The Olentangy Liberty High School girls volleyball team's reward for winning its first Division I district championship was a meeting with the only team to beat the Patriots during the regular season.

The Olentangy Liberty High School girls volleyball team's reward for winning its first Division I district championship was a meeting with the only team to beat the Patriots during the regular season.

But that was the last thing on third-seeded Liberty's mind after it edged fourth-seeded Westerville Central 24-26, 30-32, 25-22, 25-20, 15-10 in a district final Oct. 31 at Bloom-Carroll.

The Patriots had finally broken through, winning a district final for the first time in seven tries since the school opened in 2003.

"It's overwhelming and exciting," middle hitter Lauren Hofer said. "The senior class especially has been dreaming of this since freshman year.

"We play our best when we're excited and we get into it, and we all just worked together. They have a really good player (opposite hitter Katie Myers, a University of Maryland commit) and we worked hard to try and contain her."

Liberty improved to 23-2 overall and advanced to play Dublin Coffman in a regional semifinal Nov. 4 at Hilliard Davidson. The Shamrocks, who were coming off their ninth consecutive district title, defeated the Patriots twice in OCC-Central Division play en route to winning the league title at 14-0.

Liberty was second at 12-2.

The Patriots advanced to the district final by sweeping sixth-seeded Orange 25-21, 25-18, 30-28 in a semifinal Oct. 29 at Bloom-Carroll.

Coach Jen Chapman made an adjustment after the second game against Central, matching up middle hitter Shelby Stewart against Myers.

"They passed it well the first couple games when we weren't passing well, and it literally switched after that," Chapman said. "Being in the same conference as Dublin Coffman, we knew winning a league title would be a tall order so our next focus was taking the next step and getting a district title."

The regional semifinal winner plays DeSales or Gahanna in a regional final Saturday, Nov. 7, at Davidson. The regional champion advances to a state semifinal Nov. 13 at Wright State.

Liberty defeated Gahanna 29-27, 25-20, 21-25, 25-16 on Aug. 22 in the season opener for both teams.

Even on that day, a district championship was at the forefront of the Patriots' goals.

"We've been wanting to leave this legacy behind and we just kept fighting throughout the season," Stewart said. "I'm excited to see what we can do from here on out."

Braves fall in district final

The first thing Olentangy coach Michelle Mimna told her team after a 25-12, 25-12, 25-17 loss to DeSales in a Division I district final Oct. 31 at Whitehall was that the Braves did everything asked of them.

"Our goals for the season were to win the OCC (-Capital) and get to this (match), and the first thing I told them in the locker room was that they did what we asked them to do at the beginning of the season," said Mimna, whose team was seeking its first district title since 2008. "It'd have been easier if this was a better match."

Junior outside hitter Nhu Do had seven kills, freshman outside hitter Olivia Margolies added five and senior middle hitter Sarah Hansel had nine digs to lead ninth-seeded Olentangy against second-seeded DeSales, which won its fifth consecutive district championship.

The Braves finished 18-8 overall and 11-3 in the OCC-Capital, tied with Orange for the championship ahead of Big Walnut (10-4), Worthington Kilbourne (9-5), New Albany (8-6), Mount Vernon (5-9), Delaware (1-13) and Franklin Heights (1-13).

While Olentangy is in the league title chase almost every season, this year gave Mimna a different feeling.

"They have bought in," she said. "These seniors (are in) hook, line and sinker to the mentality of discipline and unity. I feel like it's cheesy, but it has trickled down. Now, I feel like it is a program. We had a really good program in 2008; we got to the regional finals. Since then, we've been high in the standings but never on the same page. Now, from the ground up, we are. ... That is what I am excited about."

Olentangy cruised through the first two rounds of the tournament, defeating visiting and 47th-seeded Walnut Ridge 25-0, 25-4, 25-1 on Oct. 20 and visiting and 43rd-seeded Westland 25-11, 25-11, 25-11 on Oct. 22.

The Braves beat 15th-seeded New Albany 17-25, 25-17, 25-15, 25-18 in a district semifinal Oct. 28 at Whitehall.

Senior defensive special-ist/libero Zoe Miller was named first-team all-league and all-district. Margolies was second-team all-league and all-district.

Hansel was special mention all-league, and senior middle hitter Lauren Judge was honorable mention all-league.

Pioneers enjoyed memorable season

Despite the way her team's season ended, Orange coach Katie Duy hopes the Pioneers can parlay their tournament run and share of the OCC-Capital championship into greater things in coming years.

"Maybe we'd have been to a district final if we'd gone another route (in the bracket). But this will benefit us on the long run. They will learn from this," Duy said. "(Liberty is) a team with more experience. It goes a long way in high-school volleyball.

"I had four underclassmen on the floor quite a bit during the season. It was an experience deal. (The Patriots) are more seasoned. That hurt us in the end."

Orange loses only two seniors in outside hitter Jordan Gels and right-side hitter Leah Howser from a team that finished 21-4 overall. Gels, who had team highs of 342 kills and 73 service aces as well as 192 digs, has committed to Stony Brook.

Howser (182 kills) is an Ohio Dominican commit.

"I give so much credit to the two of them," said Duy, who was league Coach of the Year. "They led by example, brought these young girls along and made it so much easier for me."

Gels and junior middle hitter Samantha Rubal (223 kills, 62 blocks) both were named first-team all-league. Gels was first-team all-district, Rubal was second-team all-district and Howser was second-team all-league and third-team all-district.

Freshman middle hitter Carrigan O'Reilly (181 kills, 124 digs) was honorable mention all-district.

Orange defeated visiting and 46th-seeded Mifflin 25-7, 25-3, 25-2 in a first-round match Oct. 19 and beat visiting and 42nd-seeded Marion Harding 25-9 25-12, 25-15 in the second round Oct. 21.

The Pioneers' win total matched that of the past two seasons combined. Orange was 7-16 in 2013 and 14-11 in 2014.