Julia Vermilion and Bri Hollingshed lead the Pickerington High School North girls volleyball team in kills by a wide margin, but the Panthers' critical OCC-Ohio Division win at Gahanna on Sept. 28 demonstrated the matchup problems they have presented opponents all year.
Vermilion had 20 kills and Hollingshed had 16 in a 25-22, 14-25, 25-22, 17-25, 15-10 victory that pulled North into a tie with the Lions atop the league, but coach April Boudreau felt a personnel move might have made the difference.
Boudreau rotated the lineup to have Lauren Norwood assume blocking duties for much of the match, helping the Panthers neutralize some of Gahanna's hitting that made the difference in the Lions' 25-23, 23-25, 29-27, 25-17, 18-16 win over North on Sept. 7.
"We won every set where (Norwood was blocking)," Boudreau said.
That complemented a hitting effort led by Vermilion and Hollingshed, but the Panthers also have benefited from the additions of Kyla Sawyer and Zoie Holley.
Sawyer had 103 kills through 18 matches, behind Vermilion (261) and Hollingshed (160), and Holley added 57 for North, which was 15-3 overall and 6-1 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Lancaster on Oct. 3.
Sawyer, a senior, played volleyball as a freshman but devoted herself to basketball the past two years. She had a cartilage transplant in her left knee last year after a separate knee injury as a sophomore.
"(Sawyer) brings an element that not a lot of kids do -- intensity, non-stop all the time and never hangs her head," Boudreau said. "She's an athlete that wants to win all the time. She brings a lot to us."
Vermilion shrugged off credit for leading the team in kills and being second in digs (237), instead emphasizing the Panthers' ability to surprise opponents with their deep stable of hitters.
"We've worked on picking up tips and block coverage and all that stuff. We pushed right at (Gahanna)," Vermilion said. "All of us have done really well. We have a lot of strong hitters. We have Kyla and Zoie and Lauren, so it shocks other teams that we have other people to work to besides me and Bri. That frees up our blocks and other people are open.
"I am having a good year, but I couldn't do it without my team."
Ilana Sark led North with 249 digs through 18 matches, followed by Vermilion and Kaitlyn Rhoades (150).
"Our back row is very scrappy. We've put it together and, when we are scrappy and hit the ball well, that's how we win," Hollingshed said.
North finishes the regular season with league matches Thursday, Oct. 5, at home against Reynoldsburg and Tuesday, Oct. 10, at Grove City and a non-league match Oct. 12 at Olentangy Liberty.
The Panthers will find out their postseason path Sunday, Oct. 8, during the district tournament draw. North was fifth in last week's district coaches poll, one spot behind the Lions.
"We have to push through these next three (matches) before we do any celebrating," Vermilion said.
Girls soccer team
extends unbeaten start
Two wins last week extended both the girls soccer's team unbeaten start and its streak of shutouts.
North edged DeSales 1-0 on Sept. 28 to improve to 11-0-1 overall. Before playing Reynoldsburg on Oct. 3, the Panthers had recorded four consecutive shutouts dating to a scoreless tie against Gahanna on Sept. 19.
North also defeated Liberty on Sept. 21 and Lancaster on Sept. 26, both by 5-0 scores.
The Panthers were 2-0-1 in the OCC-Ohio before Oct. 3.
Alicia Donley led the team in goals with 14 through 12 games, including the only goal against DeSales. Makenzie Kelly had 10 goals and Avery Hart had six.
Tennis team preps
Cassie Alcala of the girls tennis team will begin pursuit of her second consecutive Division I state tournament berth with a favorable bracket, as she is seeded second in singles for a sectional Thursday, Oct. 5, and Saturday, Oct. 7, at Reynoldsburg.
Centennial's Zoey Weil is the top seed.
Alcala, a sophomore, finished second at district last year and went 0-1 at state.
Also playing singles for North at sectional will be Sophia Anderson and Rhyan Cook. Maggie Haas and Kim Nguyen will form one doubles team and Corrina Moesle and Anna Stanley will comprise the other.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament Oct. 12 at Hilliard Bradley and Oct. 14 at Upper Arlington.
North was 12-5 before playing New Albany on Oct. 3.
"We are playing so much better than we were at the beginning of the season. Doubles are taking shape and becoming a strength for us," coach Brian Hoff said. "Cassie is playing some great tennis. She's got a ton of confidence heading into postseason play."
The Panthers, who are scheduled to finish the regular season Tuesday, Oct. 10, at Dublin Scioto, lost to Dublin Jerome 2-3 in an Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I district semifinal Sept. 28.
Golf teams hoped
to extend season
The boys and girls golf teams competed in Division I sectionals Oct. 3, hoping to prolong their seasons into this week and beyond.
The boys team played in a sectional at Darby Creek, from which the top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to the district tournament Tuesday, Oct. 10, at Apple Valley.
The girls were in a sectional at Westchester, where the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 10 at Cooks Creek.
From both district tournaments, the top two teams and two individuals not on qualifying teams advance to their respective state tournaments Oct. 20 and 21 at Ohio State.
Below are the coming schedules for the North cross country, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 7 -- Les Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington
Oct. 7 -- Pickerington North Fall Classic at The Links at Groveport
Oct. 7 -- At Bexley
*Oct. 10 -- Home vs. Grove City
Oct. 5 -- At Granville
*Oct. 10 -- At Grove City
*Oct. 5 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg. The Panthers defeated the Raiders 25-19, 25-19, 25-18 on Sept. 14.
*Oct. 10 -- At Grove City. The Panthers defeated the Greyhounds 25-21, 25-12, 25-16 on Sept. 19.