Olentangy Liberty High School boys volleyball coach Dave Hale typically has dedicated a significant amount of time to teaching fundamental skills and basic strategies, because his team always has relied on first-year players to cover key positions.

Olentangy Liberty High School boys volleyball coach Dave Hale typically has dedicated a significant amount of time to teaching fundamental skills and basic strategies, because his team always has relied on first-year players to cover key positions.

However, with five players with starting experience back in the lineup, Hale said the Patriots have picked up right where they left off last sea-son, when they finished 7-13 overall after losing to Mount Vernon 25-13, 25-12, 25-15 in a Division I regional semifinal.

"In the past, we've always had to fill in with a handful of first-year players and teach them the game from the very beginning," said Hale, who is in his seventh season as coach. "This year, we haven't had to spend nearly as much time working on basic fundamentals and figuring out who will play in what spot. We're further ahead of where we're usually at during this part of the season, and we've already been able to run plays that we couldn't run with guys who are still learning the basics of the game."

The returning starters are senior Brandon Kready (6-foot-2 setter/outside hitter) and juniors Nick Archer (6-7 middle hitter), Alec Charbonneau (6-2 outside hitter/setter), Phillip Cheesman (6-3 outside hitter) and Tyler Shirey (6-6 middle hitter).

Kready (159 assists) and Shirey (79 blocks) were second-team all-OCC-Cardinal Division selections a year ago.

Archer had 102 kills and 67 blocks, Charbonneau had 72 assists and 42 kills and Cheesman had 66 kills and 47 assists.

Junior Adam Pickard is a first-year starter at libero.

Rounding out the roster are senior Stephen Berman (opposite hitter) and juniors Cole Alverson (libero), Ryan Jesse (outside hitter), Mitch Taylor (opposite hitter) and Chase Wagner (opposite hitter).

"We had 30 guys try out and I think that's the most we've ever had," said Hale, whose team opened March 29 with a league match against Dublin Scioto. "We've got more size than most teams, too."

Last year, the Patriots tied Dublin Jerome for fourth in the OCC-Cardinal at 4-6, behind Westerville North (8-2), Scioto (7-3) and Westerville Central (7-3) and ahead of Westerville South (0-10).

Liberty beat Delaware 23-25, 25-21, 19-25, 25-16, 15-3 in its tournament opener before losing to top-seeded Mount Vernon.

"I think we have a really good shot at winning the OCC because of the experience and size that we have," Kready said. "I hope we can stay above .500 to get good placement in the tournament, because I think we can win some tournament games if we don't run into a tough team like Mount Vernon too early."