Worthington Kilbourne High School girls volleyball coach Meladee Hopkins is becoming a better motivational speaker than she'd like.

Worthington Kilbourne High School girls volleyball coach Meladee Hopkins is becoming a better motivational speaker than she'd like.

Halfway through the season, the Wolves still are trying to find consistency and, when they get behind, tend to get down on themselves. Despite her team being 7-6 overall and 4-4 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Upper Arlington on Sept. 27, Hopkins has pulled her hair more than a few times trying to figure out the right words to kick-start a run toward the postseason.

"It's just the group I have," Hopkins said. "We definitely have the talent. If we have a good game, we're on cloud nine. If we make some mistakes, it's hard for us to pull out of that. We don't have that confidence in ourselves, although we should. It's not that we don't have the capabilities."

The Wolves rebounded from a 1-4 week in which they lost to Central Crossing (25-21, 17-25, 25-20, 25-14 on Sept. 13), Dublin Coffman (25-9, 25-22, 25-17 on Sept. 15) and Frankfort Adena (25-22, 25-18) and Grove City (13-25, 25-19, 25-16) on Sept. 17 in the Kilbourne Invitational to defeat Thomas Worthington (25-23, 25-17, 23-25, 26-24 on Sept. 20) and Hilliard Darby (25-14, 25-20, 23-25, 25-17 on Sept. 22).

"We led Coffman in the second set 22-20, then they caught up," Hopkins said. "We led them in the third game, too, and couldn't pass to save our lives. We have the ability to win when we come out and perform."

A few vocal leaders have emerged the past few weeks, including senior outside hitter Carly Cameron and sophomore Haley Defibaugh, a setter and right-side hitter. Neither are captains, nor did they see much varsity time last year.

"Haley's not afraid to be boisterous on the floor and tell her teammates where they need to be," Hopkins said. "She'll dive into the bleachers and sacrifice her body to get the ball. Sometimes I have to remind her to be careful because we can't afford to lose her."

The Wolves start a three-match home stretch Thursday, Sept. 29, against Westland. They also will play host to Groveport and Eastmoor Academy on Saturday, Oct. 1, and Marion Harding on Monday, Oct. 3.

"I think we have the ability to win the rest of our (matches). It's just whether we come out and perform," Hopkins said. "We're getting to the point now where it's even more important that we get some wins (with the Division I district tournament draw being held Oct. 9). We've just been inconsistent."

•Thomas coach Ed Marsman isn't used to having a losing season, nor to having a team with the lack of height the Cardinals have this year.

Still, another winning season and respectable finish in OCC-Central play remain within reach for the Cardinals, who were 9-7 overall and 2-6 in the league before playing Hilliard Davidson on Sept. 27.

"For being as inexperienced as we are and our lack of size, we're making progress," said Marsman, whose team returned only three players from last season. "I thought we'd have a better win-loss record at this point. We've learned a lot and we're playing really good competition. Our division is ridiculously tough compared to some others, but we haven't given anything anyway to anybody."

Senior outside hitter Sarah Smiley is 6-foot. The rest of the Cardinals, Marsman said, are 5-7 or shorter. Smiley, an Indiana University of Pennsylvania recruit, was 97 percent on serving entering this week and led the team in kills and attacks.

"Our players jump well, but against girls who are 6-0 and 6-1, they can hit over us and tip over us," Marsman said. "We have to work extra hard for every point because of our size. I'm happy with how we've fought so far. I just wish we had some more wins."