Winning a Division I district championship for the first time last season was a big deal for the Pickerington High School North girls volleyball team.

Winning a Division I district championship for the first time last season was a big deal for the Pickerington High School North girls volleyball team.

That isn't to say that a repeat wouldn't be equally special. The five-time defending OCC-Ohio Division champion Panthers, who are riding a 25-match winning streak, are just two wins away from accomplishing that feat.

They'll face Central Crossing in a district semifinal today at Licking Heights. The winner plays in a district final Saturday against fifth-seeded Thomas Worthington or seventh-seeded Westerville North.

"We want to win another one," senior Jordan Householder said after the Panthers beat Groveport 25-4, 25-3, 25-10 in the first round Oct. 19 at Hamilton Township. "Last year was great, definitely, and we'll always remember that first one. But our goal is to make it farther (in the postseason) this year and we've got to win the district to do that."

Householder has been doing her part. A 6-foot-1 middle hitter, she's entertaining college offers but likely will put off a decision until the season is over. She's already visited Miami (Ohio) and is planning trips to Buffalo, Robert Morris and Ohio Wesleyan. She said a decision ultimately hinges on finding the right fit academically, too. She's interested in studying bio-medical engineering.

"She's very athletic, first off," coach Kris Kern said of Householder. "She's one of the few players we have who play all the way around offensively and defensively. For being 6-1, she's plays very well in the back row. We're fortunate to have her."

The Panthers beat Hilliard Davidson 25-17, 25-12, 25-14 to win their first district title a year ago before losing to Dublin Coffman in a regional semifinal.

They did not play Central Crossing during the regular season. They also didn't play Thomas Worthington or Westerville North.

The Cardinals, however, were the last team to defeat North in league play by prevailing in five games back on Oct. 17, 2007, when both were members of the OCC-Central. The Panthers are a combined 69-1 in league play over the past five seasons, which includes a perfect run through the OCC-Ohio this year.

Central Crossing advanced by defeating Lancaster 18-25, 25-21, 21-25, 25-23, 15-13 in a second-round match last Saturday.

•Central hadn't beaten Lancaster in at least 13 years according to coach Jesse Barr. But after losing to Lancaster in four games in both regular-season meetings on Aug. 30 and Sept. 23, the Tigers weren't afraid to go after the Gales in the postseason. Barr picked that line when she attended the draw meeting nearly three weeks ago, after all.

The Tigers even forced a deciding fifth game this time before finally succumbing 25-20, 25-15, 23-25, 20-25, 15-6 in a Division I first-round tournament match on Oct. 20 at Columbus East.

"We're working on changing the mentality of the program," said Barr, whose team finished the season 6-17 overall. "These girls are starting to realize they can compete with anyone.

"We lost a lot of close matches this year and the girls would think, 'Man if we just had another shot at them.' Next year hopefully we can get over that hump and start winning those matches."

The Tigers went 4-10 to place sixth in the OCC-Ohio Division behind Pickerington North (14-0), Grove City (11-3), Newark (10-4), Gahanna (8-6) and Lancaster (7-7). They finished ahead of Reynoldsburg (2-12) and Groveport (0-14).

Central will have to find replacements for seniors Emily Hannahs and Jalisa Jarrett at outside hitters, Morgan Thompson at setter, Hannah Walters at middle hitter, Laura Bender at libero and Alexis Steward at right-side hitter.

"Those girls were the foundation of the program," Barr said. "They've been a really tight group of seniors and have been the leaders in changing Pickerington Central."

The Tigers will rebuild their program around juniors Kasi Payne (right-side hitter/outside hitter), Christina Bass (setter/right-side hitter), Lisa Cordova (libero) and Erika Ross (middle hitter) and sophomore Alexis Newsome (middle hitter).

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Central and North girls volleyball teams:

CENTRAL

*Oct 12 — Lost to Grove City 25-17, 25-22, 25-16

*Oct. 14 — Defeated Reynoldsburg

Oct. 20 — Lost to Lancaster 25-20, 25-15, 23-25, 20-25, 15-6 in first round of Division I district tournament

Of note: The Tigers finished 6-16 overall and 4-10 (sixth) in OCC-Ohio.

NORTH

*Oct. 12 — Def. Newark 25-27, 25-19, 25-21, 25-21

*Oct. 14 — Def. Grove City 25-17, 25-14, 25-18. The Panthers finished first at 14-0 in OCC-Ohio for their fifth consecutive league title.

Oct. 16 — Def. Olentangy Liberty 25-13, 25-17; def. Big Walnut 25-22, 25-18, def. Ready 25-16, 25-21

Oct. 19 — Def. Groveport 25-4, 25-3, 25-10 in first round of Division I district tournament

Last Saturday — Def. Westerville South 25-6, 25-12, 25-20 in second round

Today — At Licking Heights (6 p.m.) vs. Central Crossing in district semifinal. Winner will play fifth-seeded Thomas Worthington or seventh-seeded Westerville North in district final at 3 p.m. Saturday at Licking Heights. The district champion will play regional semifinal Nov. 4 at Hilliard Davidson.

Of note: The Panthers are 25-1 overall and haven't lost since the season-opening match on Aug. 28 against Rocky River Magnificat.

*OCC-Ohio match

At a glance

CENTRAL

•Record: 6-17 overall, 4-10 (sixth) in OCC-Ohio

•Seniors lost: Laura Bender, Emily Hannahs, Jalisa Jarrett, Alexis Steward, Morgan Thompson and Hannah Walters

•Key returnees: Christina Bass, Alexis Newsome and Kasi Payne