Young North team skilled, inexperienced
One of these seasons, Pickerington High School North boys volleyball coach Marci Truex will fill out a senior-laden roster.
After losing three seniors from last year's team that went 7-17 overall and 4-6 in the OCC-Capital Division, the Panthers have one this year in middle hitter/outside hitter Donald Sisco to go with six juniors, one sophomore and one freshman.
"We've been young," said Truex, who is in her 10th season. "We're young and inexperienced, but the skill level will be there. It'll take a little time with some development, but we'll be OK."
The Panthers opened by going 2-1 in a home quad March 30, defeating Dublin Coffman 25-23, 23-25, 25-16 and Dublin Scioto 26-24, 25-20 before losing to West Chester Lakota West 25-15, 25-12.
North opened league play with a 25-18, 25-22, 25-21 win over Olentangy on April 2 and lost to Mount Vernon 25-19, 25-14, 25-16 in a league match April 4. The Panthers then lost to DeSales 25-15, 25-21, 25-16 on April 5 and defeated Worthington Kilbourne 14-25, 25-18, 25-15, 25-21 on April 6.
Sisco, who will switch between middle and outside hitter based on team needs and matchups, is joined by juniors Brennan Ayers (libero), Matt Bernstein (outside hitter), Karch Holland (defensive specialist), Charlie Keller (middle hitter), James Klamo (setter) and Zach Sandhofer (middle hitter), sophomore Mitchell Ruehle (outside hitter) and freshman Dejon Clark (setter).
Bernstein, Klamo and Sisco are returning starters. Ayers did not start last year but earned a letter. Klamo was second-team all-league last year.
"There are some aspects where I wish we were further along, but we're on pace," Truex said. "The thing I really like is they are a team. They like each other. They hang out. That bond is good. The fact that they have each other's backs off the court as well as on is a good thing. It helps getting through those growing pains where you don't know what's going to go on at any given moment."
North was fourth in the OCC-Capital last year behind Gahanna (10-0), Hilliard Bradley (8-2) and Mount Vernon (6-4) and ahead of Delaware (2-8) and Pickerington Central (0-10). Bradley has moved to the OCC-Ohio and was replaced by Olentangy.
Seeded ninth in the Division I East Region tournament, the Panthers lost to seventh-seeded Westerville North 25-17, 25-7, 25-14 in the first round.
North's losses to graduation were Scott Conway (middle hitter/outside hitter), Jimmy Martin (outside hitter/setter) and Evan Shvach (outside hitter). Shvach was first-team all-league and second-team all-region.
Tigers earn first win in two years
Central's players spent little time celebrating a 30-28, 25-17, 25-18 win over Delaware in their home and OCC-Capital opener April 2, but second-year coach Luke Rininger knew its significance.
Not only was it the Tigers' first win of the season, but it was their first since 2011. For a team that had only 10 players come out this year, Rininger feels it was an especially big step.
"The big thing was their confidence," he said. "As that increased and they knew they could win, they started playing like they knew how to play."
Senior Scott Hungerman (middle hitter) and juniors Adam Davis (defensive specialist), Corey Kovaleski (setter), Brandon Stone (libero) and Jeff Wolfel (middle hitter) return from last year's team that went 0-14 overall. Seeded 15th for the Division I East Region tournament, the Tigers lost to second-seeded Gahanna 25-7, 25-17, 25-11 in the first round.
New to this year's team are five first-year players in sophomore Josh Weilbacher (outside hitter) and freshmen Donald Backus (outside hitter), Mikey Isaac (back row), Matt Lashley (back row) and Austin Walker (back row).
Hungerman was the Tigers' offensive Player of the Year in 2012.
"We tried to recruit kids in the school, but we're losing them to baseball, lacrosse, track and tennis," Rininger said. "They lack experience, but they make up for it in determination. They work really hard. They don't complain about conditioning and ask questions. They're very coachable."
Central opened with a 25-17, 25-13, 25-20 loss at Coffman on April 1 and lost a league match at Olentangy 25-17, 25-19, 21-25, 25-16 on April 4.