Olentangy Orange High School girls volleyball coach Jessica Timmons didn't think her players were very cohesive during the early part of the season.

Olentangy Orange High School girls volleyball coach Jessica Timmons didn't think her players were very cohesive during the early part of the season.

The first-year coach said that's no longer the case for the Pioneers, who were 5-6 overall and 4-4 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Big Walnut on Sept. 27.

"In the beginning, we had six individuals on the court and it took some time for the kids to learn to play together," Timmons said. "Now we're functioning as one machine and having a lot of fun. I'm impressed with how much our kids want to win considering that this team hasn't had much success in the past."

Middle hitters Haley Mucha and Mackenzie Gossard, along with opposite hitter Alli Hauger, have helped Orange put up a strong block.

Setter Kayli Lucius is leading the Pioneers in assists and libero Hailie Francis has played solid defense in the back row.

"We do a really good job of setting up our block," Timmons said. "We're still working on our passing and serve reception, and we need to use our serving as more of an offensive weapon because it's been inconsistent."

Timmons hopes her squad can put together a winning streak heading into the Division I district tournament draw Oct. 9 at Gahanna.

The Pioneers play OCC-Capital matches on Thursday, Sept. 29, at New Albany, on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at Watkins Memorial and on Oct. 6 at home against Franklin Heights.

Orange beat New Albany 21-25, 21-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-12 on Sept. 6, Watkins Memorial 25-11, 25-10, 25-20 on Sept. 8 and Franklin Heights 25-16, 25-16, 25-13 on Sept. 13.

"We want to peak and get on a roll going into the tournament, but any of those teams can beat us on any given day because they've all been improving," Timmons said. "We've been improving, too, and hopefully we've improved enough that we can still beat them."

•Liberty will play host to Olentangy on Thursday, Sept. 29, and to Westerville North on Tuesday, Oct. 4, in key OCC-Cardinal matches.

The Patriots beat Olentangy 25-22, 25-13, 26-24 on Sept. 6 and North 25-12, 16-25, 25-11, 25-15 on Sept. 8.

Liberty was 10-2 overall and 7-1 in the OCC-Cardinal heading into a league match against Dublin Jerome on Sept. 27 and a non-league match against Newark Catholic on Sept. 28.

Leading the Patriots through 12 matches were Morgan Tyree (90 kills, 76 digs and 12 aces), Stephanie Ruffing (74 kills, 85 digs), Marina Zahran (22 blocks, 63 digs), Kenna Koehler (63 digs), Cassandra Zahran (220 assists) and Kayla Pfaff (29 blocks).

"We are excited that we still have the opportunity to win a league championship," coach Jen Chapman said. "The second round of conference play will be great competition and we look forward to the challenge."

•Olentangy coach Michelle Mimna said her team hopes to show improvement during its rematch with Liberty.

Leading the Braves through 13 matches were Allie Brown (121 kills), Kasia Walczak (107 kills), Alexis Elmurr (210 digs), Kelsey Rose (172 assists), Ganiru Anunike (25 blocks, 47 kills) and Sarah Arango (150 assists).

Olentangy had a 92 serving percentage with 103 aces.

"We are working hard, finding a way to close out close matches," Mimna said. "The first Liberty match was awful. We did not play well and we let them run all over us. We hope to play tough against them ... and give them the same run we have given Westerville North (a 24-26, 25-18, 22-25, 25-17, 15-12 loss on Sept. 20) and Westerville Central (a 23-25, 24-26, 25-14, 25-21, 15-12 loss on Sept. 13)."