Central program reaches next level
The progression of the Westerville Central High School girls volleyball team into one of central Ohio's premier programs continued this fall.
After earning five league and two district runner-up finishes during their first eight seasons, the Warhawks won their first league championship and were district semifinalists a year ago.
Central easily defended its league title this season and has won 29 consecutive OCC-Cardinal Division matches, and it captured its first district title this fall as well.
The third-seeded Warhawks beat Gahanna 25-18, 25-23, 25-20 in a district final Oct. 27 at Big Walnut but lost to Pickerington North 25-15, 25-23, 25-8 in a regional semifinal Nov. 1 at Hilliard Davidson.
Central's 23-3 record was a program best.
"We can't do it all in one year," senior Brooklyn Zalokar said. "We won district for the first time this year and we wish we could have done better, but we just started making mental mistakes (against Pickerington North). I think that it was us (that caused the tournament loss)."
Central had won 20 consecutive matches before playing Pickerington North, including 15-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-23 over the Panthers on Sept. 24 in a non-league match.
During the rematch, the Warhawks led 16-12 in the second game before North came back to tie it at 21.
In the third game, North scored the first four points and the Warhawks quickly fell behind by double digits.
"They've got a team of all seniors who have won a district title (every year since 2009)," coach Shaun Servick said. "I think they were much more emotionally prepared. We were very jittery and it showed in our serving and our serve-receive. The emotions of the moment kind of caught us. For as many seniors as we have, we looked like we were new to the show, and we were."
Central went 14-0 to win the OCC-Cardinal ahead of Hilliard Bradley (11-3), Worthington Kilbourne (9-5), Dublin Scioto, Hilliard Darby and Westerville North (5-9 each), Dublin Jerome (4-10) and Westerville South (3-11).
In the postseason, the Warhawks beat Briggs 25-12, 25-11, 25-9 on Oct. 18 in the second round and Grove City 26-24, 25-14, 24-26, 23-25, 15-11 on Oct. 25 at Big Walnut in a district semifinal.
That set up a rematch with Gahanna, which handed Central a 25-18, 25-17 loss Aug. 25.
The Warhawks' only other loss came Sept. 1 to Centerville (25-19, 25-23, 25-18).
Zalokar was a special mention all-league selection who was one of seven seniors. Other key seniors were Adrienne Agee, Haley Kindall, Jayla McCrary and Megan Mills.
Agee was the OCC-Cardinal Player of the Year and first-team all-district. McCrary was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, and Kindall was first-team all-district and second-team all-league.
Mills was honorable mention all-league and played the regional semifinal with a broken hand, according to Servick.
Juniors Kelly Piper and Maddie Cline and freshman Katie Myers are among the key players eligible to return.
"This was our first year winning a district championship and it was really cool for us to get that," Piper said. "I'm just going to miss everyone. It'll be hard."
"The reality is that this was a group that left a mark on the program," Servick said. "Agee has about 15 hitting records in school history and this group is the greatest team in school history. Right now it hurts, especially for the seven seniors."