Over the next eight days, the Hilliard Davidson High School boys volleyball team will face three teams that reached at least a state semifinal last season, including defending champion Cincinnati Elder on Friday.

Over the next eight days, the Hilliard Davidson High School boys volleyball team will face three teams that reached at least a state semifinal last season, including defending champion Cincinnati Elder on Friday.

That stretch, which also includes matches against Hilliard Darby (Tuesday) and Worthington Kilbourne (May 7), might be the toughest the Wildcats have, but then again, there aren't a whole lot of breaks in the schedule. Among the teams Davidson already has faced are Lakewood St. Edward, Kettering Fairmont, Darby and Worthington Kilbourne.

Coach Jay Cauley acknowledged the match Friday at Elder is the type his team needs to play during the regular season to have a shot at a deep postseason run.

"The South Region has kind of rolled in the state tournament for the last four or five years, and if you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best," Cauley said. "It should be a good test for us. We're definitely going to have to play well, especially going down there and making that trip."

Davidson was 20-5 last season, but Cauley knew that mark would be much more difficult to attain with the schedule this season. He said he has been pleased with the way his team has handled the level of competition, including a 25-21, 25-23, 25-22 win over Mount Vernon on March 28 and a 25-20, 27-25, 25-15 win over Gahanna on April 11. The Wildcats also have taken Darby and Kilbourne to four games, losing to Darby 25-16, 25-16, 23-25, 25-19 on April 16 and to Kilbourne 24-26, 27-25, 25-17, 25-14 on April 21.

Still, he said the Wildcats are not playing at their peak yet.

"It's just little things here and there," Cauley said. "We've served very poorly in certain points of matches. That's another focus and concentration issue. We haven't hit the ceiling with this team yet. We're nowhere near playing our best, which is good. We want to be playing our best in mid-May."

The biggest positive so far has been depth. Several players have led the team in kills in matches, including David Carraher, Brandon Bowers, Brian Lantz and Bobby Powell. Cauley also said the team has been fairly consistent defensively.

"We're pleased with where we're at," Cauley said. "Do we have a long way to go? Yes, we have a long way to go. Will we get there? I certainly hope so."

•Darby has adjusted well to a midseason coaching change and remains on track for the OCC-Buckeye Division title.

The coach now is Joe Ross, a former player and assistant at Darby, after the school parted ways with first-year coach Max Miller two weeks ago. Miller said disagreements with some parents and the athletics department led to his departure.

"It was a bad situation, and I decided to step down," Miller said.

Ross played at Darby from 1998-2001 and was an assistant the next seven years. He earned a bachelor's degree from Ohio State in 2004 and a masters in secondary education in 2005.

This was set to be the first season since 1998 that he had not been associated with the program. Ross, a teacher at Heritage Middle School, said he got a call from interim athletics director Nic Gaston two weeks ago asking if he would be able to take over. After Ross met with parents April 18, he began coaching April 20.

"It wasn't the right fit between coach Miller and Darby High School, and we just felt we wanted to make the situation up to par and where it needed to be," Gaston said.

Ross said that because he was familiar with the program, he was impressed with the skill level of the team, but not necessarily surprised.

"We are incredibly talented," Ross said. "We graduated 10 seniors, so really all the kids who are playing varsity now were on the junior varsity a year ago. They had a lot of success on the j.v. and they have a lot of potential."

The Panthers won their first two matches after Ross took over before losing all three matches last Saturday in the Centerville Elite Tournament. A 22-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-23 win over Dublin Coffman on April 23 put the Wildcats in first place in the OCC-Buckeye at 4-0. Before last Tuesday, they were second at 3-1.

Ross said he expects the Panthers to improve as they gain more experience, but for now he's trying to get his players to simply relax and use their talent.

"Our biggest message now as a coaching staff is, 'Guys, when you're on the court, just play,'" Ross said. "They're all really talented. If we can hopefully get that mentality that they're out there to just play, and they go out and play hard, hopefully that experience will come."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Darby and Davidson boys volleyball teams:


*April 7 -- Defeated Worthington Kilbourne 25-15, 27-29, 25-18, 20-25, 17-15

April 14 -- Lost to Mount Vernon 16-25, 25-19, 27-25, 25-17

*April 16 -- Def. Davidson 25-16, 25-16, 23-25, 25-19

*April 21 -- Played Thomas Worthington 25-9, 25-14, 25-12

*April 23 -- Def. Dublin Coffman 22-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-23

Last Saturday -- Lost to Cincinnati Moeller 25-19, 25-17, 25-15; lost to Centerville 25-20, 25-18, 25-21; lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius 25-17, 25-23, 29-27

*Last Tuesday -- Played Upper Arlington

*Today -- At Kilbourne

Saturday -- Home vs. Cincinnati Elder

*Tuesday -- Home vs. Davidson

Of note: The Panthers were 6-5 overall and 4-0 in the OCC-Buckeye before last Tuesday.


*April 7 -- Def. UA 25-9, 25-11, 25-20

April 11 -- Def. Gahanna 25-20, 27-25, 25-15; lost to Kettering Fairmont 25-21, 29-27, 25-23

*April 16 -- Lost to Darby 25-16, 25-16, 23-25, 25-19

April 17 -- Def. Licking Heights 25-12, 25-10

*April 21 -- Lost to Kilbourne 24-26, 27-25, 25-17, 25-14

*April 23 -- Def. Thomas 25-7, 25-11, 25-13

Last Saturday -- Def. Lakewood 25-12, 25-14; def. North Olmsted 25-14, 25-18; def. Brecksville-Broadview Heights 24-26, 23-25, 25-16, 25-22, 15-8

*Last Tuesday -- Played Coffman

*Today -- At UA

Friday -- At Elder

*Tuesday -- At Darby

*May 7 -- Home vs. Kilbourne

Of note: The Wildcats were 12-4 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Buckeye before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Ohio match