Kevin Gallagher takes note of the little things on the volleyball court.
The St. Charles Preparatory School senior is a four-year starter at libero, and he is quick to figure out where the ball will be going before an opponent strikes it.
That talent comes from playing the sport competitively since the fourth grade and building an astute knowledge of an opponent's tendencies.
"Being able to read the ball is so important," said Gallagher, whose team is 12-3 and was ranked second in last week's Division II state poll behind Kettering Alter. "You have to know where the hitter is going with the ball and see where the ball is going to go before they even hit it.
"I think it comes with time. When you start playing at the higher levels you have to be able to read the ball instead of just reacting because it will be coming so fast."
Gallagher said the read all comes down to body movement. Watching the hitter's shoulders normally signals where the ball will be heading.
"You just kind of have to know the way their shoulders are pointing," said Gallagher, who lives in Reynoldsburg. "If their right shoulder is rotating, then they are going across (their body with the kill). You kind of have to understand the game and know that (the hit) is going across."
Coach Ned Gruber said Gallagher is invaluable to the Cardinals because of his experience before high school.
"Kevin has been playing for a long time and compared to most high school volleyball players, he's really ahead of the game," Gruber said. "He has so much experience. His dad (Scott Gallagher) has been working with him since the fourth grade. He has a great ball-sense and is able to predict where the ball is going better than most players. He's in the right spot before the ball is hit."
Gallagher has 344 digs, 173 assists, 42 aces and a passing percentage of 2.8 out of 3.0 on 485 service receptions.
"Good liberos can't get rattled, and that's one thing about Kevin. He's unflappable," Gruber said. "He's great on serves, he's great on defense and he's a great leader.
"When our setter takes the ball, and Kevin is our secondary setter, he has put up some great balls to our (outside hitters), and he's able to get it to our best hitter even when the ball is taking him in the other direction. His ability to run that secondary offense is huge."
One of the Cardinals' losses came against Alter, 25-22, 19-25, 25-18 on March 24, and the other two came against teams ranked in last week's Division I state poll. They lost to 10th-ranked Mount Vernon 25-20, 25-23, also on March 24, and seventh-ranked Cleveland St. Ignatius 25-20, 25-21 on April 14.
"Being able to compete with the top teams in the state in Division I and Division II has been really amazing," Gallagher said. "We have been putting in a lot of hard work out there on the court and getting things done out there."
Gallagher plans to play at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois, near Chicago. However, he said he still needs to work on his game before competing at the next level.
"Although reading is a major aspect of defense, you also need quickness to get those balls that are coming at you," he said. "They are going to be 10 to 20 mph faster than in a high school game, so it will be a different game."
Tennis team getting on roll
The tennis team is picking up steam heading into the Division I postseason and has clinched at least a share of its seventh consecutive CCL championship.
The Cardinals are 7-4 overall and 3-0 in the CCL. They close league play Monday, May 7, at Ready.
St. Charles has lost only one court in league play. It defeated DeSales 5-0 on April 10 and Hartley 5-0 on April 19 before beating Watterson 4-1 on April 25.
The Cardinals defeated Upper Arlington 3-2 on April 26, winning all three singles courts. Jack Dabek defeated Emerson Dean 6-0, 6-0 at first singles and Reese Yakubov beat Nathan Yu 6-1, 6-0 at second singles. The match was decided in third singles, as Matt Morrison rallied past Lance Li 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
"That might have been the first time that we have ever beaten UA, and if it isn't, it has been a long time," coach Max Quinton said. "Matt Morrison really played great in the final game and won in three sets to seal the win."
The Cardinals play in a sectional tournament May 10 and 12 at Pickerington Central.
Quinton said Dabek and Yakubov would be one postseason doubles tandem, with Morrison and Quyen Thai as the other. Patrick O'Neil, Will Prophater and Ben Wolfe will play singles.
Whittaker's bat pacing baseball team
Behind Mitch Whittaker's bat, the baseball team was 10-8 overall and 3-3 in the CCL before playing Watterson on April 30.
Whittaker was hitting .415 with seven RBI and 13 runs through 18 games for the Cardinals, who completed league play May 2 against Ready.
Trey Willis was batting .302 with 10 RBI and seven runs, and Mason Olding was hitting .300 with nine RBI and nine runs.
Clayton Anderson led the Cardinals on the mound, going 2-2 with a 2.31 ERA, 36 strikeouts and eight walks in 36 innings.
St. Charles closes the regular season by playing at home against Whitehall on Thursday, May 3, at Thomas Worthington on Friday, May 4, and at home against Hilliard Davidson on Saturday, May 5.
The Cardinals are seeded 21st of 48 teams for the Division I district tournament and open Monday, May 7, at home against 41st-seeded Columbus West. The winner plays Wednesday, May 9, at 14th-seeded Teays Valley in the second round, and that winner plays in a district semifinal May 14.
Below are the coming schedules for the St. Charles lacrosse, tennis, track & field and volleyball teams:
May 3 -- At Olentangy Orange
May 8 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne
May 4 -- Home vs. Bexley
*May 7 -- At Ready
May 8 -- At Dublin Jerome in OTCA tournament
TRACK & FIELD
May 4 -- Larkin Invitational at Upper Arlington
May 4 -- Home vs. Gahanna
May 5 -- Home vs. Akron Hoban and Pickerington North
May 7 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg