As has been the case in other matches this season, the Grove City High School girls volleyball team was unfazed by the deficits it faced against Westerville Central in a Division I district final.
The fourth-seeded Greyhounds lost the opening game and trailed 9-4 in the third game and 9-5 in the fourth but rallied to beat the sixth-seeded Warhawks 18-25, 25-15, 25-21, 25-15 on Oct. 26 at Bloom-Carroll for their first district championship.
"(The) match summed up our season," coach Alan Pham said. "We're always getting sparked by our defense. We've been able to dig ourselves out of holes all season long."
The Greyhounds were 22-2 before playing DeSales in a regional semifinal Oct. 30 at Hilliard Davidson, with the winner playing Dublin Coffman or Lancaster in a regional final Saturday, Nov. 2, at Davidson.
DeSales was the top seed in the district and Coffman and Lancaster were seeded second and seventh, respectively.
The regional champion advances to a state semifinal Nov. 7 at Wright State University. The state final is Nov. 9 at Wright State.
"It's amazing," junior middle hitter Sarah Mitcham said. "We are such a family and I'm honored to play with this team. We've worked so hard to come here and we just didn't want to give up."
"It's our first (district title) ever, so it's exciting," libero Haven Kulp said.
Grove City did not face Coffman during the regular season but swept Lancaster in OCC-Ohio Division play, winning 25-21, 25-16, 22-25, 18-25, 16-14 on Sept. 12 and 25-13, 25-20, 30-32, 25-13 on Oct. 8.
"We just need to continue to trust each other on the court and keep the communication clear and constant, regardless of which way the momentum has swung," Pham said. "Our defense needs to be quick and fast, both on and off the net. The hustle has to be there for the entire match and, when we have the ball, we need to take care of it. Serves need to be tough and hits need to be smart. Either we terminate the ball for a point or force the other team to play out of system with smart ball placements.
"We'll be going up against some big hitters and they'll get their points, so we just can't get frustrated by it. We need to remain focused on our game."
Grove City defeated 10th-seeded New Albany 25-22, 25-23, 25-19 in a district semifinal Oct. 17 at Bloom-Carroll.
Against the Eagles, outside hitter Amanda Radich had 18 kills and 12 digs, defensive specialist Haley Litman had seven aces, setter Andrea Miller had 34 assists, Kulp had 23 digs and outside hitter Rae-Kelly Hamilton had seven kills.
"Our players' resilience made a huge impact (against New Albany)," Pham said. "The momentum swung heavily in both directions all night long and the players really stuck together. Some of our reserve players stepped in when we needed them and provided that extra spark for us to finish the match."
Comets fall to DeSales in district semifinal
Central Crossing lost to top-seeded DeSales 25-14, 25-16, 25-6 in a Division I district semifinal Oct. 23 at Whitehall to finish 9-15 overall.
Seeded 28th, the Comets had a first-round bye and defeated 38th-seeded Franklin Heights 25-19, 23-25, 25-19, 25-19 in the second round Oct. 16 at home before falling to the Stallions.
Central Crossing won its first seven matches to open the season but lost 15 of its last 17 matches.
The Comets went 1-13 in the OCC-Central to tie Upper Arlington for seventh, behind Coffman (14-0), Davidson (12-2), Olentangy Liberty (10-4), Marysville (7-7), Thomas Worthington (6-8) and Westland (5-9).
"We started out the season strong, then experienced some injuries, which took us back a few steps once we got into league play," coach Julie Evans said. "We fought our way back with working on consistency and speed.
"We had two nice wins, one at Bexley (25-23, 21-25, 25-13, 25-19 on Aug. 22) and the other when we hosted UA (25-20, 25-22, 16-25, 25-21 on Sept. 26). We had struggles, but stuck with our game and pushed through with confidence and perseverance to get the win."
The Comets lose four seniors in Rose LeVally (middle hitter), Kelsie Rivers (outside hitter), Erin Scott (defensive specialist) and Hunter Taylor (outside hitter).
LeVally was named second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Expected back are juniors Payton Baker (middle hitter), Madison Castle (outside hitter), Bolaji Oseni (middle hitter), Emily Roe (defensive specialist), Molly Stenger (defensive specialist) and Devin Werner (setter) and sophomores Tessa Andrick (setter) and Ally Gruen (setter).
Stenger was honorable mention all-league.
"All the seniors were starters at one point or the other throughout the season, based on which lineup worked best for us," Evans said. "We have a good, solid core coming back and some room in the lineup for some younger players to step in and make an impact."