As coach Marci Truex expected, it was a learning year for the Pickerington High School North boys volleyball team.

As coach Marci Truex expected, it was a learning year for the Pickerington High School North boys volleyball team.

The Panthers, who had reached a regional final in 2005 and 2006 and a regional semifinal last season, lost in the first round of the Division I regional this season, falling to Gahanna 20-25, 25-14, 20-25, 28-26, 15-10 on May 17. The Panthers had beaten Gahanna 25-19, 25-20, 18-25, 26-24 on May 9, and Truex chose to face Gahanna again in the regional rather than take a bye and likely play Hilliard Darby or Worthington Kilbourne -- both eventual regional champions -- in a regional semifinal.

The Panthers finished 11-14 overall.

On paper, it was a down year for North, but Truex hopes that the considerable experience her team gained can push it over the hump next season.

"Definitely (we'd like to win) an OCC title, and then I'd like to get to state," Truex said. "That's my personal goal, and I imagine it's the boys' as well. We at the very least need to get back to the regional final. We haven't been there since 2006."

In the OCC-Cardinal Division, the Panthers wound up third at 6-4 behind Hilliard Davidson (10-0) and Kilbourne (8-2) and ahead of Dublin Scioto (6-4), Westerville North (2-8) and Westerville South (0-10).

Next season, the Panthers return nearly their entire lineup, giving Truex hope that they might be able to win a league title and reach the state tournament for the first time. The Panthers will lose only one senior in middle-hitter Michael Reed, who lettered just once but made significant contributions and generally played mistake-free, according to Truex.

Next season, the Panthers will rely primarily on a group of two-year letterwinners, including junior setter Anthony Evans, who has started for the past two seasons. Junior libero Brock Martin and junior right-side Spencer Teeters are two-year letterwinners and provided consistent play this year. Sophomore outside-hitter Kyle Hopkinson, who had limited varsity experience as a freshman, locked down the starting spot this year and showed tremendous improvement.

Freshman Ben Schneider started at middle hitter and should be a cornerstone for the Panthers over the next few years.

Others expected back include sophomore Andrew Winslow (outside hitter), freshman Jesse Fausnaugh (outside hitter), freshman Sam Lambert (outside hitter), junior Chris Kerschner (defensive specialist) and junior Eric Lott (defensive specialist).

•An undermanned Central couldn't pull off an upset of Davidson in the first round of the Division I regional , falling 25-12, 25-13, 25-19 on May 17 to finish 10-15 overall.

The Tigers were 10-14 last season, but fifth-year coach Corrie Feldmann believes his program took some steps forward.

"Well, the record doesn't look good, but compared to the last couple years, we've been constantly getting better and that's definitely a positive," he said.

The Tigers were without junior outside-hitter Nick Eley and middle-hitter Bryce Vanderneit for the Davidson match, which forced Feldmann to test out a few atypical lineups. Senior Alec Gonzalez stepped in some at outside hitter along with senior Neil Bodner. Sophomore Jacob Abarno, normally an outside hitter, moved in to the middle. The Tigers were overmatched by Davidson, which improved to 20-4.

In the OCC-Capital, the Tigers finished fifth at 3-7 behind Mount Vernon (10-0), Dublin Jerome (8-2), Westerville Central (5-5) and Olentangy Liberty (4-6) and ahead of Delaware (0-10).

Central will lose four seniors, including two four-year starters. Setter Brad Eley and middle-hitter Tom VanDuyn have been key figures since their freshman seasons.

"Brad and Tom, they've been the cornerstones," Feldmann said. "It's going to be sad to see them go. They've been the cornerstones for us ever since they were freshmen."

The Tigers also will lose Bodner and Gonzalez, both of whom contributed the past two seasons. Bodner played on the junior varsity as a sophomore after transferring from Reynoldsburg, and Gonzalez just began playing volleyball last year.

The Tigers expect to return a modest amount of experience, led by sophomore Nick Eley, a two-year letterwinner who moved from libero to outside hitter early this season, and Feldmann said he's really capable of playing any position. Feldmann said he also expects to rely heavily on junior middle-hitter Rick Hurban, who just began playing this spring.

The Tigers also could return letterwinners Vanderneit (junior middle hitter), Abarno (sophomore middle hitter), Cory Long (sophomore libero) and Dean Marco (sophomore defensive specialist/outside hitter).

At a glance


•Record: 10-15 overall, 3-7 (fifth) in OCC-Capital

•Seniors lost: Neil Bodner, Brad Eley, Alec Gonzalez and Tom VanDuyn

•Key returnees: Nick Eley and Rick Hurban


•Record: 11-14 overall, 6-4 (third) in OCC-Cardinal

•Senior lost: Michael Reed

•Key returnees: Anthony Evans, Kyle Hopkinson, Brock Martin, Ben Schneider and Spencer Teeters