With just two returning letterwinners on the roster, Olentangy Liberty High School boys volleyball coach Dave Hale acknowledged that at the start of the season he was worried about his team's experience, but that no longer is a concern.

With just two returning letterwinners on the roster, Olentangy Liberty High School boys volleyball coach Dave Hale acknowledged that at the start of the season he was worried about his team's experience, but that no longer is a concern.

In fact, if Hale didn't know any better, he probably would have a difficult time telling the seasoned players from the novices.

"We have a lot of guys who had never played volleyball before," he said. "I'm really impressed with how quickly they've picked up the concepts. They've done a tremendous job. We still have a ways to go. But as long as they continue the pace that they're on, we'll do pretty well, I think."

Like Hale, senior outside-hitter Josh Seymour, who is one of the returnees, has been impressed with the play of the first-year players.

"We have so many guys who have never played volleyball before, but they're picking it up very quickly," he said. "They're learning a lot faster than you'd expect and they're making an impact.

"Last year we had some good athletes, but their hearts weren't in it. It was like they just wanted to do something in the spring. These guys want to get better. It's a complete 180 from last year to this year."

Hale believes the team's overall record -- 2-5 through seven matches -- is misleading, that it doesn't accurately represent how the Patriots have played.

"It's kind of interesting," he said. "Record-wise, we're not that good, but we've played pretty well. We've played a lot of tough teams and we've played them well. I think our guys' level of play has improved tremendously since the start of the season. We've improved a lot since the first (match)."

Three of Liberty's losses were to teams ranked in the state polls. The Patriots lost two matches to OCC-Capital Division-rival Westerville Central (18-25,25-17, 23-25, 25-20, 15-5 on April 2; 20-25, 25-9, 25-15, 25-11 on April 14) and one to Dublin Jerome (25-22,25-21, 25-16 on April 15). Jerome was sixth and Central was eighth in the Division II state poll last week.

Liberty lost two matches to league-rival Mount Vernon (25-16, 25-12, 25-6 on April 1; 25-17, 25-12, 25-20 on April 17) and it lost to Cincinnati Oak Hills (25-22, 25-21 last Saturday in the Thomas Worthington Invitational). Mount Vernon was fifth in the east region last week and Oak Hills was sixth in the south region.

"We've played some of the top teams in the state," Seymour said. "We're playing really well. We're just losing close (matches) to really good teams."

According to Hale, one of the strengths of his team is its attitude.

"They don't let any play die," he said. "They've shown great hustle all season. They've done a great job keeping the ball alive and making plays."

Hale said his players displayed that mindset against Oak Hills, a match which was played after three games in pool play.

"It was a long day and the boys were mentally tired and they started to lose some focus," he said. "We were down 25-13 in the second game and I called timeout. We scored eight straight points before Oak Hills won. I think that shows something about the players. It shows that they're not willing to concede that a game is over."

"We don't give up at the end of games," Seymour said.

Before a match last Monday against Watterson, Seymour had nine blocks, eight kills and eight digs in the previous four matches. Over that same span, outside-hitter Cody Persinger totaled 12 blocks, 12 digs and nine kills, setter Gentry Alverson had 13 assists and Matt Larsen, who shares the setting duties with Alverson, had seven assists and eight aces.

"I think the guys we have this year really complement each other well," Hale said.

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the Liberty boys volleyball team:

*April 1 -- Lost to Mount Vernon 25-16, 25-12, 25-6

*April 2 -- Lost to Westerville Central 18-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-20, 15-5

April 3 -- Defeated Thomas Worthington 24-26, 25-22, 19-25, 25-18, 15-11

April 7 -- Def. Westerville South 25-8, 25-18, 25-16

*April 8 -- Def. Delaware 25-13, 25-10, 25-15

*April 10 -- Def. Pickerington Central 25-20, 17-25, 25-16, 25-20

*April 14 -- Lost to Westerville Central 20-25, 25-9, 25-15, 25-11

*April 15 -- Lost to Dublin Jerome 25-22, 25-21, 25-16

*April 17 -- Lost to Mount Vernon 25-17, 25-12, 25-20

Last Saturday -- Lost to Cincinnati Oak Hills 25-22, 25-21 in Thomas Worthington Invitational

Last Tuesday -- Played Watterson

*Today -- At Delaware

*Tuesday -- At Pickerington Central

Of note: The Patriots were 4-6 overall before last Tuesday and are 2-5 in the OCC-Capital.

*OCC-Capital match