The Worthington Kilbourne High School boys volleyball team seems to have put all the pieces together this season.
After finishing 11-14 last year in Meladee Hopkins' first season as coach, the Wolves were 11-5 overall and 6-4 in the OCC-Cardinal Division before playing Delaware on May 1.
"We've got six seniors who have worked hard and they made this team a family," Hopkins said. "Two of them are veterans, four of them were returning letterwinners and two are first-year players. Then we have four sophomores who improved faster than we thought they would. That's the core of the team.
"I knew we'd be better than last year, but I wasn't expecting this much of a turnaround, especially because we have limited volleyball time together during the summer because most of them are either soccer or basketball players."
Through 14 matches, senior setter Levi Smith had 75 kills, 148 assists and 122 digs.
"Levi is a four-year starter who has been very consistent and this year he gets to swing because we're using the 6-2 instead of the 5-1," Hopkins said. "He's real smart with the ball and mixes it up well. He and Lucas Hershberger are our captains and leaders."
Hershberger missed the first seven matches of the season recovering from a broken left wrist. An outside hitter, he had 49 kills, 10 blocks and a .338 kill percentage in his first seven matches.
"The difference this season is that we're playing as a team and our young guys have really stepped it up," Hershberger said. "Everyone is contributing, from our first-year seniors all the way down the line. Everyone has a role and has bought in.
"We've got a very skilled player in Levi who has grown all four years and this year is a valuable player at all positions on the court."
The sophomores who are playing key roles are Braydon Biehn (libero), Joe Dargenio (middle hitter), Ethan Nestingen (setter) and Jimmy Sauder (outside hitter).
Through 14 matches, Souder had 83 kills and 209 digs and Biehn had 227 digs and a .906 serve-receive percentage.
"Ethan's ability to be a skilled varsity setter allowed us to change to a 6-2 and that gave me a chance to play all the way around," Smith said. "All of the little things came together to make this an exciting season. I think we won like two matches when I was a freshman. Now we're playing Division I competition well in the regular season and we're preparing for the Division II (East Region) tournament."
Junior middle hitter Tanner Smith had 73 blocks and 64 kills through 14 matches.
"The beautiful thing about this year is that the boys all get along so well," Hopkins said. "The chemistry is awesome. We have preached 'family' since the first day and that is what we have become. Plus, I think we are going to peak in the tournament."
Baseball team preps for district tourney
The baseball team was hoping to continue building momentum in the final week of the regular season in preparation for the Division I district tournament.
The Wolves had won seven of their previous nine games and were 13-7 overall and 5-6 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Thomas on May 2. They close the regular season Friday, May 4, at Dresden Tri-Valley.
Kilbourne is seeded seventh of 48 teams in the district tournament and has a first-round bye before playing host to 15th-seeded Hilliard Bradley or 45th-seeded Westland in the second round Wednesday, May 9.
The second-round winner will play 10th-seeded Pickerington Central, 24th-seeded Westerville Central or 48th-seeded Whitehall in a district semifinal May 14 at a neutral site to be determined.
The Wolves lost twice to Bradley in league play, falling 8-2 on April 11 and 4-3 on April 14.
Kilbourne was 6-5 before winning seven of its next nine games. During that stretch, the Wolves posted league wins over Dublin Scioto (4-3 on April 19) and Delaware (10-0 on April 12 and 14-6 on April 23) and non-league wins over Big Walnut (4-2 and 9-8 on April 21), Watterson (9-1 on April 25) and Marion Elgin (6-4 on April 27). They lost to Scioto 11-3 in a league game April 26 and to Thomas 2-1 on April 30 despite a four-hitter from Kyler Archual.
Softball team to face Warriors in tourney
The softball team swept a doubleheader from Whetstone on April 28 and was 8-11 overall and 1-7 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Bradley on May 1 in a makeup from April 23.
The Wolves, who entered the week having won three of their previous four games, are seeded 33rd of 46 teams in the Division I district tournament and will play at 27th-seeded Westerville North in the first round Monday, May 7. The winner plays at 11th-seeded Watkins Memorial in the second round Wednesday, May 9.
That winner will play eighth-seeded Hilliard Darby, 16th-seeded Pickerington Central or 32nd-seeded Hamilton Township in a district semifinal May 14 at a neutral site to be determined.
Kilbourne defeated Whetstone 13-2 in five innings in the first game of the doubleheader, as Kasey Trout pitched a three-hitter and the Wolves scored six runs in the first inning and six runs in the second. The Wolves won the second game 5-3, with Lora Snodgrass pitching a two-hitter.
Track teams compete in Gary Smith Invite
Elijah Young and Jack Begley helped lead the boys track and field team to a fourth-place finish in the 15-team Gary Smith Invitational on April 28 at Thomas.
Young was runner-up in both the long jump (20 feet, 5 1/2 inches) and pole vault (12-0), anchored the third-place 400-meter relay (45.02 seconds) behind Jack Wieland, Joey McQuade and Luke Compton and ran leadoff in the fourth-place 800 relay (1:34.78) ahead of McQuade, Compton and Tyler Turner.
Begley was runner-up in the 1,600 (4:35.31), anchored the third-place 6,400 relay (19:07.15) behind Tanner Williams, John Cuozzo and Gabe Knuth and placed sixth in the 800 (2:06.15).
Hayden Shaffer was runner-up in the discus (140-8) and Williams placed fifth in the 3,200 (9:59.71), as the Wolves totaled 60 points to finish behind champion Thornville Sheridan (112).
The girls team finished 11th (28) behind champion Thomas (106) as Keira Smith placed second in the 3,200 (11:46.65), Audrey Hunt was runner-up in the long jump (16-3 1/4) and Sasha Bomser placed fifth in the 800 (2:31.63).
Below are the coming schedules for the Kilbourne baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
May 4 -- At Dresden Tri-Valley
May 9 -- Home vs. 15th-seeded Hilliard Bradley or 45th-seeded Westland in second round of Division I district tournament. Kilbourne is seeded seventh.
May 3 -- Home vs. Olentangy
May 5 -- Home vs. Mason
May 8 -- At St. Charles
May 3 -- At Olentangy
May 8 -- Home vs. Columbus Academy
May 3 -- Home vs. Thomas in makeup from April 16
*May 4 -- At Dublin Scioto in makeup from April 25. The Wolves lost to the Irish 12-4 on April 10.
May 7 -- At 27th-seeded Westerville North in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays at 11th-seeded Watkins Memorial in second round May 9.
May 3 -- Whetstone at Park of Roses
May 7 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central
May 8 -- Home vs. Watkins Memorial
May 9 -- At Olentangy Liberty
TRACK & FIELD
May 5 -- Teays Valley Invitational
May 3 -- At Briggs
*May 8 -- At Thomas. The Wolves beat the Cardinals 25-23, 25-18, 26-28, 19-25, 15-12 on April 17.
May 9 -- Home vs. Licking Heights