The Dublin Scioto High School boys volleyball team will have a much different look this season.
Junior outside hitter Zach Spoelstra is the only returnee from last season, as the Irish lost 10 players to graduation, including eight who started multiple matches.
The Irish also has a new coach in Wayne Tsai, who coached Scioto's junior varsity in 2008 and served as a varsity assistant for the Hilliard Darby girls team from 2008-13 and the Darby boys team from 2009-13.
Last spring, he helped guide the Darby boys team to the Division I state title.
"I graduated from Scioto in 2004 and played three years of volleyball while I was there, so I guess I was attracted to this job because I want to build on the program I came from," Tsai said. "At Darby, we won the state championship this past May, so it was a good ending point for me and good timing."
Tsai replaced Doug Arden, who stepped down after nine seasons. Last season, the Irish finished 15-7 overall and went 11-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to capture their first league title since 2003.
Scioto also won the Battle of Dublin for the second consecutive season and the third time in the event's nine-year history a year ago, beating Jerome 25-5, 25-5 and Coffman 25-17, 25-10.
"We are going to be young, with four or five starters that are either sophomores or freshmen," Tsai said. "So without seeing the team last year, I really can't say anything specifically about what will be different, but we are definitely hurting on experience. The good news is that all the positions are up for grabs, and the young guys have really worked hard and seized that opportunity."
In addition to Spoelstra, vying for starting positions and playing time are seniors Keanen Brunswick (middle hitter/opposite hitter) and Kelton Topp (middle hitter), juniors Shaun Gary (middle hitter/opposite hitter), Jared Sahlin (setter/libero) and Danny Salomone (opposite hitter), sophomores Christian Gastaldo (setter/defensive specialist), Dylan Kearney (outside hitter/libero), Paul Lombardo (outside hitter) and Andres Mujica (outside hitter) and freshmen Derek Topp (outside hitter/opposite hitter) and Jake Wedher (middle hitter).
"Our players are very coachable and it's easily the biggest strength we have as a team right now," Tsai said. "They absorb everything like a sponge and work hard at practice. A lot of our players are going straight from the freshmen level to varsity, so they definitely have a lot to learn. The progress we have made just in the last three weeks has been a sight to see."
Scioto was 3-5 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Cardinal after beating Jerome 25-14, 25-23, 25-7 on March 31.
The Irish opened March 22 by beating West Chester Lakota West 25-21, 25-19 and losing to Akron Hoban 25-22, 25-17 and Pickerington North 25-17, 25-15. They then lost to Mount Vernon 25-6, 25-18, 25-14 on March 26 and fell to Worthington Kilbourne 25-19, 25-17, 24-26, 25-18 in their OCC-Cardinal opener March 27 before splitting a pair of matches March 29, beating Licking Heights 25-5, 25-8 and losing to Cincinnati Oak Hills 25-15, 28-30, 25-15, 25-17.
"For our short-term goal, we want to be competitive in our league," Tsai said. "In the long-term, we want to get the program to a level where we are challenging to finish tops in our OCC every year and being one of the best in the region."
New coach looking to rebuild Celtics
First-year coach Phil Cagnoli is looking to turn around Jerome, which finished 1-19 overall and 0-12 in the OCC-Cardinal last year.
The Celtics' lone win came against Coffman, 25-18, 14-25, 25-12 in the Battle of Dublin.
"We definitely want to have more success and we're working on creating a different culture within this team," Cagnoli said. "I want our players to take ownership of and be proud of this program. In the short term, we're looking to make more of an impact in our (OCC) division. In the long term, we want to make it to the state tournament."
Jerome has returned three starters in senior setter Tommy Keller, junior outside hitter Peter Moseley and sophomore defensive specialist Jon Shih.
Rounding out the roster are seniors John Francis (outside hitter), Trent Jones (libero), Marcos Manon (middle hitter), Matt McCarty (opposite hitter) and Tommy Scott (libero) and juniors Cole Blough (setter), Collin Eberhardt (middle hitter) and Spencer Kerr (middle hitter).
"I'm really impressed with our senior class and the character they've shown to return from a 1-19 season to lead this team," Cagnoli said. "There's a lot of potential here to turn this program in the right direction."
Shamrocks hoping for big improvement
Sixth-year Coffman coach Mark Saelzler is expecting his team to make major strides this season after finishing 11-17 overall and placing fourth (3-7) in the OCC-Ohio behind champion Darby (10-0) a year ago.
"All of our younger guys played club volleyball (during the offseason), so we're going to be a lot better than last year's team," Saelzler said. "We want to compete with Hilliard Darby and (Hilliard) Davidson this year to finish in the top two in our league."
Coffman, which opened April 1 with a league match at Davidson, has returned five players who saw significant playing time last season in seniors Jarrod Sotos (6-foot-4, opposite hitter) and Patrick Smith (libero) and juniors Michael Kim (setter), Evan Oates (opposite hitter) and Joel Sotos (6-3, setter).
Also expected to be key contributors are juniors Tim Cropper (6-0, outside hitter), Matt Fries (6-5, middle hitter) and Cory Mills (libero) and sophomores Nick Harder (outside hitter) and Jack Weisenbach (6-10, middle hitter).
"We have a lot of size and our kids are athletic, so we can block pretty well," Saelzler said. "We still have some things to work on, such as our serve-receive, but I think we're going to be very competitive."