Many schools in the local area fail to field a freshman volleyball team.
That is not the case at Canfield, however, where a collection of ninth-graders is leaving quite a legacy. The freshman Lady Cardinals, under the direction of head coach and 2011 Canfield graduate Cara Cupler, enter the post season tournament with a 19-0 regular season record and are the number one seed. A cast of Cardinals that are easy to root for achieved that lofty ranking making this season even more special.
"We have a great group of girls," said Cupler on the eve of the tourney. "(When they were) coming up, we knew they would be good. I'm so excited for them."
Photo courtesy of Robert Senn Studio
The Canfield Cardinals freshman volleyball squad ended its regular season 19-0 and the No. 1 seed going into tournament play this week. The girls won their tournament games on Tuesday and Wednesday night and play the finals on Thursday, Oct. 17. Team members include, in front, Lena Angelilli, Mia Kindinis, Jessica Meissner, Ally Sammarco, and Gabby Eberly; in the middle: Jenna Varley, Lara Quirk, Kate Kartshorn, and Savannah Maass; and in back: coach Mary Kate Andrews, Ellie Dundics, Emily Miasek. Kaelin Kabetso, coach Cara Cupler.
It will certainly be less exciting for the winner of the contest between Marlington and St. Thomas because that victor will have to advance to contend with Canfield. Should the Cardinals collect another win in that game, they would then play the winner of the Columbiana/Cardinal Mooney match. The championship is set for Thursday, Oct. 17 at West Branch High School. Coach Cupler contends that her team can capture those last three victories because it can beat an opponent in so many different ways.
"We have two great setters, which is really important," said Cupler. "Our defense has been great all year. Our offense is coming along and lately we have been hitting the ball better."
These Cardinals have been a hit since the start of their schedule because it is the same core collection of kids who have played together even before high school. That makes it easier for the young ladies to get along with each other and feel comfortable as a group. The attitudes these adolescent Cardinals posses is very non-diva like too, which makes hanging together off the court simple as well. On this volleyball team, makeup is a positive term used to describe the girls' personal attributes - not what they put on their faces before going to a school dance.
"These girls are great people as well as athletes," Cupler said strongly. "We do a lot of team-building activities and have a lot of fun with each other laughing. When the girls are happy, they play better as a team."
It may be hard to imagine a team being better than 19-0, but the coach did insist that she wouldn't mind seeing the offense improve even more. Sometimes it's hard to gauge just how much better this team is getting from game to game because it plays so very few different opponents. In fact, Canfield has faced Fitch and Hubbard so many times it almost seems as if those were intrasquad scrimmages. Regardless of those scheduling quirks, nothing can take away what the Canfield freshmen have accomplished.
"We play a lot of teams more than once, but that is OK," said Cupler. "We didn't really have a conference championship to win, but going undefeated was certainly the highlight to this season."
Now Cupler and her kids have a few more highlights to create. If the Lady Cardinals can complete their unbeaten season with an equally unblemished run through the tournament then this faction of fabulous freshmen will truly be remembered at Canfield forever.