The Olentangy High School boys volleyball team treated the final point of its 25-19, 25-13, 25-17 win at Liberty on May 3 like the end of any other match -- except it wasn't.
Braves players briefly congratulated each other on the win and exchanged postgame handshakes with the Patriots, and only then did they celebrate even a little.
To commemorate the team's first OCC-Buckeye Division championship, cupcakes spelling out "OCC League Champs OHS" were presented near midcourt. A few team photos were taken, and then the Braves packed up and started thinking about their next match.
"I told them 'wait a minute, we just won (our division)' and they said 'yeah, we'll celebrate after we get to (the) state (tournament),' " coach Karen Kochheiser said.
"That's been their big goal all the way. Our first goal was to win the OCC, and we did. We've been regional runners-up for two years (in a row), but we haven't won this.
"They're relaxed and take care of business, but there isn't trash-talking or any kind of arrogance. They're humble. It's a great dynamic."
Ranked fourth in the state this week in Division I, Olentangy was 19-3 overall before playing Hilliard Darby on May 9 and finished a 10-0 run through the league with the win over Liberty. The Braves won all 30 games in league competition and had only two decided by fewer than five points.
Libero Bentley Azbell, one of 10 seniors on the team, said he and his classmates hoped this could be a special season as far back as eighth grade, when many of them began playing together.
"At first, we just did it for fun and then we realized we were starting to get a lot better," Azbell said. "We're a pretty balanced team. We play really well together. Our hitting and our blocking have gotten 20 times better since last year. Our hitting was there (last year) but not like it is this year. Our middles, Jack Spohn and Mitchell Postak, have been fabulous. I hope my passing has been pretty good, but Trent (Trees') setting has been really good because he just knows how to run the floor."
According to Kochheiser, Olentangy has continued to win despite being shorthanded in several matches. Right-side hitter Kurt Freeman returned from a sprained ankle against Liberty, and middle hitter Jamir Benton is back after being sidelined for six matches because of off-court issues.
The 6-foot-6, 205-pound Benton also was a defensive lineman on the football team.
"He's a big, intimidating kid who is nice to have on the court," senior outside hitter Aaric Gossett said.
The East Region tournament draw is Monday, May 14. The Braves are tied for second in the region this week with St. Charles behind Darby, which is seeking its 13th consecutive state tournament appearance.
Like the previous 22 matches, Kochheiser expected her team to be even-keeled for the visit to Darby and however many matches the Braves play the rest of the season.
"I asked them how they were feeling before (the Liberty) match and they just said 'we're good,' " Kochheiser said. "They're confident and they're focused."
Boys tennis team ready for sectional
On paper, the boys tennis team should advance at least one singles player and one doubles team to the Division I district tournament from a sectional Thursday, May 10, and Saturday, May 12, at Reynoldsburg.
Stu Brdicka, who coach Jeff Luxenburger said has battled illness on and off this season, is seeded first in singles, and the doubles team of Alex Konstan and Sam Routzahn is seeded second.
Routzahn occasionally played first singles in Brdicka's absence.
"(Routzahn) gained some invaluable experience that he will be able to use for next year as our likely (first) singles player," Luxenburger said. "Stu is ready to return to the courts and he's healthy just in time for sectionals. He has a great draw and if he can play the tennis he is capable of playing, he should have a fantastic shot at returning to states.
"Sam and Alex ... also have a significant opportunity for success. ... They both have wonderful instincts for the doubles game, and it's really fun to watch them on the court."
Roshan Sriram and Ayush Sunkad also will play singles at sectional. The Braves' other doubles team will consist of Jayanth Donthireddy and Tucker Strawser.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles will advance to the district tournament May 17 at Hilliard Bradley and May 19 at Upper Arlington.
Olentangy was 8-4 overall before its scheduled regular-season finale May 8 at UA.
"This is definitely the deepest team I've had. There are 10 guys who can play at the varsity level," Luxenburger said. "It's been great to see the competition bring out the best in our team and I think it's helped to make us stronger."
Baseball team riding winning streak
The baseball team extended its winning streak to seven with a 2-0 victory over Darby on May 5, and the Braves hoped to carry that momentum into the Division I district tournament, where a rematch with the Panthers could loom.
Seeded ninth of 48 teams, Olentangy played host to 26th-seeded Dublin Coffman in a second-round game May 9. The winner will play 13th-seeded Canal Winchester or 19th-seeded Pickerington North in a district semifinal Monday, May 14, at a neutral site to be determined, and the semifinal winner will take on second-seeded Darby, 14th-seeded Teays Valley, 21st-seeded St. Charles or 42nd-seeded Logan in a district final Wednesday, May 16, at a neutral site.
The district champion will advance to a regional semifinal May 24 at Coffman.
Of its other potential district semifinal and final opponents, Olentangy defeated Teays Valley 8-7 on April 14.
The Braves improved to 18-8 overall with the win over Darby and were 11-3 in the OCC-Buckeye entering their league finale against Liberty, which was postponed May 4 because of bad weather. A makeup date was not immediately determined.
Softball team faces critical games
The softball team began the Division I district tournament May 9 at home against 21st-seeded UA, and on Thursday, May 10, will go for the outright OCC-Buckeye championship when it visits Westerville North.
Seeded 13th in the 46-team tournament, Olentangy was 14-11 overall before May 9 and is 7-2 in the league.
The Braves clinched a share of the title with a 5-3, 10-inning win at Liberty on May 2. Morgan Cox's RBI single and Emily Bullock's RBI on a fielder's choice provided Olentangy's runs to decide a game in which Payton Cox was intentionally walked six times.
The Braves lost to Westerville Central 6-5 the next day to keep the league race tight. Kirsten Kracht's three-run home run in the sixth inning erased a 4-0 deficit and Morgan Cox also had a two-run homer, but the loss kept the Warhawks' hopes for a share of the title alive.
Central finished OCC-Buckeye play at 7-3.
The second-round winner will play seventh-seeded Bradley or 20th-seeded Newark in a district semifinal Monday, May 14, at a neutral site to be determined. The winner advances to a district final May 18 or 19 at Pickerington Central.
Boys lacrosse team celebrates title
Kyle Milliron's three goals helped the boys lacrosse team hold off Liberty 12-11 on May 1 and clinch an undefeated OCC-Buckeye championship.
Riley Bruening, Sam Monas-tra, Jack Nebraska and Blake Profio each added two goals as Olentangy finished 7-0 in the league and avenged a 13-6 loss to the Patriots in a Division I regional final last year.
The win over Liberty was one of only two OCC-Buckeye games decided by fewer than nine goals. The other was an 8-7 win at New Albany on April 17.
The Braves lost to Worthington Kilbourne 8-6 on May 3 and are 12-3 overall heading into the Midwest Scholastic Lacrosse Coaches Association tournament Friday, May 11, and Saturday, May 12, at Fortress Obetz.
Olentangy was voted the third seed in the 16-team Division I, Region 2 tournament and will play host to 10th-seeded Strongsville in a first-round game Tuesday, May 15. The winner will visit fifth-seeded Whitehouse Anthony Wayne or ninth-seeded Perrysburg for a regional quarterfinal May 18.
The Braves have not played Strongsville this season.
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy girls lacrosse and track & field teams:
May 10 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central
*May 11 -- At Big Walnut in makeup from April 24
May 14 -- Home vs. 11th-seeded Delaware in first round of Division I, Region 1 tournament. Winner plays host to fourth-seeded Medina or 13th-seeded Brunswick in regional quarterfinal May 18. The Braves are seeded third.
TRACK & FIELD
May 10, 12 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at Olentangy Orange
May 15-16, 19 -- Division I, district 2 meet at Hilliard Darby. The top four finishers in each event advance to regional May 23 and 25 at Pickerington North.