Licking County's high school volleyball teams are trying to revisit a grand era.

Licking County's high school volleyball teams are trying to revisit a grand era.

Columbus-area teams have dominated the locals for the most part this decade at the district-tournament level in sports such as soccer and basketball, but that hasn't been the case in volleyball.

Three schools from the county advanced to last Saturday's district finals, including Newark (Division I), which beat Westerville North 25-23, 25-22, 17-25, 25-18 in a semifinal last Tuesday at Licking Heights.

Heath reached a district final in Division III and Newark Catholic in Division IV. Granville played its way into a Division II semifinal before losing to third-seeded Canal Winchester 25-15, 25-14, 25-17 last Thursday at Pickerington North.

"It's kind of like it was back in the old days of the (Licking County League)," Heath coach Shela Croom said after the No. 2 Bulldogs defeated West Jefferson 25-14, 25-15, 25-17, 25-21 in a semifinal last Wednesday at Hilliard Darby.

During a 16-year stretch ending in 1990, which was the last year for the LCL, eight area teams combined to win 26 district championships, highlighted by the Green Wave's 11 district titles and seven state championships. At least one county school captured a district title every season from 1975-90 aside from 1977 and 1978, but Newark Catholic won its first state championship the next year.

Overall, there have been only seven years in which nobody represented the county at the regional tournaments since the tournament began in 1975. Three of those years (2001, '02, '06) came this decade but the tide appears to be turning again in favor of the local schools with Lakewood (Division III) and Heath capturing district titles last season and the Green Wave advancing to a state semifinal. Five schools combined to win eighth district championships from 2000-07. They include Newark in 2000, Northridge in '03 in Division III and Newark Catholic in '03, '04 and '05. The Green Wave added an eighth state title as well, prevailing in Division III in '04.

"We play each other so often it's helping all of us," Croom said. "And it always starts back in the summer when most of us play at Newark Catholic (during the annual Licking County Preview)."

This year's trio of district finalists all feature lineups littered with underclassmen, too, meaning the good times should continue. At Heath, a talented group of sophomores complement three seniors, only two of whom start.

"We went undefeated in the seventh, eighth and ninth grades and won the (MSL-Ohio Division)," sophomore middle hitter Kenisha Body said. "We just got split up this year."

SEMIFINAL SUCCESS -- Top-seeded Newark Catholic defeated Northside Christian in adistrict semifinal last Tuesday at Worthington Christian, improving to 23-1 and advancing to play Madison Christian in the title match. Angela McNulty had 17 kills and three blocks for the MSL-Ohio-champion Green Wave. The district champion will play in a regional semifinal at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Lancaster.

The Bulldogs, who were led by Courtney Kramer with 10 kills and Brittany Waddell with 16 digs last Wednesday, advanced to meet third-seeded Fredericktown in a district final. The winner will play in a regional semifinal at 6 p.m. Thursday at Findlay Liberty-Benton.

Newark survived Westerville North even though senior standout Kelsey Gray rolled an ankle, improving to 18-6 and advancing to play top-seeded Dublin Coffman for the district title. The winner will play in a regional semifinal at approximately 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Hilliard Davidson. Olivia Bybee had 17 assists, Trisha Ball had 13 digs and Heather Hammonds had nine kills against North. The Wildcats eliminated Davidson, which had defeated them in the last two postseasons, with a 25-9, 25-15, 23-25, 25-23 victory on Oct. 18. Davidson's run included a victory in a district final in 2006 when Newark was the top seed.

Granville finished 14-10.

Granville's Courtney Moyer returns a shot last Thursday during a Division II district semifinal loss to Canal Winchester.