CARROLL — The Bloom-Carroll volleyball team is aware of the target on its back.
Going undefeated in the Mid State League-Buckeye Division and winning a district championship has that effect.
But the Bulldogs are back with four starters including sisters Cassie and Taylor Hughes, both of whom are verbally committed to Division I colleges. Bloom-Carroll has high expectations for 2012.
“This is the best team we’ve ever had in my four years here,” coach April Redding said. “We’re ready to go. We’re looking at (this season) as a mountain climb. We don’t want to set too small of goals.”
The Bulldogs plowed through the MSL-Buckeye with a perfect 14-0 record and claimed a Division III district title in 2011. But after going ahead by two sets in a regional final against Adena, the Bulldogs lost the match and narrowly missed making the state final four.
That loss hurt, but Redding said it made the team hungrier.
“Without losing, winning doesn’t mean anything,” Redding said. “That being said, the girls haven’t brought up that game at all. The girls are really focused on playing their best.”
Redding said in the past the team might have focused on avenging that one, season-ending loss instead of just trying to get better. She also said the Bulldogs might have peaked a little early in 2011, but they should avoid those problems this year.
“Lesson learned,” Redding said. “We can’t let up. Not one point or one game.”
The Bulldogs have a difficult nonleague schedule this fall, including a tournament in Chicago at the end of September sponsored by Asics. Defending Division II state champion Hartley and Division III state semifinalist Ready also are on the schedule.
Besides the Hughes sisters, Redding pointed out senior Haylea VanScoy and sophomore Samantha Hurdzan as players who are often overlooked. Hurdzan is the third player featured in the Bulldogs’ offense behind the Hughes sisters, and VanScoy is a setter who can fill different roles for the team.
“People like to forget about Haylea because she’s not 6-feet tall,” Redding said. “But she’s a phenomenal hustler. She doesn’t give up on a play.”