By Linda Dillman
More than three decades ago, a lady Indians sports team from Canal Winchester High School accomplished something few teams ever do—they won a state championship the first time school history.
In 1986, the Indians girls’ volleyball team finished the season with a record of 29-1 going 16-0 in the Mid-State League. The team also had a 58-game winning streak.
Jennifer Butts, a team co-captain and 1987 Canal Winchester High School graduate, now serves as a Youth to Youth advisor and health/advanced health teacher at her alma mater. She played volleyball all four years of high school.
“Our conditioning that summer was the beginning of that season,” said Butts. “It set the standard. We worked hard, didn’t make excuses, held each other accountable and we never took any team for granted.”
While the start-of-the season loss to Bexley was a blow, the team resolved to not let the situation repeat itself.
“We were determined to create our own ending to the season,” said Butts. “Our goal was a state championship. The whole season was amazing. We enjoyed the process and the journey. We were able to play the regionals at CWHS and it was absolutely awesome.”
Student sections were packed in the gymnasium during the regional competition.
“We had a huge following all season and they continued that support to University of Dayton,” said Butts. “After the state championship, we came home to a huge escort. Fire trucks and police cars leading us into town and to our gymnasium. The following day we had a big celebration. It was unforgettable.”
Butts called it a very close-knit team.
“We had team meals, we enjoyed each other’s company, we worked out any team issues in house—which were very few, and we were dedicated to being the very best,” said Butts. “Coach (Colleen) Ross and Coach (Renee) Riddle pushed us and challenged us every day in practices. Practices were so hard and playing our matches were our reward. The old adage it took a lot of blood sweat tears went into that season.”
On Sept. 2, 2016, the team was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Members of the 1986 Class A championship team included Lisa Chafin, Georgina Wilkinson, Jenni Butts, Debbie Hasbrook, Kristy Froehlich, Leslie James, Ruthie Stedman, Jenni Picklesimer, Shelly Millington, Mindy Multerer, Melissa Roehrenbeck and Paige Berry.
According to Butts, players who attended the ceremony were able to laugh and share memories about their lives during the championship season. They also recalled Froehlich’s memory, who passed away in 2002. Team members also keep in contact through social media.
“The school, students and community rallied around us and filled our gymnasium every single game,” said Butts. “It was an amazing, wonderful season that changed all of our lives. We worked so hard and we made it our goal to win it all. Coach Ross created a standard and we believed in it and pushed each other every day to not let her down or each other.”