Jennifer Staunton played two years of basketball and ran track at Newton Falls High School. She played lacrosse at Bowling Green State University.
Staunton has coached basketball for eight years, track for nine and a year each in bowling and softball.
Volleyball, though, is her claim to fame. Staunton is entering her 26th year of coaching the game that she never even played.
Tribune Chronicle file photo
Mineral Ridge’s Peyton Allen (34) and Madison Blanchard (13)?return this season for the Rams. They already helped earn coach Jennifer Staunton’s 300th victory.
"Just in phys ed. class," Staunton said. "We played with just nine people. Over the years I've grown to truly love and appreciate it. It's a fun game for the kids to play and it's fun for me to see them progress."
Girls have come and gone at Mineral Ridge over the past 26 years, but Staunton has remained consistent. So have the wins.
On Aug. 19 - the first game of the year - Staunton earned her 300th career win with a sweep of Lordstown. To her, it was just another game. Just another win.
"My husband, Robert, actually kind of told me that it was No. 300," Staunton said. "I was just like, 'Oh, OK.' I forgot all about it and most of the girls didn't know I was closing in on it, either. Truthfully, it's not really a big deal to me. I'm just proud of the great teams that I've had over the years."
The Rams won six-straight ICL championships, then an Inter-Tri County League title in 2010. That year, they went 22-0 in the regular season. It was McKenzie Garland's freshman year.
"She's really going to shine," Staunton said. "She's been a setter for three years and she has really improved from the first time she was thrown out there as a freshman.
"McKenzie is a good athlete. Period," Staunton said of Garland, who also plays softball. "This year, she'll be one of my go-to hitters. We moved her to middle because she blocks so well. This way, she can be in on every block."
A younger Garland, Macey - a sophomore - was a letterwinner a year ago and will be Mineral Ridge's key setter.
"She's going to be one of the better pieces," Staunton said. "She just has such great court vision. She sees everything like Abby did."
Abby Riffee, a 2012 graduate, is now a starting defensive specialist at Mount Union. The Raiders went 26-7 during her freshman season. Staunton coached Riffee during her junior high years - while the legendary coach took a brief hiatus from the varsity level. Then, Staunton returned for Riffee's four high school years.
That relationship is nearly reincarnated in Geauga County.
The Cardinal volleyball team is coming off an impressive 18-7 campaign where it finished second in the Chagrin Valley Conference - its best finish in Lisa Shirkey's three years as head coach.
"We spent those first three years just developing," said Shirkey, a 1993 graduate of the school. "I think we're now ready to compete."
Shirkey inherited the program as Becca Klein entered her first season as a freshman starter.
"We talk about how we kind of grew up together," Shirkey said. "Becca is our libero and she's just a constant on the court."
Joyce Tudor coached the Huskies for more than 30 years before Shirkey took over in 2010. As a player, Shirkey helped Cardinal share a conference championship. Last year, it lost in the district semifinals to Berkshire.
Madison Bean, a freshman, will be the team's key setter and their heavy hitters include Alyssa Shirkey, Tia Mastascusa and Kaitlin Bean - all juniors. Lindsay Cummins, also a former Huskies player as well as a college basketball player at West Liberty, is an assistant.
"The girls have bought what we're selling," Shirkey said. "This is a long time coming. We're right there and I feel like we'll go far."
Peyton Allen, Madison Blanchard and Alyssa Harkins are other returning letterwinners for Mineral Ridge. Breanna Miner, a transfer from the Cleveland-area, must sit out until Game 12 because of eligibility rules.
Pymatuning Valley, coming off a 15-9 season, looks to be the top team in the Northeastern Athletic Conference even with four new starters. Canfield, the reigning All-American Conference and district champions, will be the team to beat in Mahoning County.