Because several members of the Olentangy Liberty High School boys volleyball team were going to the prom later that day, coach Dave Hale chose to play Pickerington North in the first round of the Division I tournament May 16 at Delaware.

Because several members of the Olentangy Liberty High School boys volleyball team were going to the prom later that day, coach Dave Hale chose to play Pickerington North in the first round of the Division I tournament May 16 at Delaware.

That move backfired, as the sixth-seeded Patriots lost to the fifth-seeded Panthers 25-16, 25-14, 25-18 to finish 17-8 overall.

"We could have played a lower seed in the first round, but my hands were tied because of the prom being that same day because I couldn't schedule a match that was too late in the day or too far away," Hale said.

"I don't know that our focus was where it needed to be with all the distractions of having prom that night, though. I don't want to make any excuses or take anything away from Pickerington North because they're a very good team and they played well to beat us. I just wish we hadn't made so many mental errors because I think we could have given them a more competitive match."

The Patriots finished 10-11 last year after posting a combined record of 14-35 during their first three years. After getting out to a 6-4 start, they won 10 consecutive matches, beginning with a 25-20, 25-15, 25-8 decision over Westerville South on April 21 and ending with a 25-15, 18-25, 15-10 decision over Fairborn on May 8.

During the winning streak, Liberty beat Westerville North 25-16, 25-12, 25-13 on April 28 en route to tying North atop the OCC-Cardinal Division at 9-1.

The Patriots finished ninth in the final East Region coaches poll.

"We had a tremendous season," said Hale, who was the OCC-Cardinal Coach of the Year. "The kids were pumped to win the OCC because it was their goal from the start of the year and now they've earned a banner for our gym."

Liberty will lose five seniors including Tyler Conard (middle hitter), Cody Persinger (outside hitter), Steve Gress (defensive specialist), Matt Philbin (outside hitter) and Tyler Yazrombek (outside hitter).

Conard, who was the OCC-Cardinal Player of the Year and second-team all-region, set single-season program records for most kills (189) and most blocks (110). Persinger, who was first-team all-league and all-region, had 159 kills, 30 aces, 30 blocks, 19 digs and 11 assists. Gress had a single-season program-record 98 digs, Yazrombek had 62 blocks and Philbin had 21 blocks.

Potential returning starters are juniors Gentry Alverson (setter) and Aaron Capretta (outside-hitter).

Alverson, who was second-team all-league, had 204 assists and 16 aces.

Capretta, who was honorable mention all-league, had 108 kills, 25 aces, 25 blocks and 40 digs.

Other potential key returnees are juniors Mark Larsen (middle hitter) and T.J. Wagner (outside hitter) and sophomore Brandon Kready (outside hitter/setter).

Kready had 127 assists, Larsen had 33 kills and Wagner had 20 kills.

"Our seniors set the bar high with their leadership and how far they took our team," Hale said. "But we've got a good core coming back to build around, and we're hoping we can reach that bar next year."

At a glance

•Record: 17-8 overall, 9-1 (tied for first) in OCC-Cardinal

•Seniors lost: Tyler Conard, Steve Gress, Cody Persinger, Matt Philbin and Tyler Yazrombek

•Key returnees: Gentry Alverson and Aaron Capretta