Hubbard volleyball coach Jeremy Porter is well aware of the traps of getting too comfortable at the Division II Boardman volleyball sectional and district tournaments.
The key is don't.
"It's one of the tougher districts in the last two years," said Porter, whose team is 18-4.
Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
Howland’s Kelly Dungan (25) spikes the ball past Jackson-Milton’s Taylor Tharp (31) in a match earilier this season.
The top-seeded Eagles are favored to get out of the district, but it's easier said than done - especially when you have second-seeded Canfield and senior Sabrina Mangapora standing in the way. The Eagles have split the Cardinals.
Canfield and Hubbard aren't the only teams to watch out for in the Boardman district. There are also the teams of Cardinal Mooney, Liberty, Southeast, Salem and Poland that can win this year's district crown.
"There's a lot of good teams there," said Porter, whose team plays Alliance on Tuesday in a sectional semifinal.
If Hubbard gets past the Aviators, the Eagles will most likely face fourth-seeded Southeast for a sectional title.
"They're very good," Porter said of Southeast. "From that night on, it is going to be a tough road."
However, Hubbard has the top assists leader in school history - Marquette Gasser.
"She's a great leader. All-time leading assist leader at high school, which is pretty impressive considering the history of our program," Porter said. "We look to run the offense out there. I can pretty much put the team in her hands. I have extreme trust in her to make the right decision. Once in a while I'll give her a play to run, but most of the time she does the right thing. It's very, very good to have an experienced leader on the court like she is."
Another team with experience is Liberty (17-5).
Fourth-year coach Dave Sewell has seen this year's senior class improve each season - going from two to six to 13 wins last season.
"I've had a good bunch of freshman that have really worked hard," Sewell said.
He said there's plenty of good teams in the Boardman sectional/district, where the Leopards are ranked third.
"We're seeded third, but I feel Hubbard and Canfield are going to be the teams to beat," Sewell said.
Liberty is led by Dave's daughter, Jenna, who is the second-leading kill receiver on the team. She also leads team in digs and serving percentage.
"She's the glue that holds everybody together," he said.
Sewell said this is a cohesive unit that has Leah Leshnack and Mackenzie Stanley leading the team as well. Leshnack is a defensive specialist and Stanley, who is the tallest on the team at 5 feet, 8 inches, leads the team in kills.
"Four hitters that can rotate and that's been a key to success for us this year," Sewell said. "Normally, you go just left or just right. They've learned all three spots, so we can set up anywhere. That's been helping us quite a bit."
As for Lakeview (18-4), the Bulldogs haven't lost since early September - getting key victories over Girard and Lakeview.
Lakeview is led by middle hitter Marissa Naples, who tallied her 250th kill Thursday against Campbell.
Add Calli Schmitt and Caitlin McDivitt to Lakeview's leaders.
The sixth-seeded Bulldogs, who play in the Division II Jefferson sectional/district, have plenty of competition there - starting tonight against fifth-seeed Ashtabula Edgewood.
There's also the top four seeds - Mentor Lake Catholic, Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, Crestwood and Geneva which all have byes to the sectional finals.
Mentor Lake Catholic has been to a handful of state final fours and won the state title in 2010.
"It may be one of the toughest sectional/districts," Lakeview coach Scott Taylor said. "ND-CL is tough and there is a very good Mentor Lake Catholic team."
Howland (16-6) is in a very good Division I sectional/district at Stow. The Tigers face Boardman on Tuesday.
"Being Division I, we're going to have to step it up in the next few matches," Howland coach Amanda Lingenfelter said. "Every match is going to be a battle from here on out. We've played a lot of four or five game matches, so we're as ready as we're going to be."
Howland is led by a pair of Erikas that are outside hitters - Airhart and Lapmardo.
"They're getting to the point they have a real desire to win," Lingenfelter said of her seniors. "Their seeing the end of their season. I have six seniors. They're doing anything possible to start playing together as a team."
Now, the Tigers are playing some of their best matches.
"We're starting to come together defensively," Lingenfelter said. "That was one of our weaknesses early in the season, playing really well together right now."
As for Jackson-Milton, which is the defending Division IV Lisbon District champion, the Blue Jays had a lot of returning players.
"We only lost one senior," said J-M coach Sue Prozy, whose team is 19-3. "We had a lot to build on."
The Blue Jays moved from the lower tier of the Inter-Tri County League to the upper tier.
"We've worked hard, tried to have fun. Our goal is try to repeat last year," Prozy said.
They tried to prepare for this year's sectional/district by playing some Division I and II schools.
"Anytime you have a strong schedule, it helps prepare you for tournaments," Prozy said. "We've always tried to plays some bigger schools that it would gets us ready and prepared for big games.
"It does help. We always try to play good volleyball schools."
J-M, the top seed at Lisbon, faces the East Canton-Sebring winner in Thursday's sectional final.
Wellsville is the second seed in the tournament.
"They're going to be a big obstacle for anybody," Prozy said.
J-M has its fair share of top players with senior Paije Kiraly and junior Erica Hughes, who went over the 1,000 kill mark for her career.
"She's tough as nails as far as competitive," Prozy said of Kiraly. "She works hard to try to keep everybody up. She's a great leader for everybody."
Prozy added this year's sectional/district isn't an easy one with Heartland Christian, Wellsville, Columbiana and Lisbon as some of the other top teams.
"Myself, I don't let us work too far ahead," Prozy said. "I'm worried about our first game. We take that. I don't tend to look past anybody. When you do, that's dangerous. We'll just work hard, try to hit hard and have fun."