After falling to Pickerington North in five games in a Division I East Region final last year, the Westerville South High School boys volleyball team entered this season motivated to atone for that setback.
With eight seniors on the team, including five in the starting lineup, the Wildcats reached the first of their postseason goals by defeating Olentangy 25-21, 25-22, 25-21 in a regional final May 26 at Westerville Central.
It's the program's first regional title.
"This has been a goal," coach Vicki Phillips said. "It's redemption from last year with Pickerington North. We were up two games and lost in five, so that has been one of their goals for the entire season. Our focus all season has been to not let up when we're already up two sets to zero and get in comfortable mode."
South improved to 20-7 and advanced to face Cleveland St. Ignatius in a state quarterfinal Saturday, June 3, at Capital University. The semifinals and final will be played Sunday, June 4, at Capital.
South played St. Ignatius twice during the regular season, winning 19-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-23 in the Elite 8 Tournament on April 29 at Centerville and losing at home 23-25, 25-21, 27-25, 25-23 on May 6.
The Wildcats defeated Olentangy twice in OCC-Buckeye Division play on their way to winning the league title at 8-0. South won 25-17, 25-18, 25-22 on April 4 and 25-13, 25-15, 24-26, 25-11 on April 20.
In the third meeting, the Wildcats rallied in the third game to close out the victory.
"They took a set from us last time," Phillips said. "It just depends on who's showing up and (May 26) we wanted it, and as seniors versus (Olentangy) juniors once again, that's the big difference again this year."
Senior Roman Szwabinsky, who was named OCC-Buckeye Player of the Year, led a balanced effort with 31 assists.
Oliver Miller had 13 kills, Deion Woodson had 12 kills and Colin Blaser added 14 digs. All three are seniors.
"We're not done yet," Miller said. "We never want to overlook a team, but (Olentangy) is a team that we've played and we know very well. We get into the state tournament (this week) and that's real."
Last season in the regional final, the Wildcats won the first two games before North rallied to win 16-25, 19-25, 25-17, 26-24, 15-11 and deny South a state berth.
Miller said his team attended the state tournament despite the regional-final loss to watch friends compete and soak in the atmosphere.
"We went to watch both days," he said. "We wanted to see it. It's never too bad because you're watching all your friends ... and you really want them to do well, but there is a part of you that wishes you were out there playing."
The Wildcats now have that chance.
Collier shines for
girls track team
Senior Brielle Collier led the girls track and field team in the Division I regional meet May 24 and 26 at Pickerington North, finishing second in the 100-meter hurdles (14.57 seconds) and fourth in the 300 hurdles (43.41) to qualify for the state meet Friday, June 2, and Saturday, June 3, at Ohio State.
The top four finishers in each regional event advanced to state.
Collier set a program record in the 100 hurdles, eclipsing the time of 14.6 set by Yolanda Evans in 1988 and Bernice Kline in 1989.
Collier also is closing in on the program record of 43.25 in the 300 hurdles, established by 2016 graduate Chasatea Brown last season at state.
"I got a major personal record in both events," Collier said. "I want to win (state). I have to work hard this week (and) keep getting better. The more competition, the better I do. It's nice to know all the work mattered."
Peyton Guice, Deja Mason, Alexys McClure and Kayla Silva accounted for South's other point at regional, finishing eighth in the 400 relay (49.22).
Silva was 11th in the 100 (12.85), and Collier, Guice, Maria Hays and Marteana Newton were 11th in the 1,600 relay (4:10.3).
South tied Hartley for 17th (14 points) behind champion Gahanna (97) as 35 teams scored.
Boys 400 relay
qualifies for state
The boys track team's 400 relay qualified for state by finishing second at regional in a program-record 41.72.
The relay was comprised of Elton Sunnyway, Bankole Abimbola, Ibukunoluwa Alfred and Jaelen Gill.
Ki-Jana Carter, Jermaine Guice, Todd Lancaster and John Lawson had held the previous record of 42.3 since 1990.
"We have to run our best this week," Sunnyway said. "We have to give it all we have."
Senior Dominique Long qualified for state in the 400, finishing second (47.92) at regional. He also was fifth in the 200 (22.24 ) and seventh in the 100 (11.04).
Anthony Parham was ninth in the discus (135 feet, 7 inches) and 12th in the shot put (45-4 1/2), George Patil was ninth in the high jump (6-0) and 14th in the 110 hurdles (15.56), Carson Pfeiffer tied for 10th in the pole vault (12-0), Abimbola, Alfred, Sunnyway and Michael Mansaray were 10th in the 800 relay (1:31.13), Abimbola was 13th in the 100 (11.34) and 14th in the 200 (22.72), Alfred, Patil, Al Ayoola and Ray Gordon were 13th in the 1,600 relay (3:31.87) and Gordon was 16th in the high jump (5-8).
The Wildcats tied Dublin Coffman for 10th (22) behind champion Thomas Worthington (73) as 37 teams scored.
Boys tennis team
featured young lineup
The boys tennis team finished 0-11 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Buckeye Division, but freshman Anthony Vilardo provided a bright spot by emerging as the first-singles player.
Vilardo led South in a Division I sectional May 11 at Reynoldsburg, as he came within one win from advancing to district. He defeated Beechcroft's Ali Mojtabaei 6-1, 6-1 and Worthington Kilbourne's Gordon Liu 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 before losing to New Albany's Alek Jacoby 6-1, 6-2.
Losing opening-round matches were sophomore Colin Rannebarger and freshman Allen Liu in singles, and the teams of senior Ekow Ampah and junior Nathan Drum and senior Will Zelinski and freshman Quan Phan in doubles.
South finished sixth in the league behind Olentangy Orange (5-0), Olentangy (4-1), Olentangy Liberty (3-2), Westerville North (2-3) and Westerville Central (1-4).