Liz Rundio has seen a difference in her Hilliard Darby High School girls volleyball team, and that difference has resulted in victories.

Liz Rundio has seen a difference in her Hilliard Darby High School girls volleyball team, and that difference has resulted in victories.

The third-year coach watched as the Panthers won the first two games en route to a 25-23, 25-22, 20-25, 25-19 victory over visiting Dublin Scioto on Sept. 11 in an OCC-Cardinal Division match.

It was the third consecutive match won by Darby, which won only two matches last season.

"I think the experience helps," said Rundio, whose team was 3-7 overall and 3-3 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Bradley on Sept. 18. "I think they are driven to not have the same season as they had last year. They have had fun on the court, worked hard and have stayed true to that goal.

"We lost five seniors last year, but we have four starters and seven letterwinners back. Their experience on the court definitely helps."

Senior right side/outside hitter Emily Krumpe led the Panthers with 12 kills against Scioto and junior libero Ellie Mathews had 19 digs. Sophomore setter Gabby Adrian had 34 assists.

"Our communication has been strong and our hitting has come a long way," Rundio said. "We have had good outside hitting from Emily Krumpe and (sophomore) Maddie Platfoot.

"Our defense has been going well with Ellie Mathews at libero taking control. Our setting has been great with Gabby Adrian at setter. She's a sophomore and the experience she gained as a freshman on varsity was great. She has worked hard and takes command of the offense."

Rundio said the best thing about her team's victory over the Irish was her players' focus throughout the match.

"Many times, we'll win the first game, lose our focus and not play as well in the second game," she said. "We won the first two, lost the third game and were able to still fight back and find a way to win."

Krumpe said keeping things simple has been important.

"Our communication as a whole has been better," she said. "We have been making the simple plays, the easy plays. When you get the little things right then it makes it that much easier to handle the bigger things."

The communication skills gained by the Panthers came from time spent together during offseason workouts.

"It means a lot (to win three early matches) because we have been able to come together as a team," Krumpe said. "We came into the gym in June and we have been staying after practice to get more work.

"It's important to get the momentum (by winning early matches).

"It really helps us re-establish our belief in ourselves. We have been good at supporting one another and not letting anyone get down."

Consistency has helped the Panthers so far this season. That's a trait they'll need to continue in the coming weeks.

"We have been playing more consistent from point one to point 25," Rundio said. "We haven't had the roller-coaster ride that we had in the past. We have been limiting the ups and downs.

"We need to keep playing hard, pushing each other in practice. We have to keep the repetition of passing and defense in practice so it becomes automatic in the matches."