The Olentangy Liberty High School boys volleyball team lost its two most dominant hitters to graduation in Tyler Conard and Cody Persinger.

The Olentangy Liberty High School boys volleyball team lost its two most dominant hitters to graduation in Tyler Conard and Cody Persinger.

Conard, who was the OCC-Cardinal Division Player of the Year and second-team all-region, set single-season program records for kills (189) and blocks (110) a year ago.

Persinger, a first-team all-league and all-region selection, had 159 kills, 30 aces, 30 blocks, 19 digs and 11 assists to help his squad finish 17-8 overall.

Yet, coach Dave Hale said the Patriots' biggest challenge will be replacing senior setter Gentry Alverson, who didn't return to the squad for personal reasons.

Alverson was second-team all-league and had 204 assists and 16 aces last year.

Liberty's other returning setter, junior Brandon Kready, is expected to miss at least the first week of the regular season recovering from a stress fracture in his back. Kready had 127 assists last season.

"The biggest thing we have to overcome is the loss of our setters, because it doesn't matter how good your hitters are if they aren't getting the ball," Hale said. "How quickly we develop players into that role will determine how well we do."

Senior outside hitter Aaron Capretta is Liberty's lone returning starter.

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

Rounding out the roster are seniors Wes Hall (setter), Nick Pecikonis (libero) and T.J. Wagner (outside hitter), juniors Stephen Berman (opposite hitter) and Kready (setter/outside hitter), and sophomores Nick Archer (middle hitter), Alec Charbonneau (outside hitter/setter), Phillip Cheesman (setter), Tyler Shirey (middle hitter) and Mitch Taylor (outside hitter).

Last season, Wagner had 20 kills.

"Aaron has worked hard to really improve his swing," Hale said. "We have a lot of good athletes, but some of them are completely untested. This first week of action will be a real eye-opener for our team."

Last year, the Patriots put together their first winning season, after posting a combined record of 24-46 during their first four years of varsity existence.

After getting out to a 6-4 start, the Patriots won 10 consecutive matches, beginning with a 25-20, 25-15, 25-8 victory over Westerville South and ending with a 25-15, 18-25, 15-10 win over Fairborn.

During the winning streak, Liberty beat Westerville North 25-16, 25-12, 25-13 en route to tying North atop the OCC-Cardinal Division with a 9-1 league mark.

The Patriots finished ninth in the final East Region coaches poll, but sixth-seeded Liberty lost to fifth-seeded Pickerington North 25-16, 25-14, 25-18 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.

"We're coming off the best season we ever had and it's far too early to tell how we'll do this season, because most of our kids will be playing new roles," said Hale, who was the OCC-Cardinal Coach of the Year in 2009. "We've just got to be prepared to play our best volleyball."

At a glance

•Coach: Dave Hale, sixth season

•Next match: Today at Westerville North

•Key players: Aaron Capretta and Brandon Kready

SCHEDULE

*March 30 vs. Westerville Central

*April 1 at Westerville North

*April 6 vs. Dublin Jerome

April 13 vs. Hilliard Davidson

April 14 vs. Delaware

*April 15 at Dublin Scioto

*April 20 vs. Westerville South

*April 22 at Westerville Central

April 24 at Hilliard Bradley

*April 27 vs. Westerville North

*April 29 at Dublin Jerome

*May 4 vs. Dublin Scioto

*May 6 at Westerville South

*OCC-Cardinal match