For the Hilliard Darby High School boys volleyball team, the postseason challenge remains the same as it was the past three seasons.

For the Hilliard Darby High School boys volleyball team, the postseason challenge remains the same as it was the past three seasons.

After winning its fourth-consecutive East Region championship last Saturday, the Panthers head into the Division I state tournament Saturday and Sunday at Hilliard Davidson with yet another opportunity unseat a Cincinnati-area team as the defending champions.

Coach Shawn Parsell couldn't have prepared his team any better.

Darby has faced four of the final eight teams at least once this season, including a Cincinnati Elder team that ended the Panthers' run a year ago in a state semifinal before falling to Cincinnati Moeller in the championship.

The Panthers meet Cleveland St. Ignatius at 2 p.m. Saturday in a quarterfinal. Worthington Kilbourne, Lakewood St. Edward, Centerville and Cincinnati St. Xavier are possible opponents in the semifinal at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

The championship match is 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

"We feel really good about getting another chance to play St. Ignatius to avenge a loss from the second or third week of the season," said Parsell, whose team is 17-10 overall and ranked fourth in the final state poll.

"We've been studying that film and it's hard to believe the team wearing those uniforms was us. St. Ignatius is definitely going to come in with a lot of confidence believing that we have to upset them."

St Ignatius won 25-14, 21-25, 35-33 on April 5, the same day the Panthers defeated St. Edward 25-18, 25-16 at the St. Ignatius Invitational.

Darby met Elder three times during the regular season and lost every match.

"No one's killed us the whole year and we've beaten every one at least one game," Parsell said.

"We know Elder's doggone good, but they're not that dominant of a team. We're going to have to play a perfect (match) to beat them. Having said that, they beat us three times, but it took them four games to beat us."

The Panthers, the top seed in the East Region, earned a regional championship over Mount Vernon 25-18, 25-18, 25-22 last Saturday. Other tournament victories came over Olentangy Liberty (25-14, 25-17, 25-8 on May 17) and Whetstone (25-6, 25-6, 25-14 on May 17).

•Davidson, ranked sixth in the final state poll, had hoped to be among the final eight field, but couldn't get past Gahanna in an East Region semifinal after the two teams had split matches during the regular season.

The season ended May 21 with a 18-25, 17-25, 19-25 loss to the Lions, who fell to Kilbourne last Saturday in the other East Region final.

"It was the third time we'd played them without our full lineup, butgive Gahanna credit," said coach Jay Cauley, whose team finished 20-5 overall.

"That's as well as I've seen them play. We just didn't pass and we were just too one-dimensional. They knew we were going to the outside and we had a rough day."

The Wildcats lost four of their last six games, but defeated Pickerington Central 25-12, 25-13, 25-19 in the tournament opener May 17.

Davidson finished OCC-Cardinal Division play unbeaten at 10-0 ahead of Kilbourne (8-2), Pickerington North (6-4), Dublin Scioto (4-6), Westerville North (2-8) and Westerville South(0-10).

The team was led by six seniors in Corbin Allen, (second-team all-region, first-team all-league), Steven Gilmore, Eric Knapp, Kyle Herring (first-team all-region, first-team all-league), Brian Lawless (honorable mention all-region, first-team all-league) and Jonathan Whitacre.

"Herring is the one guy that we don't know that we can replace," Cauley said. "He meant so much to us in the back row in the libero position. He really solidified the defense. I've been with these seniors for four years as an assistant coach so it's going to be hard. I'm going to miss them."

But Davidson won't be starting from scratch next season with the expected return of juniors Casey Null (setter), Brian Lantz (middle hitter) and Brandon Bowers (outside hitter) and sophomore David Carraher (outside hitter).

Lawless was honorable mention all-region and first-team all-league. Carraher was honorable mention all-region and second-team all-league with Bowers.

"It ended too soon, but we reached a lot of goals this season," Cauley said.

At a glance


•Record: 20-5 overall, 10-0 (first) in OCC-Cardinal

•Seniors lost: Corbin Allen, Steven Gilmore, Kyle Herring, Eric Knapp, Brian Lawless and Jonathan Whitacre

•Key returnees: Brandon Bowers, David Carraher, Brian Lantz and Casey Null