The Worthington Kilbourne High School boys volleyball team still has an opportunity to avoid its third losing season in four years.
The Wolves had higher goals at the start of the season, but coach Glynda Rice said finishing with a winning record is now the objective. Kilbourne was 11-10 overall and 8-3 in the OCC-Cardinal Division before playing Westerville North on May 7.
If the Wolves qualified for the OCC-Challenge on May 8, they would have additional matches to try to secure a winning season.
"I think the top three teams from all the OCC divisions are included and I think we're in third place (in the OCC-Cardinal) right now behind Dublin Scioto and Westerville North," Rice said before her team faced North.
Kilbourne opens the Division II East Region tournament against Scioto on Saturday, May 11, at Westerville South. The winner plays Mount Vernon or Dublin Jerome in a regional semifinal Wednesday, May 15, at Buckeye Valley.
"Right now, we want to finish with a winning record, but, truthfully, we set high standards and I'm hoping none of our boys are content just (having) a winning season," Rice said. "We want to finish strong and make a good tournament run."
Kilbourne finished 11-14 last season after Rice returned for her second stint as coach after a two-year hiatus. The Wolves went 16-9 in 2011 and 7-18 in 2010.
"I think we've continued to improve this year," Rice said. "We've gotten real strong play from our two junior outside hitters, Ray Gardner and Ian Redding. They've done a good job of serve receive, ball control and just keeping the ball in play."
Rice was happy with the performance of her team's six seniors when the Wolves beat Westerville South 25-15, 25-14, 25-6 in an OCC-Cardinal match May 2 on senior night to post their third consecutive win.
"I thought (middle blockers) Grant Hartman and Alex Rayis played well (against South) as usual, as did (setter) Kyle Justus (and outside hitters) Austin Bollinger, Eric Wahoff and Nathan Walters," Rice said.
"We've got six seniors and we've got four juniors who got a great deal of playing time, which should help next season."
Cardinals hoping to ride momentum
Thomas Worthington coach Todd Ebright is hoping his team's maturation and improved play during the past few weeks will help it in the Division I East Region tournament.
The Cardinals lost 12 of their first 13 matches but head into their regular-season finale Thursday, May 9, at home against Olentangy having won six of their last seven.
Thomas fell to 1-12 with a 25-17, 25-22 loss to Cincinnati LaSalle on April 27 in the Wildcat Classic at Westerville South. In the event later that day, the Cardinals defeated Whetstone 25-16, 25-14 and Delaware 25-18, 25-16.
Thomas then beat Upper Arlington 25-23, 25-20, 25-23 on April 30 for its only win in OCC-Ohio play. The Cardinals finished 1-9 in the league.
"It was a very gratifying win for us to beat Upper Arlington," Ebright said. "The kids were excited and it was our first 3-0 win of the season. We were in control throughout and that's something we've been working on all season.
"We've had our share of ups and downs and it seemed like when we lost or got down, we'd lose control and never raise our level of play again that match. So this was a huge step for us, a big positive to build on."
The Cardinals' winning streak ended with a 16-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-17 loss to Dublin Coffman in a league match May 2, but they won their next three contests in a quad-match May 4, beating Delaware 18-25, 25-21, 28-26, Whetstone 25-12, 25-18 and Westerville South 22-25, 25-15, 25-18.
Thomas' first win came in its home quad-match April 6, when it beat Westerville Central 16-25, 25-13, 27-25.
"We wanted to finish (the regular season) strong and we did, so we're stoked about the tournament," Ebright said. "I think if we play the way we're playing right now, we've got a good chance to surprise a few people in the tournament."
Thomas opens the regional tournament against Olentangy Liberty on Saturday, May 11, at Hilliard Davidson. The winner plays Coffman or Westerville Central in a semifinal Wednesday, May 15, at Pickerington North.
Ebright credited setter Charlie Roach and libero Shane Barnovsky for sparking the Cardinals' turnaround.
"Charlie is a second-year setter but is playing varsity for the first time as a senior and he's really come along in terms of his play and leadership," Ebright said.
"He's a lefty who is always pushing his teammates and has made an impact through his work ethic and hustle. He has a lot of weight and responsibility as a setter and he's done a good job with it and has made a difference in the overall team attitude.
"Shane is very consistent and prides himself at getting the balls up and keeping the ball alive. He's one of our better servers and we can always count on him to make a play. Even when he can't (make a play), he won't let a mistake bother him and he'll come right back on the next play."