On the bus ride home from Hilliard Darby on Oct. 8, the Westerville Central High School girls volleyball team was given an unexpected reason to celebrate.
The two-time defending OCC-Cardinal Division champion Warhawks were expecting to settle for a runner-up finish in the league after getting swept by Hilliard Bradley in conference play.
But on the same night Central beat Darby 25-22, 25-12, 25-14, Bradley lost to Dublin Scioto 25-22, 25-11, 16-25, 28-26 and the teams moved into a first-place tie.
On Oct. 10, Bradley defeated Darby 25-16, 18-25, 25-22, 25-16 and the Warhawks beat Dublin Jerome 25-23, 25-17, 25-13 as the teams tied for the championship at 12-2. Scioto placed third at 11-3.
"It feels extremely rewarding for this group," coach Shaun Servick said. "After the Bradley loss we really thought, with having no control over our own destiny to win the title that we were just going to prepare for the tournament and improve as much as we can to try and win a district title. We knew it was possible, but we needed someone else to do our work for us. I'm really happy for (Scioto coach) Jackie (Helm) and the entire Scioto program for such a big win on their senior night, and they know they did us a big favor.
"We found out on the bus ride home from our match with Darby. Out of nowhere I heard a girl scream from the back of the bus, 'Scioto beat Bradley,' and the entire place erupted. ... It's a moment I won't soon forget. I texted Jackie to get confirmation and (when) she said, 'You're welcome,' I had to laugh."
Central entered the postseason at 19-3 overall. Seeded sixth for the Division I district tournament, it opened Oct. 15 against 42nd-seeded Delaware. If the Warhawks won, they played 39th-seeded Licking Heights on Oct. 16, with the winner to play in a district semifinal Oct. 24 at Bloom-Carroll against fifth-seeded Worthington Kilbourne or 44th-seeded Watkins Memorial.
According to Servick, top players of late have included sophomore Katie Myers (opposite hitter) and seniors Kelly Piper (setter) and Maddie Cline (libero).
Warriors battling through injuries
North received the 14th seed for the district tournament and opened Oct. 16 against 19th-seeded Marysville or 22nd-seeded Darby.
The winner of the second-round match will play 11th-seeded Olentangy Liberty or 17th-seeded Pickerington North in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 23, at Whitehall.
The district final is Oct. 26 at Whitehall.
North beat Westerville South 22-25, 25-12, 25-18, 25-6 on Oct. 10 to close the regular season at 13-6 overall and 9-5 in the OCC-Cardinal.
"We are battling through a lot," coach Aaron Hastings said. "Three of our starters are limited in practice due to injury and role players have come off the bench and filled in nicely."
Junior middle hitter Rebecca Skidmore averaged six kills per game during the regular season. She had a season-high 25 kills in a 22-25, 25-19, 16-25, 25-16, 15-9 win over Canal Winchester on Oct. 8.
Junior Halli Swiger (outside hitter) and senior Morgan Morris (defensive specialist) have been other standouts, according to Hastings.
South loses tourney opener to New Albany
South received the 26th seed for the district tournament and opened with a 25-19, 25-23, 25-23 loss Oct. 14 at 10th-seeded New Albany. The Wildcats finished 8-13 overall and 3-11 in the OCC-Cardinal.
"I (wish) we could have won a few more of our matches this year," coach John Nguyen said. "We had some go four (games) and some go five."
Seniors Madison Russell (middle hitter/outside hitter) and Sam Thune (outside hitter) were among the team's top players, according to Nguyen.