The Worthington Kilbourne High School girls volleyball team set the program record for wins and won a share of the OCC-Capital Division title, but the season ended with a disappointing performance.
Seeded fifth, the Wolves lost to sixth-seeded Westerville Central 25-19, 25-13, 20-25, 25-15 in a Division I district semifinal Oct. 24 at Bloom-Carroll. The loss ended their 11-match winning streak.
The Wolves defeated 41st-seeded Teays Valley 25-9, 25-19, 25-20 in the first round Oct. 14 and beat 44th-seeded Watkins Memorial 25-21, 25-11, 25-13 in the second round Oct. 16 before falling to Westerville Central.
"We beat ourselves," coach Meladee Hopkins said. "We didn't play well. We didn't pass well. We made unforced errors, especially on service. Westerville Central is taller and they're a very good team, but the bottom line is we beat ourselves. We made mistakes we don't usually make and you can't make mistakes when you have to be at your best against a good team."
Kilbourne finished 20-5 overall, breaking its previous program mark for wins in a season that had been set in 2007 when the Wolves went 19-6.
"It was a good season overall, with the 20 wins and the (OCC-Capital) championship, so I was happy for them to accomplish those things," Hopkins said. "I just wanted them to be crisper and more focused during the season.
"We went 6-0 in matches that went five (games), but there was no need for some of them to go five (games). They didn't seem to care as long as they were winning, but I was banging my head. If we had sharpened up some of those things, maybe they wouldn't have cropped up (in the loss to Westerville Central). I don't think they totally understood how good they could be."
Kilbourne went 12-2 in the OCC-Capital to share the title with Olentangy. Big Walnut and New Albany tied for third at 10-4, followed by Mount Vernon and Olentangy Orange (both 5-9), Delaware (2-12) and Franklin Heights (0-14).
The Wolves lose six seniors, including three starters in Haley Defibaugh (setter), Lydia DeWeese (middle hitter) and Sarah Freiheit (outside hitter). The others are Kristen Rossi (defensive specialist), Megan Thompson (defensive specialist) and Laurel Tisdale (right-side hitter).
"We're definitely going to miss these seniors," Hopkins said. "Haley is a four-year starter and our vocal leader and Lydia was our leading hitter. The young girls have some real big shoes to fill."
Defibaugh was named OCC-Capital Player of the Year and first-team all-district. DeWeese was first-team all-league and second-team all-district and Freiheit was second-team all-league.
Among the expected returnees are four players who started or saw significant playing time in junior Sammie Zimmerman (libero), sophomores Mackenzie Calvert (right-side hitter) and Hailee Wilhelm (middle hitter) and freshman Alli O'Brien (outside hitter).
O'Brien was special mention all-league and Calvert was honorable mention.
"We've got those four back as well as a versatile freshman, Casey Archual, who was injured and missed the season but can play several positions," Hopkins said. "We also have (junior defensive specialist) Meghan Swazuk who showed a great deal of improvement, plus some talent at the younger levels."
Other expected returnees include juniors Molly Haines (outside hitter) and Kayla Sayer (defensive specialist) and sophomores Krya Baker (right-side hitter), Evvy DeWeese (middle hitter) and Jeanette Gardner (setter).
Cardinals' lineup set to change next year
Thomas' lineup will look vastly different next season, as eight players will be lost to graduation.
The Cardinals finished 10-16 overall after losing to 15th-seeded Gahanna 22-25, 25-13, 25-19, 25-18 in the second round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 17. Seeded 16th, Thomas had a first-round bye.
"We lose pretty much everyone, including a bunch of hitters," coach Zach Franklin said. "We had an up-and-down season. We didn't have one good practice in (the) two weeks leading up to (the start of the district tournament). What we need to do here is change our confidence level and approach.
"Early in the season, we beat (Dublin) Coffman in one (game of a 25-15, 25-16, 18-25, 25-12 loss Sept. 3 in an OCC-Central match) and the girls were happy, but we lost the mach. They told me they hadn't even won a game from Coffman in a long time. We need to win matches and not be happy to win games."
Thomas went 6-8 in the OCC-Central to place fifth, behind Coffman (14-2), Hilliard Davidson (12-2), Olentangy Liberty (10-4) and Marysville (7-7) and ahead of Westland (5-9) and Central Crossing and Upper Arlington (both 1-13).
The Cardinals' senior class is comprised of Lamija Alisic (outside hitter), Sammy Bullock (middle hitter), Sarah Chizevar (outside hitter), Alex Emrick (libero), Hannah Greene (middle hitter), Ellen Hawkins (right-side hitter), Grace Husk (defensive specialist) and Jessica Waibl (outside hitter).
Alisic, who will continue her career at Slippery Rock University, was named second-team all-league and Hawkins was honorable mention all-league.
Bullock sustained a season-ending knee injury in a 23-25, 25-18, 12-25, 25-9, 15-12 loss to Liberty on Sept. 17.
"It was difficult to lose her leadership out there," Franklin said. "She was our vocal leader as well as our middle hitter. It made for more communication problems, too. I am their third coach in three years and that continuity wasn't there. But with Sammy out there, they had her to lean on."
Expected to return are junior Maggie Taylor (middle hitter), sophomores Liz Bosak (libero) and Jenna Swickard (defensive specialist) and freshman Carsen Komminsk (setter).
"Our volleyball skills improved, but we'll need to work on consistency and communication," Franklin said. "Our j.v. team was around .500. It'll be exciting to see who steps up and works hard to replace all these seniors."