By all accounts, the 2017 season did not go as planned for the Aurora volleyball team.
The Lady Greenmen struggled to find any consistency and wound up finishing 7-16 overall, including a 4-8 record in the Suburban League American Conference.
Aurora’s 2017 season came to an end with a loss to Solon in a Division I sectional title contest.
Third-year Lady Greenmen head coach Tyler Price, who is 22-35 at Aurora, certainly doesn’t want to see such a season again.
There is evidence to suggest he won’t. His team is simply too talented.
"The team's expectations are through the roof," Price said. "With the returning varsity players, as well as the incoming newbies, the season is looking to be a great one."
The Lady Greenmen won’t have all of their players back from the previous year.
Graduating seniors include setters Sydney McDowell, outside hitter Julianna Ritter, defensive specialist Sarah Azzarello and libero Jordan Parks.
However, Aurora has five returning players back in the mix. Leading the way is senior outside hitter Morgan Copley, a four-year varsity player who plans to continue her academic and volleyball careers at Kent State University.
"Morgan is expected to shoulder a big portion of the offensive duties this season," Price said.
While Copley is expected to be a force on the outside, senior Brooke Besinger is expected to have a commanding presence in the middle.
Let’s just say it probably would not be wise for opponents to hit the ball her way when Besinger is lurking in the middle.
"Brooke is one of the best blockers in not only the league, but the whole state," Price said. "I see her really setting the tone of our defense."
The other returning seniors are Grace Tutkovics (right-side hitter) and Julia Robinson (outside hitter). Tutkovics made an impact as a player during the summer and Robinson gives the Lady Greenmen some much needed versatility in the front row.
"Grace came into the summer ready to play," Price said. "She is one of the vocal leaders both on and off the court.
"Julia can hit multiple positions. She has stepped up as a leader and has shown a real aggressiveness in her hitting."
Also returning is junior middle hitter Kinze McWhorter, who has a knack for producing when the stakes are highest.
"Kinze does not shy away from the moment or from a challenge," Price said. "She will be a focal point in blocking and attacking."
Price also has high hopes for his plethora of newcomers. They are senior Katie Fisher (defensive specialist), a transfer from Cincinnati; juniors Maria Ferrante (left-handed right-side hitter), Brooke Dubensky (defensive specialist), Jessica Pajek (defensive specialist) and Izzie Zuckett (defensive specialist); sophomores Maggie Bradley (setter); and freshman Brooke Fishback (setter).
"Katie is a swiss army knife who does multiple things and does it with a smile," Price said. "Maria will be the jolt of energy we need.
"Brooke is always looking to improve and Jess lets nothing get to her. Jess is a great leader and a foundation to the culture we are building at Aurora.
"Izzie is a competitor and is focused on the court and relaxed off the court. Maggie only started setting last season. The growth she has shown over the offseason, puts Aurora in good hands for years to come.
"Brooke is an athlete with a love for the game. Freshmen on varsity is a rare thing, but her volleyball IQ and skills made it a necessity."
Price’s varsity assistant is Sarah Brown, who joins the Lady Greenmen after spending the last couple of years coaching for the Ignite Volleyball Club in Twinsburg.
In fact, Price, junior varsity head coach Sharri Durdel and freshman coach Shane Susanek are coaches with Ignite.
Due to the large number of weapons he has at his disposal, Price doesn’t plan on using a specific rotation early in the season.
"We want to have our go-to lineups and rotations, but also want to be able to switch on the fly if we need to in order to keep our opponents on their toes," he said.
Last year, Theodore Roosevelt and Copley won the American Conference title. Price believes his team can be in the mix for the coveted trophy.
Aurora’s non-conference schedule includes Suburban League National Conference members Hudson and Stow-Munroe Falls, along with Streetsboro, Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy and Akron Archbishop Hoban.
"All of those teams are good and will allow us to see a lot of different styles of play before we head into the postseason," Price said.
"We have a great group of leaders in the program and the culture is one that will lead to success both on and off the court."
The Lady Greenmen are scheduled to make their 2018 debut at home against Streetsboro Aug. 18 at noon.
They are set to host Kenston Aug. 21 at 6:30 p.m.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.