Some Pickerington High School Central girls volleyball players had tears in their eyes as they watched Dublin Coffman raise a Division I district championship trophy Oct. 31 at Whitehall.

Some Pickerington High School Central girls volleyball players had tears in their eyes as they watched Dublin Coffman raise a Division I district championship trophy Oct. 31 at Whitehall.

That the 23rd-seeded Tigers had pulled off back-to-back upsets to come within shouting distance of their first district title since 1994 was little consolation, at least right then.

But in a sense, coach Laura Fender was glad to give her team a little time to be downtrodden after losing to the top-seeded Shamrocks 25-12, 25-12, 25-10.

"They are disappointed because they genuinely went into this (match) with heart and believing that there was a chance," said Fender, whose team finished 14-11 overall. "I was happy they cared that much and believed. We're not going to measure our season on (Oct. 31). We lost, (Coffman is) a great team, but we worked hard and fought and believed. We are proud. A Central team hasn't been this far in a long time."

This was the first year since 1998 that Central not only reached a district semifinal, but also won two matches in a postseason.

Sophomore middle hitters Gabbie Bullock and Havilyn Cummings each had four kills and sophomore right-side hitter Mackenzie Richards had three for the Tigers, who fell behind early in each game.

Coffman won its ninth consecutive district championship and advanced to play Olentangy Liberty in a regional semifinal Nov. 4.

"(Central) had a good game plan," Coffman coach Mary Ann Souder said. "They started tipping balls to us and tried to make us slow down our game, so then we tried to speed it back up. We had to change with them. But they are a good team. Their program has come a long way over there. It's a totally different program. I have a lot of respect for (Fender)."

The Tigers finished fifth in the OCC-Ohio Division at 7-7, behind Gahanna (13-1), Grove City (12-2), Pickerington North (10-4) and Newark (8-6) and ahead of Lancaster (4-10), Reynoldsburg (2-12) and Groveport (0-14).

Central opened the postseason by defeating 37th-seeded Central Crossing 25-13, 25-12, 25-9 in a first-round home match Oct. 20. The Tigers then went on the road and upset 12th-seeded Dublin Scioto 25-23, 21-25, 18-25, 25-19, 15-10 in a second-round match Oct. 22 and edged 14th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne 21-25, 25-20, 21-25, 25-22, 15-11 in a district semifinal Oct. 29 at Whitehall.

Bullock was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district. Richards was second-team all-league and senior setter Macy Selan was honorable mention all-league.

"We want this to become our new standard," Fender said. "We believe we can be back here next year."

Panthers fall in district semifinal

North lost in a Division I district semifinal for the second consecutive season, falling to fifth-seeded Gahanna 25-18, 25-23, 25-23 on Oct. 28 at Bloom-Carroll.

Coach April Boudreau lamented some inconsistency by the 11th-seeded Panthers during the match despite the close scores.

"Gahanna plays very smart and disciplined," said Boudreau, whose team finished 16-8 overall. "I was proud of our efforts. We have struggled with maintaining consistency all season, and again (Oct. 28). We would dig ourselves in holes and were unable to get out. When you're competing at this level, you cannot do that."

North took a first-round bye and defeated 41st-seeded Westerville North 25-12, 25-11, 25-16 in a second-round match Oct. 21 before losing to Gahanna.

The Panthers were led by OCC-Ohio co-Player of the Year and first-team all-district honoree Deja Clark, a senior outside hitter who has committed to play for Evansville University along with teammate Elane Shumway.

Shumway, a senior middle hitter, was second-team all-district and all-league. Senior right-side hitter Taylor Tincher, who will play for Ohio Wesleyan University, was honorable mention all-league.

Injuries played a part in North's season. Junior setter Lydia Mann ruptured an ACL before the Panthers' 23-25, 25-18, 25-18, 25-13 loss to Gahanna on Oct. 13. She was replaced for the final two weeks of the season by senior Sydney Janes as well as sophomore Ilana Sark, who came up from junior varsity.

Senior defensive specialist Morgan Veltri missed most of the season because of a back injury.

The performance of younger players, as well as a combined record of 49-19 between the varsity, j.v. and freshman teams, gives Boudreau some optimism heading toward next season.

Other expected returnees include junior libero Izzy Collinsworth.

"We made several improvements in our defense and serve-receive," Boudreau said. "Our younger kids really stepped up in the back row and our seniors were a vital part of our offense. When we blocked well, it set up our whole defense, and that allowed us to run an effective offense."