Senior outside hitter Brick Bankes knows the Pickerington High School Central boys volleyball team's match against visiting Pickerington North on Thursday, April 26, could be his last chance to experience a victory over the Panthers.

Senior outside hitter Brick Bankes knows the Pickerington High School Central boys volleyball team's match against visiting Pickerington North on Thursday, April 26, could be his last chance to experience a victory over the Panthers.

The Tigers have yet to beat the Panthers since the district split into two schools before the 2003-04 school year. Bankes and classmate Danny Clay are 0-7 against North, including a 25-15, 25-19, 25-12 loss to the Panthers on April 20.

There is a chance the teams could meet in the Division I East Region tournament next month."The main challenge playing North is we've never beaten them," Bankes said. "It just sort of lingers over the whole program.

"They're the monster we need to beat. Once we do it once, we're going to be able to do it consistently. (Until then) it's a hill we need to get over."

The hill doesn't appear as steep this year as it was last year when North went 16-10 overall and Central went 2-16. The Panthers, who lost five players last year to graduation, were 5-10 before playing Mount Vernon on April 24. The Tigers were 0-9 before playing Hilliard Bradley.

North coach Marci Truex said the Panthers, who returned four players from a year ago in seniors Scott Conway, Jimmy Martin and Evan Shvach and sophomore James Klamo, need to learn how to close out games and matches.

"We're pretty young, but they're learning how to step up and play roles that are needed to be played and learning how to be a team," Truex said. "They have to learn how to win. It's a matter of having confidence on how to be able to be that person who can make that play.

"Right now, we are taking the hard way of learning, but so many positives are coming out of that. We're developing some leadership and kids are becoming more confident in their skills."

Central also is young and inexperienced. Four players on its roster – sophomores Adam Davis, Corey Kovaleski and Jeff Wolfel and freshman Nat Mekonnen – had not played the sport at the high school level before this season.

"We're missing too many fundamentals, but they have a lot of heart and they work really hard," coach Luke Rininger said. "They seem to get along really well with each other and have good chemistry. Hopefully, that will continue to spread over the next few years."

The fact that Central and North face each other twice in less than a week presents its own challenges.

"The second time is about teaching them not to be overconfident," Truex said. "If they don't play with intensity that they need to win, they'll lose."

"I'd like a little more time to work on things, but I think the short time frame will benefit us more than it will benefit North," Rininger said. "We have more room to improve. Hopefully, we can improve a lot more than in that short timeframe."