ST. CLAIRSVILLE Head Coach Lindsay Piccolini believed her program would eventually compete for the Ohio Regional Conference Championship when she took over the volleyball reins at Ohio University Eastern. She just didn't imagine that it would happen this quickly.
In her third season at the helm, the Lady Panthers control their own destiny and are in position to raise the school's first conference banner in volleyball.
OUE owns an 11-6 overall record to date, which includes a perfect 6-0 mark in the ORCC. The green and white is sitting in first place, followed closely by league rivals OU Lancaster (5-1) and OSU Newark (5-1).
PICTURED IS the Ohio University Eastern Volleyball Team. Front row, from left, are Melissa Stimpert, Monroe Central; Alex Kuhn, Monroe Central; Emilee Thompson, Cambridge; Chelsie Roberts, Monroe Central and Kayley Stephens, Monroe Central. Back row, from left, are Kaitlin Miller, Monroe Central; Marissa Burga, Barnesville; Carli Schafer, Union Local; Kate Fickell, Monroe Central; Lindsay Schafer, Union Local; Demitria Habig, Monroe Central.
Piccolini's charges can take another step towards history this Saturday as OU Lancaster invades the Health and Physical Education Center at high noon for a doubleheader that could go a long way in deciding the conference crown.
"We are looking forward to playing OUL," Piccolini said. "Our goal is to win a banner and we realize the importance of this opportunity. It should be a lot of fun."
OUE is led by a large contingent of Monroe Central alums. This year's roster includes Kate Fickell, Demitria Habig, Alex Kuhn, Kaitlin Miller, Chelsie Roberts, Kayley Stephens and Melissa Stimpert. Each played for the Seminoles, under the tutelage of OUE graduate and Head Coach Troy Baker.
"Coach Baker has told me time and time again that he knows first hand about the quality of education at Ohio University Eastern," said Piccolini. "As a result, he has directed many great student-athletes, including his step-daughter Melissa Stimpert, to our school and program.
"Needless to say, we are most grateful for Coach Baker's allegiance to his alma mater."
The former 'Noles are leading the team in most statistical categories. For example, Stimpert averages 15.2 assists per game, Stephens and Roberts average 7.5 and 6.8 kills per game respectively, and Fickell (31), Stephens (21) and Roberts (17) lead the team in blocks.
Cambridge's Emilee Thompson is the dig leader at 9.5 per game, followed closely by Kuhn at 8.3 digs per contest.
Piccolini would like to see a big turnout for Saturday's final home match in St. Clairsville.
"I fully expect a high quality, intense afternoon of competitive volleyball," she said. "It promises to be an exciting day for the players, coaches and spectators. We are really looking forward to it."