Westerville Central earns first district championship
The Westerville Central High School girls volleyball team understands the value of avenging a loss when the opportunity arises.
In a Division I district final Oct. 27 at Big Walnut, the third-seeded Warhawks succeeded in that situation by beating sixth-seeded Gahanna 25-18, 25-23, 25-20.
They'll be on the other side of the equation at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, when they face Pickerington North in a regional semifinal at Hilliard Davidson.
One of Central's two losses this season came to Gahanna (25-18, 25-17 on Aug. 25), but it also was the only team to beat Pickerington North (15-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-23 on Sept. 24).
"(Losing to Gahanna earlier) kind of lit a fire in us," senior Adrienne Agee said.
"It'll be a rematch of two teams that know each other," coach Shaun Servick said of the match against Pickerington North. "We played in the summer four times and our girls and their girls play club together. I don't think there will be any secrets. It'll be two very good volleyball teams, and both teams think this is their shot to make it to the final four. All three central Ohio teams think that this year."
Central is 23-2 and competing in the regional tournament for the first time.
The Warhawks beat Grove City 26-24, 25-14, 24-26, 23-25, 15-11 in a district semifinal Oct. 25 at Big Walnut to set up the rematch with Gahanna.
Pickerington North improved to 25-1 by beating Olentangy Liberty 25-23, 25-17, 25-20 on Oct. 27 in a district final. North has lost just three games since its match against the Warhawks.
The other regional semifinal features Dublin Coffman against Massillon Jackson at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, at Davidson.
The regional semifinal winners meet at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at Davidson, with the winner advancing to a state semifinal Nov. 8 at Wright State.
Coffman beat Hilliard Bradley 23-25, 25-16, 25-16, 25-12 in a district final Oct. 27 at Big Walnut to improve to 22-3 and was the district's No. 1 seed. Jackson defeated Uniontown Lake 25-13, 25-13, 25-20 on Oct. 25 in a district final and is 25-1.
Pickerington North is led by junior setter Megan Giardina, junior setter Val Jeffery and 6-foot-1 sophomore Jessie Wachtman.
Agee, senior middle hitter Jayla McCrary and senior setter Megan Mills led the way for Central in its district final.
The Warhawks fell behind 9-4 in the first game and also trailed early in the third game before recovering to win.
"It feels great," McCrary said. "I loved the atmosphere. Our passing got a lot better throughout the match."
"I think we just need to approach (the rematch against Pickerington North) the same way we approached (the district final)," Agee said. "This time they want it really bad and we have to come out strong."
North hoping to build on second half
North lost six of its first seven matches but went 6-2 over its next eight on the way to a 9-12 finish.
The Warriors went 5-9 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to tie Hilliard Darby and Dublin Scioto for fourth behind Westerville Central (14-0), Bradley (11-3) and Worthington Kilbourne (9-5) and ahead of Dublin Jerome (4-10) and Westerville South (3-11).
"Starting out 1-6 hurt us," said Aaron Hastings, who returned as coach after leading the program from 2008-10. "Once we found our rhythm, we had some injuries, but over the last week or two we started playing our best. We've got a lot of young talent coming up."
The Warriors opened the Division I district tournament with a 25-19, 25-12, 25-16 win over Logan on Oct. 15 but lost to seventh-seeded Olentangy 11-25, 25-22, 25-20, 28-26 on Oct. 17 in the second round.
"We were only seeded 20th, so we had to go out to Logan, and that was the best match we played all year," Hastings said.
North loses eight seniors, including second-team all-league selection Jenna Nichols and second-team all-district selection Lindsay Miller. Nichols was honorable mention all-district and senior Elizabeth Toscano was honorable mention all-league.
Sophomores Rebecca Skidmore (middle hitter) and Natalia Szwabinsky (setter) were among the team's top underclassmen.
South doubles 2011 win total
After going 4-15 a year ago, South improved to 8-14 overall under first-year coach John Nguyen.
The Wildcats had won 13 matches over the past four years.
"We're pretty happy about the season," said Nguyen, who also is Central's boys volleyball coach. "We finally had some structure in the whole program and they all worked pretty hard. The seniors wanted to go out on a positive note. I told them I'd like to see you go out a lot better than when you came into the program."
The Wildcats lose six seniors in Cierra Carter, April Cunningham, Jenna Rano, Leah Ross, Abbey Sadler and Kaylynn Stanton.
Junior Madison Russell was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, and junior Taylor Smith was honorable mention all-league.
South lost its Division I district tournament opener to Darby 25-14, 25-10, 20-25, 25-17 on Oct. 15.
"I expect the girls to even play harder and better next year," Nguyen said. "When your record is 13 and something over the last four years combined, skills take time. Next year we should be a lot better than we were this year. We played in a lot of close matches this year, and for the first time in a long time we won on our senior night (12-25, 26-24, 25-22, 23-25, 15-7 over Jerome on Oct. 9)."