Thomas Worthington High School boys volleyball coach Todd Ebright anticipated that his team would have a difficult time matching its level of improvement from a year ago.
The Cardinals' inexperience is reflected in their record.
Thomas was 1-9 overall and 0-6 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Hilliard Davidson on April 23. The Cardinals finished 8-12 last season after going 3-13 in 2011.
"We're keeping up with opponents and we're not getting blown out, but we're having problems finishing matches," said Ebright, whose team lost to Kilbourne 25-18, 25-15, 25-23 on April 17. "Right now, we're a team that's trying to find out who its leaders are and some guys are in positions they're not comfortable with."
Thomas returned four players from a year ago in senior libero Shane Barnovsky, senior outside hitter Tyler Buckley and senior middle hitters Jake Anderson and Alex Murphy.
According to Ebright, senior right-side hitter Dave Wallace, senior setter Charlie Roach, junior middle hitter Aidan Barnovsky and junior outside hitter Michael Bee also have been key contributors this season.
"We had a good group of seven freshmen come out this year, so hopefully that will help us maintain our numbers," Ebright said. "We took a hit with recruiting and we haven't had a good retention rate."
Not helping Thomas is that it is in the OCC-Ohio, which also includes Dublin Coffman, Davidson, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby and Upper Arlington. In the Division I state and East Region polls this week, Darby is ranked second in the state behind Cincinnati Moeller and first in the region. Davidson is fifth in the region and Bradley is eighth.
The Cardinals lost to Davidson 25-18, 25-15, 25-19 on April 4, Darby 25-12, 19-25, 25-16, 26-24 on April 9 and Bradley 25-19, 25-20, 25-23 on April 13. Their only win through 10 matches came against Westerville Central, 16-25, 25-13, 27-25 on April 6.
Wolves remain in OCC-Cardinal race
This week could decide whether Kilbourne remains in the hunt for the OCC-Cardinal championship.
The Wolves were 7-5 overall and 4-2 in the league before playing Dublin Scioto on April 23. They play host to Olentangy Liberty on Thursday, April 25.
"We want to win out in the OCC," coach Glynda Rice said. "I think our confidence is something that's been building all year -- confidence in our ability to improve and pick up our game."
Kilbourne lost to Scioto 26-24, 25-16, 25-18 in its season opener April 2. Two days later, it defeated Liberty 22-25, 26-24, 21-25, 25-20, 15-13.
The Wolves' other league loss came against Westerville North, 25-17, 25-17, 18-25, 26-24 on April 16. They will face the Warriors again May 7 at North in their final match of the regular season.
Kilbourne will face another stern test Saturday, April 27, at Mount Vernon. The Yellow Jackets are ranked fourth in the Division II state poll and third in the East Region poll behind Darby and DeSales.
"We're finishing out a very long schedule against some good teams," Rice said. "Our goal has been to get better at the right time and I think we're doing that."
Among the key players for the Wolves is senior setter Kyle Justus, who is in his first season on varsity.
"He's really grown a lot for someone who is directing our offense," Rice said. "Our focus this year has been ball control, defense and blocking, and I think we've improved in all three areas."
Rice also lauded the play of senior middle blockers Grant Hartman and Alex Rayis, senior outside hitters Austin Bollinger and Eric Wahoff and junior outside hitters Ray Gardner and Ian Redding.