The Worthington Kilbourne High School boys volleyball team knew its opponent all too well when it advanced to a Division I East Region semifinal.

The Worthington Kilbourne High School boys volleyball team knew its opponent all too well when it advanced to a Division I East Region semifinal.

Hilliard Darby, the top seed in the region, has been a longtime nemesis of the Wolves in the OCC, having won 11 consecutive league championships. Kilbourne had been beaten twice by the Panthers during the regular season, losing 25-18, 25-11, 25-12 on April 14 and 23-25, 25-11, 25-21, 25-15 on May 5.

Unfortunately for the Wolves, the result of their third match against Darby this season was the same as the first two, as Kilbourne lost 25-17, 25-9, 25-14 on May 18.

"I know our team went into that game thinking we had a chance, but we just didn't play very well," senior Connor Peck said.

"We really just didn't pass very well in that game."

Despite three losses to Darby, Kilbourne made a marked improvement from last season. A year after finishing 7-18 to finish with a losing record for just the third time in 19 years, the Wolves went 16-9 overall.

The Wolves opened the season with five consecutive victories.

"We had a pretty good season in that we beat the teams we were supposed to beat, but we really never had that defining moment," senior Jake Wood said. "I think the mental part of the game got to us and that was our downfall."

Kilbourne went 5-5 in the OCC-Ohio Division to tie Dublin Coffman for third, behind Darby (10-0) and Hilliard Davidson (8-2) and ahead of Upper Arlington (2-8) and Thomas Worthington (0-10).

"We were cautiously optimistic heading into the season, but I thought we could've done better," coach Dickson Lao said. "We got off to a fast start but struggled during the middle part of the season. But these guys never quit and continued to do so even in defeat."

Kilbourne was led by four seniors in Peck (middle blocker), Wood (setter), Andy Wickizer (middle blocker) and Alex Miller (outside hitter).

Wickizer was named first-team all-league and second-team all-region and Wood was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-region. Peck was second-team all-league and Miller was honorable mention all-league.

Expected to return are juniors Cody Kuepfer (outside hitter), Cole Kuepfer (setter) and Zach Tisdale (outside hitter) and sophomores Grant Hartman (outside hitter) and Alex Rayis (middle blocker).

•Second-year Thomas coach Todd Ebright expects to have a more confident and competitive team next season after watching the Cardinals finish 3-16 overall and 0-10 in the OCC-Ohio.

Thomas ended its season with a 25-14, 25-17, 25-18 loss to Pickerington North in the first round of the Division I East Region tournament on May 14.

"I think we're starting to come along as a program and some of the coaches were even complimenting us after games," Ebright said.

"Programs in the OCC-Ohio are well-established, so we know we're going to have some work to do to be competitive."

Junior setter Ben Metersky, sophomore defensive specialist Shane Barnovsky and junior outside hitter Kevin Sword improved their skills this season, Ebright said. Metersky was named honorable mention all-league.

The Cardinals lose only two seniors in middle blocker/outside hitter Donovan LaDuke and outside hitter Cole Miracle.

"I pulled some of the older guys at times this season and I think that really ignited some fires," Ebright said. "Hopefully that will only help us next season."