COLUMBUS - Marion Local is the No. 1 team in the state.
Its coach, Amy Steininger, is the Division IV coach of the year.
And the player of the year in Division IV? Claire Heitkamp. And yes, she's also from Marion Local.
That's a lot of ones. And that's just the way Buckeye Central coach Bill Bonham wants it.
"You have three No. 1s on their team. There's no pressure on us," Bonham said. "If we can compete with them and give them a game, we've succeeded in the public eye. But if we sneak in there and pull off the upset, then we've once again surpassed a goal that no one thought we could get. Truly, what do we have to lose at this point? We're still the underdog."
The underdog and big dog will face off Friday at 2 p.m. in the second game of the Division IV state volleyball semifinal at Nutter Arena at Wright State University.
This is not unfamiliar territory for either team. The Buckettes are making their 10th trip to the state tourney while this is the sixth trip for the Flyers.
"That's what makes Buckeye Central tradition so (great)," Bonham said. "Part of that reason is that every generation continues to hang out and it continues to rebuild over (here)."
The Buckettes last went to Dayton in 2008, and this year's team has six girls who had sisters play on that team.
BC (26-2) won the state crown in 1993 and 1996, while the Flyers (24-3) last made it in 2009, where they won the last of their three straight titles.
"We've been very blessed with the success we had, winning three state championships in a row and lost the next two to the state champions," Steininger said. "It's hard to coach and play at Marion Local because the expectation is to win the MAC and the state championship.
"It's tough to win a state championship. You have to play well. You have to have some things fall your way."
Not a lot seemed to fall the Flyers way earlier in the season when Josie Winner, an All-Ohio selection last year, went down with a broken ankle. She was out for five weeks and didn't come back until the district final two weeks ago against St. Henry, where she came out and had 20 kills.
"We brought back 11 letterwinners. I was excited about this season then the injuries happened and I was concerned," Steininger said. "We're starting to peak at the right time."
She also knows her team has its hands full with Buckeye Central.
"Buckeye Central has a good a history of going to state so this isn't anything new to them," Steininger said. "They played at the Celina invitational. They beat Versailles and I saw them lose to St. Henry. They have two outside hitters that are very awesome. (Sammi Marcum's) an incredible player and exciting to watch. I love watching her play. They have a nice middle and a freshman that plays as well. They have nice setters. It's going to be a very tough game for us and we need to be ready to play."
While the Flyers have done with it big guns, the Buckettes have a more well-rounded team without the big middles they've had in recent years, like Makayla Agin and Ashley Langjahr, who are playing at Xavier and Wright State, respectively.
"We're truly winning as a team and not relying on big player like we have in the past. This weekend we're not going to do anything different," Bonham said. "We're going to prepare the same way. When they step on the court, they know it's game time."
Bonham joked with Steininger about Winner's timely return.
"We know about Claire Heitkamp and Josie Winner, and you put those together, it's tough," Bonham said. It's just a great volleyball area. We know that Heitkamp is a very good player. I've joked with Amy 'It must be nice to bring a ringer back in time for the tournament.'"
Bonham said it's more than two players for the Flyers though.
"We're matched up pretty good. We know that Marion Local is going to not only bring talent on the floor but from the sideline as well," he said. "Those three losses don't mean anything to us. We know the schedule they play."
And he's confident his team's defense can handle the attack that's coming its way.
"We feed the ball outside. We've been a middle based team the last few years. We're running a faster offense," Bonham said. "We're heavy setting on the outside. Our defense has been backing it up. We're not afraid to get a long rally. Our defense hasn't been letting balls hit the fall."
The keys for both teams revolve around focus.
"We just need to focus on our side of the net and what we can control," Steininger said. "Whoever we have out there, we expect to win, even with the injuries and the lineup changes we had."
Bonham said the goal doesn't change from what it has from previous matches.
"We're going to play and start out with an aggressive serve. We know we have six kids who can serve aggressively," Bonham said. "We're going to rely on serve. If we can take them out of rotation every now and then, then the little points are going to make a difference. Even on our broken plays, we like to still swing at the ball.
"It's going to be defense and aggressiveness is what it's going to take," Bonham said.