As an all-state player and a longtime assistant for a Worthington Kilbourne High School boys volleyball team that's won eight regional titles and an equal number of OCC championships, first-year coach Dickson Lao intends to take the program to the next level.

As an all-state player and a longtime assistant for a Worthington Kilbourne High School boys volleyball team that's won eight regional titles and an equal number of OCC championships, first-year coach Dickson Lao intends to take the program to the next level.

Not since 1992 has a team from central Ohio won a state championship.

"The expectation for this team isn't all that high around the state, but I think that plays to our advantage," said Lao, whose team faces Olentangy Liberty and Gahanna on Saturday. "We have the talent and size to compete, but we need to believe in ourselves that we can beat those (southwestern Ohio) schools."

Lao takes over for Glynda Rice, who stepped down following last season's finish at 16-10 overall.

Rice was 340-128 in 18 seasons.

The Wolves fell to Hilliard Darby 19-25, 25-16, 21-25, 21-25 in a Division I regional final. It shared the OCC-Ohio Division championship with Darby at 9-1, ahead of Hilliard Davidson (6-4), Dublin Coffman (4-6), Upper Arlington (2-8) and Thomas Worthington (01-10).

Just two seniors return to this year's group in outside hitters Colin Hackworth (6-foot-8) and Tim Wilson (6-0).

"I don't think you're going to find a better player in the state than Colin Hackworth," Lao said. "He's highly skilled and has a lot of experience. Tim is probably our best passer. He's a dependable hitter and blocker. He played libero last season."

While the two seniors will be the Wolves foundation, they must replace Jake Schick and Sam Johnson, who according to Lao, accounted for 80 percent of last season's offense.

Also gone are setter and outside hitter John Barry and middle blocker Ben Gentry, who were both first-team all-region and first-team all-league. Barry was second-team all-state and Gentry received honorable mention.

Kilbourne will rely on juniors Conner Peck (6-3, middle blocker) and Jacob Wood (6-2, setter), Andy Wickizer (6-4, middle blocker), Danny Zellar (6-1, outside hitter) and Hasan Ali (6-1, outside hitter) to fill those voids.

Lao expects Darby and Mount Vernon to be the teams to beat in the region.

"We've lost some guys, but our expectations remain the same," he said.

Thomas also will be led by a first-year coach and former player who must groom a team with little experience.

Todd Ebright graduated in 2004 and played for his father, Scott, a former coach at the school. He replaces Chris Manganello, who took over the program three years ago and left to take the boys job at Hilliard Bradley.

The Cardinals went 3-15 overall last season following a 25-14, 25-10, 25-9 loss to Kilbourne in the first round of the tournament.

"We'll basically be starting from scratch," Ebright said. "We have two seniors and two sophomores who've played volleyball, but we've lost a lot of returning players. It's going to be a lot of hard work, but I'm going to have a lot of these guys from start to finish."

Senior outside hitters Zach Weinrich and Michael Tung return from last year's team.

Sophomores Tate Grueling (middle hitter) and Ben Metersky (setter) also have some volleyball experience.

"We have four freshmen and four sophomores who I hope will stick with it," Ebright said. "I'm kind of hoping we can revitalize the program, but we certainly see this as a rebuilding year."


At a glance


THOMAS

Coach: Todd Ebright, first season Next game: April 12 at Westerville South Key players: Zach Weinrich

SCHEDULE

*March 30 at Hilliard Davidson *March 31 at Worthington Kilbourne April 12 at Westerville South *April 13 vs. Dublin Coffman *April 15 vs. Upper Arlington April 17 at Northmont *April 20 at Hilliard Darby *April 22 vs. Hilliard Davidson April 24 vs. DeSales, Watterson and Fairborn *April 27 vs. Kilbourne *April 29 at Dublin Coffman *May 4 at Upper Arlington *May 6 vs. Hilliard Darby May 10 vs. Westerville Central May 13 vs. Whetstone

*OCC-Ohio match


KILBOURNE

Coach: Dickson Loa, first season Next game: Saturday at Olentangy Liberty Key players: Hasan Ali, Colin Hackworth, Connor Peck, Tim Wilson, Andy Wickizer, Jacob Wood and Danny Zellar


SCHEDULE

*March 30 vs. Upper Arlington *March 31 vs. Thomas Worthington April 3 at Olentangy Liberty with Gahanna *April 6 vs. Hilliard Darby April 13 at Hilliard Bradley *April 15 vs. Dublin Coffman April 16-17 Wolf Open tournament *April 20 at Hilliard Davidson *April 22 at Upper Arlington April 24 at Pickerington North with Westerville Central *April 27 at Thomas Worthington *April 29 at Hilliard Darby May 1 vs. Cincinnati Elder with Stow *May 5 at Dublin Coffman *May 6 vs. Hilliard Davidson May 8 vs. Mount Vernon with Kettering Fairmont May 11 OCC Challenge

*OCC-Ohio match