The Worthington Kilbourne High School girls volleyball team remains in contention for the OCC-Capital Division championship.
The Wolves were 11-4 overall and 6-2 in the league before playing Mount Vernon on Sept. 24. Entering play Sept. 24, New Albany and Olentangy were tied for first in the league at 7-1 and Big Walnut was fourth at 5-3.
Kilbourne defeated Olentangy 20-25, 25-21, 15-25, 25-20, 16-14 on Sept. 10 but fell to New Albany 25-15, 25-22, 25-18 on Sept. 12. Its other league loss came against Big Walnut, 21-25, 25-18, 25-22, 25-22 on Sept. 3.
"We put ourselves in this position because we didn't handle success well," coach Meladee Hopkins said, referring to where her team sits in the league standings. "We had a big, big win against Olentangy and came out the next match against New Albany and just played terrible. It was almost like we had a hangover from rallying to beat Olentangy.
"The good news is that we get to play (Big Walnut, New Albany and Olentangy) again. If we win the rest of our league matches, we'll at least share the championship."
Kilbourne plays host to Big Walnut on Thursday, Sept. 26. The Wolves travel to Olentangy on Oct. 3 and play host to New Albany on Oct. 8.
"There's not a match we've played yet that we shouldn't have won," Hopkins said. "We didn't play well against Big Walnut, but that's one where we can say they deserved to win because they played better."
Kilbourne trailed Olentangy 14-7 in the fifth game before rallying for the win. Facing match point, the Wolves scored nine consecutive points behind the serving of freshman outside hitter Alli O'Brien to close the match.
"It was amazing because you don't see nine straight points in rally play very often, especially when it's two good teams battling," Hopkins said. "I really can't recall ever seeing nine straight to end a 3-2 match before. And it's also amazing that a freshman was in that spot and got it done.
"(O'Brien has) been playing real strong and consistent. She's smart volleyball-wise for a freshman and has great instincts."
Kilbourne's other losses came in its home invitational Sept. 14. The Wolves defeated Centennial 25-13, 25-17 before losing to Frankfort Adena 11-25, 25-21, 25-21 and falling to Grove City 25-20, 25-19.
"The girls just assumed they'd be playing in the championship (match) like usual in our tournament," Hopkins said. "Things fell apart defensively in the second and third games against Adena, and then it was like the girls didn't even want to be there and play Grove City. It was very disappointing."
The Wolves bounced back to beat Olentangy Orange 20-25, 25-12, 18-25, 25-23, 15-12 on Sept. 17 and Delaware 25-23, 25-6, 23-25, 25-15 on Sept. 19 in league matches.
"I think (senior setter) Haley Defibaugh and (senior middle hitter) Lydia DeWeese are playing well in front of the (college) recruiters coming to watch them," Hopkins said. "Haley is steady and one of the top setters in the area. She's very instinctive. Lydia is blocking very well.
"I also think that Lydia is teaching (sophomore) Hailee Wilhelm how to be a good middle (hitter) and (Wilhelm is) learning and more confident and being smarter with the placement of her hits. (Sophomore) Kenzie Calvert has been consistent as a right-side hitter and is making clutch plays."
'Mental part' of game hurting Cardinals
Thomas was 5-6 overall and 4-4 in the OCC-Central before playing Westland on Sept. 24.
"We haven't put everything together and we've had trouble bouncing back from a couple of tough losses, so the mental part of the game is what is hurting us," coach Zach Franklin said. "The worst part is that (senior middle hitter) Sammy Bullock went down with either an ACL or (other type of) knee injury (in a 23-25, 25-18, 12-25, 25-9, 15-12 loss to Olentangy Liberty in a league match Sept. 17) and could be done for the year. She was playing awesome and was a great position hitter."
Another key player has been senior outside hitter Lamija Alisic.
"(Alisic) is our best scorer and has played very well," Franklin said. "(Senior right-side hitter) Ellen Hawkins has stepped up as a leader and has been very positive, which has led to better team camaraderie. The goal for us right now is to win four or five matches in the second round of the OCC. That would help us get prepared for the (Division I) district tournament and help us stay focused. The young girls have to forget about their nerves and get tougher."