Dublin Coffman High School boys volleyball coach Mark Saelzler usually didn't feel comfortable putting reserve players into matches in critical situations last season, but that won't be the case this year.
The Shamrocks finished 11-11 overall a year ago after losing to Hilliard Darby 23-25, 25-10, 25-18, 20-25, 15-12 in a Division I regional semifinal.
"We didn't have anyone we could throw into games off the bench when one of our starters needed a break, but now we've got a deep bench and we have a lot of options," Saelzler said. "That's a huge advantage."
The Shamrocks return three starters in seniors Greg Hoseus (opposite hitter/setter) and Matt VonSchriltz (outside hitter) and junior Matt Collins (libero).
VonSchriltz was named second-team all-region and second-team all-OCC-Central Division last season.
Filling out the roster are seniors Neil Byers (libero) and Hayden Pyles (middle hitter) and juniors Alex Meeks (outside hitter), Ryan Parnell (setter/opposite hitter), Kort Rantala (middle hitter) and Jack Schirmer (outside hitter).
"We had to feed two or three players most of the time last year, but now we have several players who will help pick up the slack when it comes to hitting," Saelzler said.
Last year, Coffman won the Battle of Dublin, beating Scioto 25-18, 25-10 and Jerome 25-14, 25-8.
But the Shamrocks finished fourth in the OCC-Central at 4-6, behind co-champions Hilliard Darby and Worthington Kilbourne at 9-1 as well as Hilliard Davidson (6-4), and ahead of Upper Arlington (2-8) and Thomas Worthington (0-10).
"Worthington Kilbourne will be down this year, so Hilliard Darby and Hilliard Davidson are going to be our top competition in the OCC," Saelzler said. "I think we can finish in the top two or three in our league if we play well, because we have a very athletic team."
•Jerome finished 7-15 overall last season after losing to Westerville Central 25-19, 25-21, 12-25, 25-19 in its Division II regional tournament opener.
The Celtics returns seven players with starting experience in seniors Scott Cheesman (outside hitter), Kurt Ehlers (outside hitter), Jeff Olson (defensive specialist), Brian Recker (middle hitter) and Ryan Wheeler (libero), junior Andrew Hood (setter) and sophomore James Warvel (middle hitter).
Cheesman was second-team all-OCC-Cardinal and Recker was honorable mention all-league. Ehlers, who missed his entire junior season after having shoulder surgery, was second-team all-league as a sophomore.
Also on the team are seniors Gabe Lopez (defensive specialist), J.J. Rheinlander (defensive specialist) and Mitch Woznaick (defensive specialist) and juniors Cole Frazier (defensive specialist) and Angel Lopez (defensive specialist).
"We have a good bunch of boys and they're having fun as we continue to improve," coach Katherine Fogg said.
Jerome finished fifth in the OCC-Cardinal last year at 2-8, behind co-champions Olentangy Liberty and Westerville North at 9-1, Scioto (5-5) and Westerville Central (4-6) and ahead of Westerville South (1-9).
"That extra year of experience should help us become a better, more efficient team," Fogg said.
•Scioto finished 13-12 overall last year after losing to Watterson 26-24, 20-25, 25-17, 25-18 in a Division II district semi-final.
The Irish opened last Saturday by beating Thomas Worthington 25-17, 25-15, defeating Whetstone 23-25, 25-22, 25-15 and losing to Delaware 25-17, 13-25, 25-15.
The Irish return three players who started multiple matches last year in seniors Mitch Akutsu (middle hitter), Matteo Clark (outside hitter) and David McLemore (outside hitter/setter).
Akutsu was second-team all-league and all-region last year.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Jason Boelling (outside hitter/defensive specialist), Hector Cintrou-Cartagena (outside hitter/middle hitter), Michael Geise (middle hitter), John Hong (setter), Ali Noureldin (middle hitter/outside hitter), Daniel Small (setter) and Jimmy Vogel (libero), juniors Raneal Ewing (outside hitter) and Elias Lambers (middle hitter) and freshman Josh Ashwill (outside hitter/setter).
"We've got a handful of kids who have good experience and we picked up some new guys who are big and athletic," coach Doug Arden said. "All in all, we look pretty solid."
Last year, the Irish finished third in the OCC-Cardinal and clinched their first winning season since 2003.
"Westerville North and Liberty both lost some good players, and we're a better team than we were last year physically, so we should be in the mix with everyone else when it comes to competing for the OCC title," Arden said.
At a glance
•Coach: Mark Saelzler, second season
•Next match: Today at Hilliard Davidson
•Key players: Matt Collins, Greg Hoseus and Matt VonSchriltz
*March 30 vs. Hilliard Darby
*April 1 at Hilliard Davidson
April 3 at Cincinnati Roger Bacon with Cincinnati Purcell Marian, Roger Bacon and West Chester Lakota West
April 8 vs. Hilliard Bradley
April 12 at Gahanna
*April 13 at Thomas Worthington
*April 15 at Worthington Kilbourne
April 15 at Olentangy Liberty with Stow-Munroe Falls
*April 20 vs. Upper Arlington
April 21 vs. Pickerington North
*April 22 at Hilliard Darby
*April 27 vs. Hilliard Davidson
April 28 vs. St. Charles
*April 29 vs. Thomas Worthington
May 3 vs. Westerville Central
*May 5 vs. Worthington Kilbourne
*May 6 at Upper Arlington
May 7 at Jerome with Scioto
•Coach: Katherine Fogg, fifth season
•Opener: Tuesday at Olentangy Liberty
•Key players: Scott Cheesman, Kurt Ehlers and Brian Recker
*April 6 at Olentangy Liberty
*April 7 at Scioto
*April 12 at Westerville Central
April 13 at Mount Vernon
*April 15 vs. Westerville South
April 16-17 at Wolf Open at Worthington Kilbourne
April 19 vs. Delaware
*April 20 vs. Westerville North
*April 22 vs. Scioto
*April 27 vs. Westerville Central
*April 29 vs. Olentangy Liberty
*May 4 at Westerville South
*May 6 at Westerville North
May 7 vs. Coffman and Scioto
•Coach: Doug Arden, sixth season
•Next match: Today at Westerville South
•Key players: Mitch Akutsu, Matteo Clark and David McLemore
March 27 vs. Thomas Worthington, Whetstone and Delaware
*April 1 at Westerville South
*April 7 vs. Jerome
April 8 at Upper Arlington
*April 13 at Westerville North
*April 15 vs. Olentangy Liberty
*April 20 vs. Westerville Central
*April 22 at Jerome
April 24 at Licking Heights
*April 27 vs. Westerville South
*April 29 vs. Westerville North
*May 4 at Olentangy Liberty
*May 6 at Westerville Central
May 7 at Jerome with Coffman