The Hilliard Darby High School boys volleyball team took a step forward in its quest to win its 12th consecutive OCC championship by beating Hilliard Davidson 25-12, 25-14, 25-18 on April 10.

The Hilliard Darby High School boys volleyball team took a step forward in its quest to win its 12th consecutive OCC championship by beating Hilliard Davidson 25-12, 25-14, 25-18 on April 10.

The Panthers were 4-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Upper Arlington on April 17.

"We don't talk about the streak (of league titles)," coach Bryan Webb said. "Every year is a new group, so they don't care what happened in the past. They are concerned with the present and trying to win a league title this season. There's no pressure about the streak."

That's the same approach the Panthers take every match as they look to be playing their best as they seek their third consecutive trip to the Division I state tournament.

Darby was 11-1 overall after winning the Wolf Open title April 14 at Worthington Kilbourne.

The Panthers were ranked third in the Division I state poll last week behind top-ranked Cincinnati St. Xavier and Cincinnati Moeller. Davidson was seventh.

"Davidson is our rival and we were excited to beat them no matter where our teams are ranked," Webb said. "They're a good team and it was an important win. We played hard and it was a solid win, so I was proud of their effort."

Darby's only loss was to St. Xavier 25-16, 25-23 in the opening St. Charles Classic on March 23 and 24.

"We still haven't quite figured out our best lineup, but the guys are buying into what we're saying and they're very coachable," Webb said. "Every single one of the guys we've put out there has played well. We're in a fortunate situation. We played 11 guys against Davidson and that's the way it's been so far this season. Everyone is doing their jobs.

"I think our seniors, Cory Fitzsimmons and Stephen Yeager, have done a wonderful job leading the way and trying to make sure we're all on the same page and pulling for each other."

'Cats remain confident despite loss to Darby

The loss to Darby didn't dampen Davidson's spirit.

"We're ranked seventh in the state and we've beaten some good teams like Mount Vernon, (Cuyahoga Falls) Walsh Jesuit and Cincinnati Oak Hills," coach Jay Cauley said. "We've played a good schedule and we believe we can beat anybody."

Walsh Jesuit was ranked second in Division II last week, with Mount Vernon ninth in Division II. Oak Hills was 15th in Division I.

"Darby handled us fairly easily, but this is the best Darby team I've ever seen," Cauley said. "Their team is highly touted and people think they could win the entire thing (Division I state tournament), and I think they certainly can. Cincinnati-area teams won six in a row until (Lakewood) St. Edward won it last year. I think Darby is the strongest team central Ohio has had in a long, long time."

After losing to Darby, the Wildcats bounced back by beating Upper Arlington 25-17, 25-17, 25-17 in league play April 12.

On April 14, Davidson went 2-1 in the Cleveland St. Ignatius Invitational to improve to 10-2 overall before facing Dublin Coffman on April 17.

The Wildcats defeated St. Edward 25-11, 20-25, 25-19, lost to St. Ignatius 25-13, 25-18 and defeated Akron Hoban 25-27, 25-7, 26-24. St. Edward was ranked sixth in Division I and St. Ignatius was ninth last week. Hoban was 10th in Division II.

"Our expectation is to get back to the state tournament and I believe this is the type of schedule that prepares you for the postseason," Cauley said. "If you look at last season, we finished with seven losses and all of them were to teams who advanced to the state tournament."

Cauley said seniors Matt Briskey, Matt Exterovich, Josh Martin and Matt Snyder have fueled the strong start.

"Briskey is setting and hitting very well and Snyder is our leader outside and is our top performer in kills," Cauley said. "Martin has done a very nice job handling the passing load and Exterovich has controlled things with his passing and defense."

Bradley gained confidence and positioning in the OCC-Capital by defeating perennial league and district power Mount Vernon 25-18, 25-18, 25-27, 25-15 on April 12.

The Jaguars were 7-3 overall and 4-1 in the league entering the week.

"We played probably our best match of the year so far against Mount Vernon," coach Zach Franklin said. "We served aggressively to where we wanted to serve and we hit very, very well."

Senior middle-hitter Evan Donnelly had 12 kills and senior outside-hitter Ben Taylor had 10 kills.

"We played well against some other teams, but this was the best we've played against a strong team," Franklin said. "We beat a solid program and I think that will give us a lift as we move through the season."