Aurora -- The Greenmen's volleyball team reached the sectional championship last year in Division I play at Solon High, and head coach Rachael Bailes hopes her club's play against third-seed Brecksville-Broadview Heights will carry momentum into this season.
Aurora is facing some graduation losses from last year's 12-12 squad. Bailes (58-37 overall) saw her team -- and the program -- have some promising sparks.
AHS battled in the rugged Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division in the regular season, and then in the postseason had a lead in the sectional final against Brecksville, a squad that reached the state's Final Four in 2010.
Several standout returnees are on the team for Bailes, who has played the game for 21 years. "I think league play will be challenging, but the girls are working hard on all aspects of the game," she offered.
"Some of those aspects include mental and physical strength, and an overall emphasis on not being just a team, but a family that is cohesive both mentally and physically."
Opening the season, Aurora plays Aug. 23 at the annual Cable 9 Triangular at Nordonia. Action starts at 11 a.m., with Twinsburg as the other opponent.
Aurora hosts Notre Dame Cathedral Latin on Aug. 28 (6:30 p.m.) and opens CVC action Sept. 2 against Kenston at home (6:15 p.m.).
Returning from last year is senior Karly Mitch, an impressive libero. "Karly finished the 2013 season with 451 digs and made conference honorable mention for us," said the coach.
Another returning senior is Rachel Brandon, while junior right side hitter Laney Mitch will be a three-year starter.
Brandon and Laney Mitch bring a wealth of experience to the lineup, while sophomore Anastasia Gulyavskaya is back and will play outside hitter. "Laney is a three-year starter and Anastasia was a 2013 freshman starter," pointed out the coach.
Junior Hallie Banc is also back and does a lot of the small things as an active defensive specialist.
A deep list of promising newcomers is paced by the senior trio of Sarah Merkel and Brooke McVay (defensive specialists) and Erin Gallagher (middle hitter).
Junior Taylor McVay is a promising first-year outside hitter, while sophomores Anna Davis and April Davis will make an impact as setters.
Division I Aurora is set to compete in two invitationals this year -- Sept. 6 at Maple Heights and Sept. 13 at Field.
"I think with these tools I've mentioned, this team can accomplish great achievements together," explained Bailes. "It will determine the route throughout the year that we take this season."