The biggest opponent for the top-seeded Pickerington High School North girls volleyball team in the first two rounds of the Division I district tournament may have been complacency.

The biggest opponent for the top-seeded Pickerington High School North girls volleyball team in the first two rounds of the Division I district tournament may have been complacency.

The Panthers had little trouble defeating Franklin Heights 25-4, 25-6, 25-11 in the first round on Oct. 19 and Walnut Ridge 25-5, 25-11, 25-11 in the second round on Oct. 22 to improve to 23-1.

"We just won and advanced," said coach Kris Kern, whose team played 16th-seeded Gahanna in a district semifinal on Oct. 26. "When you're the top seed, you don't expect there is going to be too much competition. It's the one week of the year where you don't worry about opponents too much."

The semifinal winner will play seventh-seeded Hilliard Bradley or ninth-seeded Thomas Worthington in a district final at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, at Big Walnut.

The district champion plays third-seeded Dublin Coffman, fifth-seeded Olentangy Liberty, Canal Winchester or Westerville North in a regional semifinal on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at Hilliard Davidson.

North defeated Westerville North 25-10, 25-21 on Sept. 10 but has yet to any of the other potential district final or regional semifinal opponents.

The win over Walnut Ridge was North's 23rd in a row since opening the season with a 25-21, 25-19, 25-23 loss to Rocky River Magnificat on Aug. 27.

To help keep his players mentally and physically sharp, Kern had his team participate in a multi-team scrimmage Oct. 20 at Liberty and has had his team practice against members of the Panthers' boys volleyball team.

"The scrimmage was good for us to get our starters a little more work," Kern said. "We have very competitive practices with us being as deep as we are. Our practices have been much more competitive than our first two rounds of the tournament. We will be ready for the next set of (matches)."

•First-year Central coach Aubrie Perry definitely remembers her first day on the job with the Tigers.

"I remember walking into the gym and thinking to myself, 'What have I gotten myself into?'" Perry said. "They couldn't pass, half of their serves would either go out or wouldn't make it over the net. They've come such a long way from where they started. It's unbelievable."

The Tigers' season ended with a 25-22, 30-28, 25-18 loss to Mount Vernon in the first round of the Division I district tournament on Oct. 20.

Central finished 6-15 overall, marking the most victories the program has had since going 9-11 in 2004.

Central had won three of its previous six matches before the district tournament, but against Mount Vernon, Perry felt the Tigers got away from the fundamentals that had helped them improve toward the end of the season.

"(Against Mount Vernon), we didn't play defense," Perry said. "We were all out of position. Instead of being down and ready, we just didn't execute."

Central finished sixth in the OCC-Ohio Division at 4-10, behind North (14-0), Newark (12-2), Grove City (9-5), Gahanna (9-5) and Lancaster (8-6) and ahead of Groveport (2-12) and Reynoldsburg (1-13).

The Tigers will lose four seniors in Maggie Bell (5-foot-8, right-side hitter), Heidi Frobel (5-5, defensive specialist), Kasi Payne (5-6, setter/outside hitter) and Erika Ross (5-7, middle hitter).

"A couple of them didn't get as much playing time as they wanted, but they were the most positive girls on the team all the time," Perry said. "Erika was a middle hitter and was a whole 5-7, but she had more blocks than some middles that are 6-feet tall."

Expected to return are juniors Shalon Conley (5-10, right-side hitter), Alexis Newsome (6-3, outside hitter), Baile Simon (5-3, libero) and Megan Ward (5-5, outside hitter).

"I got to the team so late last year," Perry said. "I am looking forward to starting as soon as I can (in the offseason). I want us to use the gym as much as possible so we can get that extra gym time. That could make a world of difference once next season starts."