The Pickerington High School North girls volleyball team believes it has some unfinished business to attend to Thursday, Nov. 1.
The Panthers will play Westerville Central in a Division I regional semifinal at 7:30 p.m. at Hilliard Davidson.
North enters the match 25-1, with the loss coming to the Warhawks 15-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-23 on Sept. 24. Central is 23-2.
"We've heard everyone talking about how they beat us once and are dominating now, so they should beat us again," coach Kris Kern said. "They're the heavy favorite from everything we've heard. They're tall, their athletic and they have a district co-Player of the Year with Adrienne Agee, along with Newark's Annie Thomasson. We have two (AAU) All-American setters (Val Jeffery and Megan Giardina) who, I guess, aren't good enough in the district.
"So we'll just limp in there, give it our best shot and see what happens."
The Panthers also had mixed feelings about the Warhawks' celebration after the regular-season match.
"It was like they won the World Series or Super Bowl or something," Kern said. "I can respect that. They beat a good program. But if we split with them, this is the one that matters. The stakes are much higher. The other was a non-league, regular-season match on a Monday. They played well and they beat us. It happens.
"But our seniors are 99-9 in their careers. They haven't had just one good season. They never lost an OCC match and never lost a district match. We have regional experience and (the Warhawks) don't, and I'm hoping that will make a difference."
The winner will play Dublin Coffman (22-3) or Massillon Jackson (25-1) for the regional title at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at Davidson.
The Panthers have not faced either this season, although they rallied to beat Coffman 22-25, 16-25, 25-14, 26-24, 15-12 in a regional semifinal last season before losing to Findlay 17-25, 25-23, 20-25, 26-24, 15-9 to finish 26-2.
"That was a crazy match against Coffman last year," Kern said. "Although we haven't played them this year, we've scouted all the teams and they've scouted us. In fact, (Coffman coach Mary Anne Souder) should've just ridden with us the past month and saved some gas money. We respect them tremendously. They're a lot like us. They replace talent every year and the program just turns it over and continues to excel."
Jackson was third in the final state coaches poll behind top-ranked Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame and Toledo St. Ursula Academy.
North was ranked fifth, Coffman was eight h and Westerville Central was 13th.
The other business North would like to address is reaching the state tournament for the first time. The regional champion plays in a state semifinal Nov. 8 at Wright State.
"Whoever comes out of our regional will be tested and ready for state," Kern said. "We'd like to get there for the first time. But our regional has four of the (strongest) teams in the state. It's a monster regional. Jackson has two incredible hitters, Coffman has a great defense, libero and setter and Westerville Central has the (district) Player of the Year."
The Panthers advanced to the regional by beating fourth-seeded Olentangy Liberty 25-23, 25-17, 25-20 in a district final Oct. 27 at Big Walnut. North, the No. 2 seed, also defeated 10th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne 25-21 25-14, 25-17 in a district semifinal Oct. 23.
"Rachel Mick really had a great night hitting against Liberty," Kern said. "That's what we need right now. Everyone knows about our top two or three players, but when we have others step up and raise their level of play, that can make an impact. That can go a long way in determining how things finish. If that happens and our opponent hasn't seen that or scouted that, or tried to find a way to stop that, that makes us even more difficult to beat."