The 2013 volleyball season was a magical one for Villa Angela St. Joseph.
Coach Mark Royer has plenty of reason to believe there is more magic in store this year at Viking Village.
Last fall featured a strong regular season followed by a dominating run through the postseason that took the Vikings on an unforgettable ride through the Medina district, the Solon regional and all the way to Dayton for the Division IV state final four.
The magic ran out and the ride came to a halt as VASJ finished one match short of bringing the state championship trophy home to East 185th and Lakeshore Boulevard.
Maria Stein Marion Local defeated the Vikings in three games, 25-16, 25-22, 25-23, to win the Division IV state title. VASJ had lost only one game in six tournament matches prior to the state championship match.The Vikings finished the season 23-6. The Flyers lost one match all season and ended with a 28-1 mark.
It was VASJ’s second state runner-up trophy in volleyball. The Vikings lost to Anna in the Division III finals in 2006. VASJ also won the state championship in 2001 and 2005, and the Vikings appeared in the final four in 1999.
VASJ was led in the state finals by junior Toni Beuck with 12 kills and 12 digs. Standout senior Danielle Hicks closed her tremendous career at Viking Village with nine kills and 20 digs. Nicole Cramer dished out 35 assists for the Vikings.
Royer was named the N-H Coach of the Year after leading the Vikings to the Division IV state title game. VASJ finished as state runner-up to Maria Stein Marion Local and ended with a 23-6 record.
Hicks – the NCL White Division Player of the Year – was named to the N-H first team. The senior averaged 3.85 kills per game and was dominant during the playoff run. Senior libero Casey Timko was named to the N-H third team, averaging 5.2 digs per game.
With six seniors returning and the experience of a state runner-up under their belt, Royer likes what he sees now and in the future this fall.
"What I like about this team is our experience. We have six seniors. They come together on the court and off the court. They come together as a family and we preach family here at VASJ," Royer said.
"It's not easy to replace a girl like Danielle, but players like Toni Beuck and Taylor Sawicki are doing a great job."
VASJ defeated Lutheran West and Lakewood to start the year and split with Mayfield (win) and South (loss).
"There are a lot of expectations, but this isn't the same team. However, these girls have that taste of what we need to do and we have high expectations as a team and they know what to expect," Royer said.
"These girls have goals, but they have to understand it is important to step up and compete against not only the opponent but ourselves every match."
Passing and defense should be team strengths. Cramer is now a defensive specialist and Rachel Smith has established herself as one of the area's top setters. McKenna Walker, Danielle Paus and Emily Mastalski will be key contributors for the Vikings.