Pickerington High School Central girls volleyball coach Aubrie Perry sees occasional flashes of what she thinks her team can do on a full-time basis.
But according to Perry, the difference between the Tigers' performances in their wins against their losses was simple.
"Teamwork," said Perry, whose team was 3-6 overall before playing Reynoldsburg on Sept. 24. "If we have it, if everyone's on, we can be awesome. When we don't talk, when we don't help each other, when we get down and start yelling at each other, that's when it's not good."
Entering the week, Central's wins were against OCC-Ohio Division foes Reynoldsburg (25-23, 13-25, 25-21, 25-23 on Aug. 29) and Groveport (21-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-18 on Sept. 12). The Tigers had three-game losses against league foes Pickerington North (25-23, 25-16, 25-22 on Sept. 3), Grove City (25-15, 25-19, 25-15 on Sept. 5), Gahanna (25-16, 25-14, 25-15 on Sept. 17) and Lancaster (25-8, 25-10, 25-19 on Sept. 19), and took usual league power Newark to four games in a 25-19, 25-13, 22-25, 25-11 loss Sept. 10.
The Tigers have been led by 6-foot-1 senior middle hitter Adelia Manley, who Perry said had perhaps her best match against Gahanna because of an increased emphasis on touches and blocks. Junior outside hitter Edwina Barrett spends most of her playing time diving at balls and saving points for Manley and the Tigers' hitters, including 6-1 sophomore Kennedi Jones and sophomore Kaylee Utterback.
"She's clearly my all-out player," Perry said of Barrett, who shares captain duties with Manley. "She's an athlete. She can put the ball down. She can keep her teammates up."
Central, which entered the week 2-6 in the OCC-Ohio, plays host to Pickerington North in a rematch Thursday, Sept. 26. The Tigers go outside the OCC-Ohio on Saturday, Sept. 28, in the Dublin Scioto Invitational, providing different tests for a roster that includes six sophomores and three juniors. Manley is the only senior.
"I'm not counting this year out by any means (by) saying that we have a young team," Perry said. "There will be spurts of two and three girls stepping up, but they're not putting it all together. They're not playing their game 100 percent of the time, which is what I've asked. I ask them to give 100 percent of their ability for the two hours they're here, and that doesn't always happen."
Panthers preparing for litmus test
Still hanging in the OCC-Ohio title race entering the week, North began a big week Sept. 24 at Lancaster and will end it in the Northeast Ohio Power Volleyball Tournament on Saturday, Sept. 28, and Sunday, Sept. 29, at Mentor.
The Panthers were 6-3 overall and 6-2 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Lancaster, which ended North's 87-match conference winning streak with a 25-20, 31-29, 25-21 win Aug. 29. North's other league loss was 25-20, 25-15, 25-22 to Grove City on Sept. 17. The Greyhounds entered the week 8-0 in the OCC-Ohio, followed by Lancaster (7-1) and the Panthers.
"We're starting to get into a rhythm," said coach Kari Lennon, who added senior middle hitter Jessie Wachtman is seeing more time as a setter in the back row as the Panthers adjust their offensive approach. "Our goal is to get to that 5-1 (offense), and until everyone is at that level, that's what we're working through right now."
Sophomore Sydney James has seen considerable time as a setter. Others who have settled into roles include junior outside hitter Bethany Martini and sophomore outside hitters Kayla Bafia, Deja Clark, Grace Gibson and Taylor Tincher. Clark also plays middle hitter, and Gibson also is a defensive specialist.
The Power Volleyball Tournament field also includes three of last year's Division I state tournament participants in champion Cincinnati Ursuline Academy, runner-up Massillon Jackson and Kenston. Ursuline Academy was third in Division I in last week's Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association state poll, and Jackson was seventh.
"No matter the outcome, it's going to be a great playing experience and great opportunity for the girls," Lennon said.
"It'll be an eye-opener for them to see how some of those established programs continue to play and how they operate at that level of competition. It will give us a great measuring stick -- where are we and are we on target with working on what we need to work on going into the (district) tournament?"