For her team to upset top-seeded DeSales in a Division I district final, Olentangy Liberty High School girls volleyball coach Jen Chapman believed the Patriots needed to play their best match of the season and catch the Stallions on an off night.
Neither of those things happened Oct. 26 at Whitehall, as the Stallions cruised to a 25-17, 25-14, 25-13 victory over the 11th-seeded Patriots, who finished 17-8 overall.
"DeSales probably has one of the top players in the state (in University of Connecticut recruit Kenya Cason) and a very good supporting group in her teammates," Chapman said. "DeSales also served very tough and we did not handle that well.
"The final match was bittersweet. I was proud that the team made it there, but was sad to see our season end."
Liberty opened the district tournament by beating 17th-seeded Pickerington North 25-23, 25-16, 25-22 on Oct. 16 at home.
The Patriots then defeated 22nd-seeded Hilliard Darby 19-25, 8-25, 25-23, 26-24, 15-13 in a semifinal Oct. 23 at Whitehall. Senior opposite hitter Addie Nossaman and senior middle hitter Brooke Knollman each had eight kills, senior setter Ellie Schramm had 28 assists, sophomore defensive specialist Kristen Menges had 15 digs and freshman outside hitter Madison Brenner and sophomore opposite hitter Lauren Hofer each had 13 digs.
"In our match versus Darby, our team never gave up," Chapman said. "They all played with a lot of heart and I am very proud of them.
"I think we ended the season in a strong way."
The Patriots finished third (10-4) in the OCC-Central Division, behind Dublin Coffman (14-0) and Hilliard Davidson (12-2) and ahead of Marysville (7-7), Thomas Worthington (6-8), Westland (5-9), Central Crossing (1-13) and Upper Arlington (1-13).
Liberty loses two multiple-year starters in Knollman and Schramm.
Knollman had 215 kills and was first-team all-district and all-league. Schramm had 645 assists and 41 aces, and was honorable mention all-league.
Six key players are expected back in Brenner, junior Kristen Levering (opposite hitter) and sophomores Hofer, Haley Kelly (defensive specialist), Menges and Shelby Stewart (outside hitter).
Stewart was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, and Menges had a team-high 270 digs.
"I think our seniors had a great season and did a good job of leading the team all season," Chapman said. "We'll have a lot of returning players next year, so I am looking forward to another great season."
Braves fall in district semifinal
Eighth-seeded Olentangy was upset by 12th-seeded Dublin Scioto 25-21, 25-23, 25-14 in a Division I district semifinal Oct. 23 at Bloom-Carroll.
The Braves finished 20-5 overall.
"The match against Scioto was an unsatisfying end to a terrific season," coach Michelle Mimna said. "We played well in spurts, but couldn't sustain any kind of run against them.
"I really don't like to make excuses, but I know my young team was nervous and tense because we were making mistakes that we hadn't made all year. ... (Scioto) was the better team (that) night and they showed it in their composure and aggressiveness, whereas I felt we were passive and playing not to lose."
The Braves went 12-2 in the OCC-Capital to tie Worthington Kilbourne for the league title ahead of New Albany (10-4), Big Walnut (10-4), Mount Vernon (5-9), Orange (5-9), Delaware (2-12) and Franklin Heights (0-14).
Olentangy opened the district tournament by beating 20th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley 25-12, 18-25, 25-23, 25-21 in the second round Oct. 16 at home.
Mimna said she was especially proud her team played so well despite losing senior outside hitter Ganiru Anunike for the season because of a stress fracture in her left tibia. Anunike was first-team all-district last season.
"This team could have given up and accepted mediocrity when we lost Ganiru Anunike, but they rallied around her and played with her in mind," Mimna said. "We fought hard for all of our wins and none of them came easily, which gives this team a feeling of great pride about the year.
"This is the first conference championship and 20-win season since 2008, when we advanced to the regional finals. I am very proud of our girls and our staff this year."
The Braves lose two senior starters in setter Sarah Arango (508 assists) and middle hitter Kaitlin Kelley (40 blocks). Arango was first-team all-district and all-league, and Kelley was honorable mention all-league.
Six key players are expected to return in junior libero Makayla Kochheiser, sophomore outside hitter Madison Griffin, sophomore middle hitter Lauren Judge, sophomore opposite hitter Sammy Diamond, sophomore defensive specialist Zoe Miller and sophomore setter Kali Cahill.
Kochheiser (433 digs) was first-team all-league and Judge (50 blocks) was second-team all-league and all-district.
Diamond (194 kills) was special mention all-league. Griffin had a team-high 61 aces and 155 kills.
"We lose a great group of young ladies in our seniors and great leadership, so we will need players to step up and lead this team next year," Mimna said. "Sarah Arango never stepped off the court this year, ever, (and) played every second, so she will be difficult to replace.
"In 2014, we will return our leaders in every stat category, however, except assists. Judge, Griffin, Diamond and Miller are all back for two more years. Our seniors next year, (junior defensive specialist) Rachel Hand, (junior defensive specialist) Sam Jones and Kochheiser, all played significantly this year, too."
Pioneers' coach says 'future is bright'
After tying for fifth in the OCC-Capital, 25th-seeded Orange opened the Division I district tournament Oct. 15 with a 25-7, 25-17, 25-13 loss at 15th-seeded Gahanna to finish 7-16 overall.
"Our win-loss record was a little bit of a disappointment, but our players and coaches had a good time getting to know each other and working together this season," coach Ed Marsman said. "Halfway through the season, we lost two players who started for us and were big parts of our rotation in junior middle hitter Kyle Davidson (stress reaction in back) and sophomore outside hitter Jordan Gels (stress reaction in foot). But a lot of girls got varsity experience and that will help us in the future."
The Pioneers lose four seniors in opposite hitter Emylee Beougher, outside hitter Abby Fordham, middle hitter Mackenzie Gossard and opposite hitter Taylor Miller. Fordham was second-team all-league.
Seven key players are expected back in juniors Madeline Berlin (libero), Davidson, Amelia Dewey (setter), Payton Gabalis (setter) and Zahara Harrison (middle hitter) and sophomores Gels and opposite hitter Leah Howser.
Harrison was first-team all-league and second-team all-district.
"All of our seniors played a lot and did a good job," Marsman said. "But we have a lot of good athletes coming back and our j.v. team went 21-1 this fall, so I think our future is bright."