrums at Blue Aces Gymnasium on Thursday, July 21, 2022.

While it’s fun to gather the lineups and view the results in late August, new coaches stay busy and get a full rundown of their new program.

Tryouts take place on August 1 and scrums follow soon after. Granville will compete in a quad scrum at Licking Valley on Aug. 6 and host Newark on Aug. 9, and preseason highlight Johnstown will again compete in the Watkins Memorial Preview on Aug. 15.

“We’re close,” Ruppert said. “We just got back from team camp and played in a summer league at Watkins, so we’re seeing an evolution over the last two months in people’s place. It will shake up once tryouts start.”

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