With seven returning letterwinners, the Westerville North High School boys volleyball team expected nothing short of a winning season. It produced that winning season and won the OCC-Cardinal Division champ-ionship in the process.

With seven returning letterwinners, the Westerville North High School boys volleyball team expected nothing short of a winning season. It produced that winning season and won the OCC-Cardinal Division champ-ionship in the process.

"Everyone improved so much," said coach Vicky Phillips, whose team finished 13-7 overall after a 25-16, 25-12, 25-22 loss to Gahanna in the Division I tournament May 16. "The underclassmen really stepped up and went with the flow, but the loss in the tournament was really hard on our seniors because they wanted to win district."

Gahanna was a tough opponent with a dominant middle, but the regular season included a seven-game winning streak that concluded April 25 with a 25-21, 25-19 loss to Thomas Worthington.

North shared the league championship with Olentangy Liberty at 9-1, with Westerville Central fourth (4-6) and Westerville South sixth (1-9).

The Warriors will lose four seniors in Sam Kennedy, Brad Mason, Tony Tran and Alex Denmeade, but are expected to return two first-team all-league selections in sophomore Alex Kirkpatrick (setter) and junior Ben Taylor (outside hitter) along with freshman Evan McCoy, who was honorable mention all-league.

Kirkpatrick also was honorable mention all-region.

"Those guys are going to be the base of our rebuilding next year," Phillips said. "I know we've got six freshmen who are ready to step in. They were part of a junior varsity team that was 10-0 this year."

•At 12-13 overall, Central never was able to overcome its inexperience, but managed to reach a Division II regional semifinal before losing to to St. Charles 25-11, 25-4, 25-13 on May 20.

The Warhawks knocked off Dublin Jerome 17-25, 25-16, 25-17, 25-20 on May 16 in their tournament opener.

"I told this to the kids all season that we had tremendous potential with our talent, but a little bit of the youth and inexperience just kind of got to us," coach Josh Chiero said. "We're losing three seniors who were all first-year players, so we're still a growing team, which is good for us being a second-year program."

Central is expected to return junior outside-hitter Luke Meissner, who was first-team all-region and second-team all-league, and sophomore libero Bryan Wood, who was honorable mention all-league.

"Toward the end of the season we were looking our best," Chiero said. "I just hope the immaturity won't be an issue next year."

•South coach Chris Bielby's group also included a number of first-year players, but despite a record of 4-19 overall the Wildcats remained competitive in nearly every match.

"We had so many close matches, but even toward the end of the season we were still trying to figure out who fits best at what position," Bielby said. "We just tried to stay focused on the next match and didn't dwell on the outcomes."

South lost to Dublin Scioto 25-19, 25-13, 25-20 in the Division II tournament.

Junior Troy Burse, who was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-region, was one of the team's top talents along with seniors Wesley Bluvstein (second team all-league) and Jesse Hoffman (honorable mention all-league).

"Troy has the raw talent and desire to get better and he rose up to be the leader this year," Bielby said. "There were times in matches where he really got us together. He's playing with a club team this summer and will be key to our success next season."

At a glance

CENTRAL

•Record: 12-13 overall, 4-6 (fourth) in OCC-Cardinal

•Seniors lost: Jim Crum, Pablo Freitas and Andrew Slack

•Key returnees: Luke Meissner and Bryan Wood

NORTH

•Record: 13-7 overall, 9-1 (tied for first) in OCC-Cardinal

•Seniors lost: Alex Denmeade, Sam Kennedy, Brad Mason and Tony Tran

•Key returnees: Alex Kirkpatrick, Evan McCoy and Ben Taylor

SOUTH

•Record: 4-19 overall, 1-9 (sixth) in OCC-Cardinal

•Seniors lost: Justin Almodovar, Keng Acheabeng, Wesley Bluvstein, Michael Gillespie, Jesse Hoffmann, Sam Kamara and Rob Meyers.

•Key returnees: Khyrell Bagoo, Troy Burse, Michael Della Flora, Jamison Poore and R.J. Stevenson