On its surface, the Olentangy Orange High School girls volleyball team's visit to Olentangy on Sept. 29 was a showdown for at least a share of OCC-Capital Division supremacy.

On its surface, the Olentangy Orange High School girls volleyball team's visit to Olentangy on Sept. 29 was a showdown for at least a share of OCC-Capital Division supremacy.

Coming off a 25-19, 25-17, 28-26 win over New Albany in a league match Sept. 24, the Pioneers were alone in first place entering their rivalry meeting with the Braves, who were a match behind them in the standings and handed Orange its only loss in the first round of OCC-Capital play.

But Orange stood to gain even more as the second half of league play continued.

The Pioneers, who are starting three freshmen and a sophomore under first-year coach Katie Duy, won 14 matches all of last year and are seeking their first league championship.

"They have no volleyball banners in this gym. They've never had an opportunity to win the league," said Duy, whose team was 13-1 overall and 7-1 in the league before Sept. 29. "The younger girls, I was impressed with their discipline and their work ethic throughout the summer, and their athleticism. They don't know any better. They want to win."

Orange's freshman starters are defensive specialist Megan McCollum, middle hitter/setter Carrigan O'Reilly and setter Lauren Perone. Sophomore Sophie Dahn is the starting libero.

Jordan Gels led Orange in kills (193) and aces (49) through 14 matches, and was third on the team in digs with 114. Dahn had a team-high 239 digs and 27 aces, Samantha Rubel had 123 kills and O'Reilly had 106 kills and 25 aces.

McCollum had 152 digs and 25 aces.

Stronger blocking helping Braves

A 27-25, 25-20, 23-25, 25-23 loss to Big Walnut on Sept. 24 dropped Olentangy out of a tie for first place in the OCC-Capital with Orange and into a tie for second with the Golden Eagles, as both were 6-2 in the league before Sept. 29.

New Albany was right behind those teams at 5-3 in the league.

Braves coach Michelle Mimna lauded her team's blocking, citing the performance of middle hitters Megan Cochran and Lauren Judge as well as right-side hitter Sarah Hansel. Hansel moved there from middle hitter before this season.

Cochran had 28.5 blocks on the season before Sept. 29. Judge had a team-high 30.5.

"(Blocking) is an area we really needed to improve upon from last season, and we have," said Mimna, whose team was 10-4 overall before Sept. 29. "We also feel we are a stronger team defensively than last season. This is in part due to the blocking, but our libero, Zoe Miller, is a very strong technical defender. She serves at 97 percent as well, scoring many points for us in that area, too."

Olivia Margolies led Olentangy in kills with 101 before Sept. 29, ahead of Nhu Do (86) and Emily Margolies (78). The Margolies twins are freshmen who see regular time, as does sophomore setter Gabby Trees.

In the first round of league play, Olentangy beat Orange 25-21, 23-25, 12-25, 25-19, 16-14 on Sept. 1.

Cohesive Patriots in title contention

With largely the same roster on the court this season as last, Liberty was 11-1 overall and 7-1 in the OCC-Central before playing Upper Arlington on Sept. 29.

The Patriots started 6-0 before a 25-16, 25-20, 25-11 loss to league leader Dublin Coffman on Sept. 17. Liberty then won five matches in a row before playing UA, including going 3-0 in the Worthington Kilbourne Invitational on Sept. 19 and defeating Frankfort Adena 25-22, 25-17 in the championship match.

Adena was ranked ninth in Division III in last week's state poll.

"We have good team chemistry on and off the court. I did not have any seniors last year so many of the same girls are on the court that were last year," coach Jen Chapman said, citing key contributions from middle hitters Madison Brenner and Shelby Stewart, setter Maddie Fogg, defensive specialist Morgan Harris, opposite hitter Lauren Hofer and defensive specialist Lauren Nichols.

Stewart led the Patriots in kills (90) and blocks (55) before Sept. 29. Brenner had a team-high 102 digs.

Liberty's next meeting with Coffman, which was 8-0 in the league before Sept. 29, is Oct. 13 at home.