When Doug Arden returned this season to coach the Dublin Scioto High School boys volleyball team, he knew the team had potential, but wasn't sure how it would respond to the change of command.
The Irish quelled their coach's concerns by winning 17 matches during the regular season and then earning the program's first state tournament berth since 2003.
"I knew who we had lost last year, but I was not totally aware of what we had coming back and how many seniors we had coming back," said Arden, who coached Scioto for nine seasons before stepping down after the 2013 season for family reasons. "As the pieces started to fall together, it was a slow realization as the season got started that this could be a pretty good group. ... It hasn't been a complete and total surprise."
The top-seeded Irish rallied to defeat third-seeded Mount Vernon 19-25, 29-27, 25-23, 25-17 in the Division II East Region final May 26 at Westerville Central to improve to 20-3 and advance to play Akron Hoban in a state semifinal Saturday, June 3, at Capital University.
"Mount Vernon gave us as good a test as we could get," Arden said. "It was exciting. The middle two sets were as close as close could be. We played most of the second set from behind until really late in the game."
Setter Ross Esterline led the Irish with 32 assists and six aces.
"This is amazing, I couldn't ask for a better way to end senior year (than) to get this far and win a regional championship," said Esterline, one of 10 seniors on the team.
"It was a little scary and nerve-wracking being a very senior-heavy team and having a new coach coming into the program our last year, but everyone couldn't be more happy."
Cameron Balla added 12 kills and a block, Derek Topp had 11 kills, five aces and a block and Toshiki Nakao had five kills and a block against the Yellow Jackets.
The Scioto-Hoban winner will play Kettering Alter or Cincinnati McNicholas in the state final Sunday, June 4, at Capital.
"The goal wasn't just to get to (the regional final) and be happy with that," said Arden, whose team defeated fourth-seeded DeSales 25-22, 25-23, 17-25, 25-22 in a regional semifinal May 23 at home. "We have to get ready. I don't think these kids see it as we just want to win the regional final and that's good enough. We have some pretty big goals and we'll get ready to see what we can do."
In 2003, Scioto lost to Hilliard Darby 15-9, 13-15, 15-6 in a state quarterfinal.
Track teams close
season at regional
The boys and girls track and field teams closed their season at the Division I regional meet May 24 and 26 at Pickerington North.
Senior Alexis McQuade capped her prep career by finishing seventh in the 300-meter hurdles (45.75 seconds).
"It was great being here and making finals was crazy," McQuade said. "I was just trying to treat it like every other race."
Also for the girls team, the 800 relay of senior Kali Steele, juniors Brooklyn Richardson and Yosolajesu Olujide-Ajibade and freshman Folake Olujide-Ajibade finished seventh (1:44.08) and Yosolajesu Olujide-Ajibade was eighth in the 400 (59.97).
The Irish scored five points at regional to tie Marysville and Watkins Memorial for 23rd behind champion Gahanna (97) as 35 teams scored.
The boys team did not score at regional.
Junior Cesar Arellano was running in the top 10 at the midway point of the 3,200 before dropping out because of a leg injury, while sophomores Trint Williams and Zach Sopher placed 10th (5 feet, 10 inches) and 14th (5-10), respectively, in the high jump.
"This was a good experience for (Williams and Sopher)," boys coach Kevin Foley said.
In the district 1 meet that concluded May 20 at Darby, the girls finished ninth (34) of 17 teams behind champion Coffman (94) and the boys finished 11th (29) of 15 teams behind champion Olentangy Orange (124).
In the OCC-Cardinal Division meet May 11 and 13 at Coffman, the girls finished third (91) behind Darby (189) and Thomas Worthington (143) and ahead of Delaware (72), Hilliard Bradley (51), Worthington Kilbourne (44) and Jerome (41).
The boys finished sixth (44.5) in the league meet, behind Thomas (192), Darby (155), Bradley (85), Jerome (75.5) and Delaware (51) and ahead of Kilbourne (22).
"It went great," girls coach Stacey Schall said of her first season leading the program.
"I can't complain about anything. The girls really stepped up and put it together when it mattered. We're a very young team. We have twice as many freshmen and sophomores as we do juniors and seniors."
Girls lacrosse coach
pleased with season
First-year girls lacrosse coach Sarah Zink was pleased with her team's progress this season.
The 10th-seeded Irish lost at top-seeded Upper Arlington 21-0 in a Division I, Region 3 quarterfinal May 19 to finish 8-10 overall.
Scioto opened the tournament with a 19-14 win over 13th-seeded Davidson in the first round May 15 at home.
Sophomore midfielder Allie Vogel led the team in goals with 42, followed by sophomore midfielder Jessie Hartman (32) and senior attacker Janeli Torres (31).
"I am very proud of our team this season," Zink said. "I asked them to learn a new offense and new defense. This was a difficult switch, but the girls were able to take the challenge and soar with it."
The Irish went 1-5 in the OCC-Cardinal to place sixth, behind Thomas (6-0), Jerome (5-1), Kilbourne (4-2), Darby (3-3) and Bradley (2-4) and ahead of Delaware (0-6).
Scioto defeated Delaware 11-4 on April 27 for its league win.
Other players eligible to return include juniors Sadie Bragg (attacker), Megan Cantwell (attacker), Kate Lewis (attacker), Taylor Nadal (defender), Osheen Oommen (defender), Grace Scharte (defender) and Aubrey Webb (goalkeeper), sophomores Morgan Brown (defender), Natalie De La Paz (defender), Kylene Davis (defender), Lindsey Hebert (attacker), Kiersten Jennings (attacker), Kimberly Martinez (goalie), Joy Olobatuyi (defender) and Rylie See (defender) and freshmen Delanay Fullerton (midfielder) and Sydney Nadal (attacker).