Worthington Kilbourne High School boys volleyball coach Glynda Rice saw a lot of improvement in her team this season.

Worthington Kilbourne High School boys volleyball coach Glynda Rice saw a lot of improvement in her team this season.

"Our work ethic and overall improvement were not as reflective in our record as it was on a daily basis in practices and matches," said Rice, who returned as coach this spring after a two-year hiatus that followed an 18-year coaching stint with the Wolves. "Although I was here before, it's always challenging when a new coach takes over. There's some growing and understanding that needs to take place between the players and a new coach."

Kilbourne finished 11-14 overall and went 5-5 in the OCC-Ohio Division to finish third, behind Hilliard Darby (10-0) and Hilliard Davidson (8-2) and ahead of Thomas Worthington (3-7), Upper Arlington (2-8) and Dublin Coffman (1-9).

The Wolves' season ended May 16 when they lost to second-seeded Watterson 25-11, 25-27, 25-14, 25-20 in the second round of the Division II East Region tournament. Seeded fifth of nine teams, Kilbourne beat sixth-seeded Whetstone 25-10, 25-18, 25-11 in the first round May 12.

"We felt good about the way we played against Watterson, rallying from down five or six points to win the second game and battling to the end in the fourth game," Rice said. "I think we improved the team culture and set the stage for success next year. The work ethic, strong integrity and never-give-up attitude are what this program was built on. They have to earn success and I think we took a good first step this year."

Kilbourne loses five seniors in Arthur Ding (outside hitter/opposite hitter), Cody Kuepfer (libero), Cole Kuepfer (setter), Jared Singer (outside hitter) and Zach Tisdale (opposite hitter). All but Ding were starters.

Tisdale, who will play for Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., was named second-team all-state and first-team all-region and all-league. Cody Kuepfer was second-team all-league and Cole Kuepfer was honorable mention all-league. Both of the Kuepfer brothers were honorable mention all-region.

The Wolves expect to return decent size at middle blocker with juniors Grant Hartman (6-foot-2), Alex Rayis (6-3) and Connor Mulholand (6-1). Freshman Jacob Bloom, sophomore Ray Gardener and Mulholand are candidates to replace Tisdale as the team's go-to outside hitter.

Hartman and Bloom both were honorable mention all-region.

Also expected to return are juniors Austin Bollinger and Kyle Justice.

"Our younger players know the roles they'll need to fill," Rice said. "They need to be committed year-round and come back faster and stronger."

Cardinals improved on 2011 season

Thomas finished 8-12 overall and placed fourth in the OCC-Ohio at 3-7.

The Cardinals' season ended May 12 with a 25-17, 15-25, 25-16, 20-25, 15-6 loss to eighth-seeded Westerville South in the first round of the Division I East Region tournament.

Thomas was seeded 10th of 15 teams.

"We played Westerville South tough and I thought we had a number of matches we lost that could've gone our way," said coach Todd Ebright, who completed his third season leading the program. "I was hoping to finish at .500 or better this season and, if just two of our losses go our way, we were there.

"The good news is that our play improved a lot and we were very competitive. In fact, many coaches and even referees complimented us after matches in terms of how much better we were this year. Now we need to carry that over next year."

The Cardinals had finished 3-13 overall and 0-10 in the league in 2011.

Thomas loses three seniors in Tate Greuling (right-side hitter), Ben Metersky (setter) and Kevin Sword (outside hitter). Metersky was first-team all-league.

Junior libero Shane Barnovsky was second-team all-league and junior middle hitter Tyler Buckley was honorable mention all-league.

"I think having a core group of Barnovsky, Buckley and (junior) Jake Anderson, who is a very consistent outside hitter for us, back will be a big plus next year," Ebright said. "They will be the first seniors who have come through the system with me.

"That means we won't have to concentrate as much on fundamentals and we should be more flexible in terms of making adjustments during games and matches. We should have the skill set to make that happen."

Others expected back include junior middle hitters Lowel Lufkin and Alex Murphy.

"Alex and Lowel are both at least 6-3 and our average height should be over 6-foot next season, which is exciting," Ebright said. "They were first-year players who learned a lot and worked hard and really improved."