by Michael Leonard | Sports Editor
For the last two years, the Streetsboro volleyball team has participated in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division.
The Rockets proved competitive in the PTC's big-school division, but the division title eluded them.
Last year, Streetsboro finished the season at 12-11 overall and 8-6 in the Metro Division.
"I always wish for more [wins] than what I had, but it's probably not too far from what I expected," said Rockets head coach Bill Smerglia.
However, as Smerglia enters his 14th year in charge of the program, the Rockets return to the County Division this fall.
During the first six years of the PTC, Streetsboro volleyball owned the County Division title.
"We won four of them outright and two of them shared," Smerglia said. "The expectation is to win it this year."
The Rockets lost four seniors to graduation, including All-Ohioan Lexi Brewster, Mikaela Dombrowski, Marisa Delambo and Megan Densmore.
Despite these losses, Smerglia will field a veteran team this fall.
"There's six seniors and four of them were on varsity last year," Smerglia said. "Three of them have been playing since their sophomore year. They also got plenty of offseason play. They're volleyball players. They're concentrating on this sport."
Smerglia said he expects Southeast and Waterloo to likely be his team's top adversary in the County Division.
Streetsboro will return to its trademark triple-middle offense this fall, which will mean an up-tempo offense with plenty of hitting.
While the Rockets do not have a lot of height, Smerglia expects his team to be very solid on defense.
"We're emphasizing every day, serve receipt, pass the ball, hit the target," Smerglia said. "We're stressing that we have to get in the right spot [on defense]. Even for our height, we can get the block in place."
Former Streetsboro great Jessica Scott returns as head junior varsity coach. Former Crestwood player Leona Oani joins the staff as an assistant coach.
Smerglia said senior middle hitter Paige Saunders (5-foot-11) has stepped up this season.
"She's tallest girl on the team," Smerglia said. "She's our primary blocker. She's transformed herself since starting with us as a sophomore. In the offseason, she's pushed herself hard. She played on a national-level team in club volleyball."
Senior outside hitter Taylor Hillyer (5-8) is back as a starter, after recovering from a back injury.
"She's a good solid all-around player," Smerglia said. "She's probably our hardest hitting player outside of Paige."
Smerglia calls senior 5-8 outside hitter Kristen MacMillen "one of the best passers that I have."
"I'll be looking for her to do a god job on serve receipt," Smerglia said.
Senior libero Gabby Reznik-Duffer (5-2) will be on the floor all the time, according to Smerglia.
Rounding out the senior class are defensive specialist Mackenzie Garlitz (5-4) and outside hitter Whitney Poston (5-5).
Junior Miranda Vasko (5-6) returns to varsity and is working for time at outside and right-side hitter.
Junior Alexa Lutynsky (5-4) is working for time at setter and defensive specialist.
"She's very athletic and very energetic," Smerglia said.
Junior Natalie Schneider (5-5) will provide depth at defensive specialist. Smerglia said a move to turn sophomore Alycia Scalia (5-7) into a setter has paid off.
"As a freshman last year, it was the first time she was coaxed into being a setter," Smerglia said. "We felt she had so many good qualities for that position. She has great hands and she's a good all-around athlete. She's growing and developing."
Sophomore Sydney Campbell will see time at middle hitter and on the right side,
Streetsboro was set to open its season at Rootstown Aug. 27, but results were not available at press time. The Rockets are scheduled to visit Southeast Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. Streetsboro is set to play its home opener Aug. 31 against Canton GlenOak. Junior varsity tip time is set for 11 a.m.
The Rockets are set to play County Division rival Mogadore Sept. 3 at 7 p.m.