Thomas Worthington High School volleyball coach Ed Marsman chuckled when it was suggested a few voice problems earlier this week were the result of the Cardinals' five-game victory over Olentangy in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

Thomas Worthington High School volleyball coach Ed Marsman chuckled when it was suggested a few voice problems earlier this week were the result of the Cardinals' five-game victory over Olentangy in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

"Nope, it's mostly from a cold," Marsman said. "But that was a great victory. Our girls came out fired up and they weren't going to be denied."

The Cardinals continued a surge dating back to late September with a 15-25, 25-22, 17-25, 25-15, 15-11 victory Oct. 22 at Jonathan Alder. Thomas, which won five of its last seven regular-season matches, finished the OCC-Central Division at 6-8 and improved to 15-9 overall heading into a district semifinal against seventh-seeded Hilliard Bradley on Oct. 26 at Big Walnut.

Marsman attributed the success to an offensive adjustment. The Cardinals switched from a 6-2 alignment to a 5-1, hoping to create consistency by playing with one setter, junior Casey Swihart, most of the time.

"It takes away one of our blockers and it means our second setter loses some playing time, but the players know it leads to more consistency," Marsman said. "They're fired up about how we've been playing lately."

Thomas lost three of four in mid-September but got on something of a roll during the final two weeks of league play, highlighted by a 25-22, 25-21, 21-25, 25-19 win over Worthington Kilbourne on Oct. 13 that avenged a 25-23, 25-17, 23-25, 26-24 loss to the Wolves on Sept. 20.

The Cardinals earned the ninth seed in the district tournament, with 10th-seeded Olentangy taking a slot that meant they'd meet in the second round. Top-seeded Pickerington North and Gahanna are potential district final opponents; that match is at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, at Big Walnut.

"(The draw) ended up a little tougher than I thought it might be," Marsman said. "We were fortunate to beat (Dublin) Jerome and we knew Olentangy was pretty much at the same skill level as us. Sarah (Smiley, the Cardinals' senior outside hitter) just ended up being a little better than their outside hitter (Kasia Walczak). I told the kids last week we're going to be in for tough matches the entire tournament."

They have been. They survived Jerome, 29-27, 25-22, 28-26 in the first round Oct. 19 before getting past Olentangy.

Smiley hopes to continue to be a force in the postseason. She had 36 kills in the Oct. 13 match against Kilbourne and 30 in a 25-20, 23-25, 24-26, 25-21, 15-7 loss to Central Crossing on Oct. 11.

•Kilbourne coach Meladee Hopkins might as well have seen a black cat scurry past her at the beginning of the Wolves' first-round district match against Westerville North.

"The first serve of the game landed right between two of our seniors," she said. "It didn't get much better after that. We just didn't play well at all."

The Warriors ended the Wolves' season with a 25-21, 25-23, 25-18 win Oct. 20 at Columbus East. Kilbourne, which had won six matches in a row from Sept. 27 to Oct. 6, lost its last three matches to finish 13-10 overall and 7-7 in the OCC-Central, tied for fourth with Central Crossing.

The slump baffled Hopkins, but it symbolized the up-and-down nature of the season. Nothing was the same, she said, after a 26-24, 21-25, 27-25, 25-7 loss to Dublin Coffman on Oct. 11 in which the Shamrocks lost their first game in league play since 2008.

"It was like we saved everything for playing Coffman. You could just see where that loss took their air out of them," Hopkins said. "We underachieved; there's no doubt about it. There were games we were full of mental mistakes. We'd miss serves. We hit the ball out of bounds. Then Westerville North saw us on the bracket (Kilbourne was seeded eighth; North was 15th) and jumped on us."

Coffman (14-0) won the OCC-Central, followed by Upper Arlington (12-2), Hilliard Davidson (8-6), Central Crossing and the Wolves, Thomas (6-8), Hilliard Darby (2-12) and Westland (0-14).

Kilbourne will lose six seniors in defensive specialist Brie Roberts, middle hitters Mary Frances Gardner and Abby Hackworth, outside hitter Carly Cameron, right side/outside hitter Brooke Barney and outside hitter/setter Meredith Schram. Expected returnees are junior libero Abbey Nadolson, junior right side hitter Casey Marrell, junior outside hitter/setter Morgan Lasley, junior defensive specialist/outside hitter Maria Whitesel, junior outside hitters Sara Johnston and Alycia Kingcade, junior outside hitter/setter Maria Calvert and sophomore setter/right side hitter Haley Defibaugh.

"It will be interesting to see who steps up to fill the voids," Hopkins said. "We have a lot of promising players coming back."