Some of the questions Pickerington High School North girls volleyball coach April Boudreau wanted answered by this point of the season have been answered.
But Boudreau needed only one word to explain how the Panthers earned a 25-10, 20-25, 25-18, 25-10 win over Reynoldsburg on Sept. 19 that was a bounce-back victory in terms of how North was able to overcome an ugly second game as well as a 26-24, 25-19, 18-25, 25-21 loss at Pickerington Central the previous night.
"Effort," Boudreau said. "Effort, mental toughness and doing what they are supposed to do. That changed the whole (match). We have just struggled with consistency the entire season. Having Bri (Hollingshed) back, we're feeling things out. We're just not getting everything we want to get from them as far as effort goes. It's a little frustrating, but we're trying to get everything fixed."
Hollingshed, a senior middle hitter who was second on the Panthers last year with 222 kills, did not play in the first 14 matches and became eligible in time for the loss at Central. Boudreau did not disclose why Hollingshed had not previously been cleared to play.
North was 9-7 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Grove City on Sept. 25.
Hollingshed's absence allowed Boudreau to test different players in her spot, including juniors Lindsey Maziarz and Peyton Roberts. Maziarz had 49 kills through 16 matches and Roberts had 37.
"They did a great job and Lindsey ended up staying in as our second middle hitter," Boudreau said. "We switched Lauren Norwood to the middle for a couple (matches) just to get a different look and see how things went with a different lineup. I wanted to see if we'd be in a better spot. Sometimes things have gone well and sometimes they haven't."
Norwood, who normally is a right-side hitter, had 37 kills through 16 matches.
Senior setter Megan Vayansky said she has found herself encouraging teammates throughout the season.
"We have a lot of people who might not think they can do the job when they really can," Vayansky said. "Being positive and cheering on the court has made a big difference, too. We've worked a lot on our connections and improved."
Junior setter Kaitlyn Rhoades said despite an up-and-down start, she sees some similarities between this team and last year's that finished as a Division I district runner-up. North won 13 of 15 matches from mid-September on until losing to Olentangy Orange in three games in a district final.
"There are a lot of similarities," Rhoades said. "We have a lot of talent and there is a big will to win on this team. If we play hard, we'll be fine."
North remained in the OCC-Ohio race entering the week, two matches behind first-place Grove City, which was 5-0 before Sept. 25. Although the Panthers completed the first half of their league schedule against Reynoldsburg, they had yet to play the Greyhounds because their second match against Central was moved up from Sept. 18 to avoid a football conflict.
"If we play like we know how to play, we can compete with anybody in our league," Boudreau said. "It just really is going to come down to us being mentally prepared and, like I said, just wanting to win with that effort, that intensity, that desire."
OTCA run ends for girls tennis team
The girls tennis team's hopes for an Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I district championship came to an end Sept. 19 with a 3-2 loss at Olentangy Liberty in a district quarterfinal, but North still was 14-3 overall before playing Granville on Sept. 25.
The match between the third-ranked Panthers and sixth-seeded Patriots came down to first singles, where Cassie Alcala lost to Maddie Atway 1-6, 6-3, 6-3. Alcala was the Division I state runner-up in singles last year, while Atway teamed with Dani Schoenly to win the Division I state championship in doubles.
Schoenly played second singles Sept. 21.
North's wins came at third singles, where Kim Nguyen defeated Ananya Dhati 6-0, 6-1, and second doubles, where Sophia Anderson and Maggie Haas beat Anna Gardner and Cathy Zhu 6-1, 6-0.
The loss broke a four-match winning streak for the Panthers that included a 5-0 win over Hilliard Davidson on Sept. 18. North bounced back with a 4-1 win over Watterson on Sept. 20 at the Park of Roses.
Golf teams prepare for sectionals
The boys golf team will be in familiar surroundings for a Division I sectional Tuesday, Oct. 2, as the Panthers will play their home course of Turnberry.
The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to the district tournament Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.
North is seeded 11th of 40 teams in the district. Other top teams at Turnberry include third-seeded Liberty, fifth-seeded Gahanna and eighth-seeded Central.
"Fifteen teams could get to district (from the three sectional sites)," coach Steve Schill said. "It's going to be a tough go to get out of sectionals."
The girls team is competing in a Division I sectional Oct. 2 at Westchester, where the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 9 at Cooks Creek.
Below are the coming schedules for the North cross country, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 29 -- Panther Invitational at home
Sept. 27 -- Pickerington Cup at Pine Hill
Sept. 29 -- Pickerington Central Fall Invitational at Turnberry
Oct. 2 -- Division I sectional at Turnberry
*Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg
Sept. 27 -- At New Albany
*Oct. 2 -- At Reynoldsburg
Sept. 27 -- At Dublin Jerome
Sept. 29 -- At Watkins Memorial
*Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Gahanna. The Panthers lost to the Lions 28-26, 26-24, 28-26 on Sept. 6.