As the Hilliard Darby High School boys volleyball team prepares for another trip to the Division I state tournament, it knows its quarterfinal opponent all too well.

As the Hilliard Darby High School boys volleyball team prepares for another trip to the Division I state tournament, it knows its quarterfinal opponent all too well.

The Panthers challenged West Chester Lakota West on May 8 before losing 22-25, 26-24, 22-25, 25-22, 15-12.

What will be different Saturday at Centerville is that Darby will have middle-hitter Josh Phillips back in the lineup. Illness kept him out of the first match with Lakota West, which was ranked No. 2 behind Cleveland St. Edward in the final state poll. Darby was ninth.

"We played them tough, but it should be a different game with Josh back," said setter Colin Ingram, whose team is18-3. "He's one of our strongest hitters and a big key to our game. We didn't get it done last year and us being all seniors it's more of a last hurrah for us."

Eventual champion Cincinnati Moeller defeated Darby 26-24, 25-18, 25-20 in a quarterfinal last year. The last central Ohio team to win a Division I state title was Dublin Coffman in 1992. St. Charles won in Division II last season.

A win Saturday would put the Panthers in a semifinal Sunday against St. Edward or Cincinnati Elder. Mount Vernon, Centerville, Cleveland St. Ignatius or Moeller would be possible opponents in the state final on Sunday.

Centerville defeated Darby 25-22, 25-16, 25-20 on April 7.

"Our team has guys who can put the ball away, but we've got to be able to pass," outside-hitter Dan Huey said. "Last year, there was a lot of controversy and bickering among the team, but this year the whole team realizes we're in it for one goal."

Darby reached the state tournament by defeating Pickerington North 25-12, 25-17, 25-17 in an East Regional final last Saturday. The 25-23, 25-14, 25-18 win over Hilliard Davidson in a regional semifinal on May 18 marked the third victory against the Wildcats this season.

•Davidson, which defeated Upper Arlington 25-14, 25-21, 28-26 in its tournament opener on May 15, finished the season 17-9 overall.

"(Darby) played about as well as they had played all year," Davidson coach Jay Cauley said. "We had a 22-20 lead in the first game, but just couldn't find a way to finish and that really was the story of our season."

The Wildcats finished 8-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division behind champion Darby (10-0) and ahead of Coffman (6-4), Upper Arlington (3-7), Worthington Kilbourne (3-7) and Thomas Worthington (0-10).

Davidson was led by a strong senior class which included David Carraher (first-team all-region and first-team all-league), Michael Mikola (second-team all-region, second-team all-league) and Cameron Brown (honorable mention all-region, second-team all-league).

"I told them after the Darby match that they have been the most successful senior group we've ever had," Cauley said. "They averaged 16 wins a season and really established our identity as one of the better teams in the state."

Cauley will be counting on five juniors to lead next year's team in outside-hitter Jordan Zickafoose (honorable mention all-region), outside-hitter Drew Evans (honorable mention all-league), middle-blocker Jimmy Curtis (honorable mention all-region, second-team all-league), setter Eric Lantz and defensive specialist Craig Lantz.

•First-year Bradley, under coach Chris Manganello, played through a difficult schedule with no seniors. The Jaguars finished 6-16 overall following a 21-25, 20-25, 25-23, 25-18, 15-12 loss to Dublin Jerome in the first round of the Division II district tournament on May 15.

"We were up two games and we just couldn't close the deal," he said. "I think our inexperience just kind of shinned through and that happened more times than not this year."

The Jaguars finished fourth at 3-7 in the OCC-Capital Division, behind champion Mount Vernon (10-0), Pickerington North (8-2) and Gahanna (6-4), and ahead of Delaware (2-8) and Pickerington Central (1-9).

Pickerington North, Mount Vernon and Gahanna all reached the regional finals.

"You like to play a tough schedule even though it doesn't help you all the time," Manganello said. "But I think we were a better team than our record showed. We struggled to come together as a team, but that's probably to be expected being a first-year program."

Bradley was led by co-captains Evan Bell and Ian Davis.

Bell, a second-team all-region and second-team all-league selection, missed the last two weeks of the season with a severely sprained ankle.

Davis was honorable mention all-region and honorable mention all-league.

Manganello also expects junior Cameron Kelly and sophomore Craig Shimer to be top contributors next season.

At a glance


•Record: 6-16 overall; 3-7 (fourth) in OCC-Capital •Seniors lost: none •Key returnees: Evan Bell, Ian Davis, Cameron Kelly and Craig Shimer


•Record: 17-9 overall; 8-2 (second) in OCC-Ohio •Seniors lost: Cameron Brown, David Carraher, Andrew Deas, Andrew Falkner, Michael Mikola, Bobby Powell and Michael Sinay •Key returnees: Jimmy Curtis, Drew Evans, Craig Lantz, Eric Lantz and Jordan Zickafoose