The Hilliard Darby High School girls volleyball team was starting to find its groove, but with one turn of an ankle, it's now a little uncertain about the remainder of the season.
After winning just one of its first 10 OCC-Cardinal Division matches, the Panthers had won two in a row and three of four overall.
But at the end of that stretch, during a 25-11, 16-25, 25-12, 25-20 win over Olentangy Berlin on Oct. 4, junior setter Olivia Zawadski sustained an ankle injury.
"We're hoping to have her back for the (Division I district tournament)," coach Stephanie Dietrich said. "We run a 5-1 (offense) and Olivia is very efficient and we'd like to have the ball in her hands all the time."
Dietrich called up setter Shelby Long from the junior varsity and moved senior defensive specialist Sydney McCreary to setter and the Panthers utilized a 6-2 scheme in a quad-match Oct. 6 at DeSales.
That day, Darby lost to the host Stallions 25-15, 25-15, Olentangy Liberty 25-11, 25-13 and Jonathan Alder 25-7, 25-14. The Panthers were 6-14 overall and 3-9 in the league before playing Thomas Worthington on Oct. 9.
"We only had one day of practice with two new setters in a new offense," said Dietrich, whose team beat Thomas 26-24, 25-20, 25-10 on Sept. 6. "I think we'll be OK this week, but we'll need to have Olivia back for the tournament. Our hitters are comfortable with one person getting them the ball and knowing where that will be."
Darby, which beat Dublin Jerome 14-25, 22-25, 25-18, 25-20, 15-9 on Oct. 2, closes the regular season Thursday, Oct. 11, with a league match at home against Bradley. The Panthers lost to the Jaguars 23-25, 25-7, 25-14, 21-25, 16-14 on Sept. 13.
Darby is seeded 23rd of 49 teams in the district tournament and will play at 13th-seeded Watkins Memorial in the first round Tuesday, Oct. 16.
"We've had a lot of girls stepping up lately and we're a team that needs everyone to be playing well to win," Dietrich said. "Stacia Rispress has been dropping some bombs from the outside and Olivia Krumpe is playing well in the middle. She's closing on blocks, hustling and finding holes to hit through.
"Annie Rauch, our other middle, has been blocking great and she brings up our competitive spirit. Our libero, Sophia Iosue, has been very good, too. But we need them all healthy and all on the same page in order for us to have success."
Girls soccer team hits reset button
The girls soccer team ended a seven-game winless stretch by defeating Grove City 7-1 on Sept. 27.
The Panthers then defeated Thomas Worthington 3-0 on Oct. 2 in an OCC-Cardinal contest.
"The girls are sensing the end of the season and they aren't happy with our record, but they've regained their focus and are playing well at the right time of the season," said coach Dan Brady, whose team was 6-5-3 overall and 1-2-2 in the OCC-Cardinal ahead of the league finale Oct. 9 against Bradley. "We want to finish this week strong and take the momentum into the (Division I) district tournament."
Darby, which closes the regular season Thursday, Oct. 11, at Marysville, is seeded 12th of 44 teams in the district tournament and has a first-round bye. The Panthers will play host to 21st-seeded Reynoldsburg or 44th-seeded Westland in the second round Oct. 18.
After beating Davidson 3-2 on Aug. 30, the Panthers went 0-5-2 before defeating Grove City. Naomi Walters scored three goals against the Greyhounds. Also scoring were Abbey Spencer, Caitlyn Spencer, Zayna Hampton and Maddy Leone.
"The girls have come together and they're just paying more attention to detail now," Brady said. "We went through a stretch where we lost three games by one goal, tied two others and lost two by two goals. But the girls are playing with joy right now. They didn't let the rough patch get them down. These girls didn't lay down and consider the season over.
"I'm excited about where we are right now. Our last two games may have been our best two games of the season so far. They're playing to their capability and we all knew they had it in them."
Against Thomas, Leone, Caitlyn Spencer and Sydney Thomas scored.
Boys soccer team receives 12th seed
The boys soccer team closes the regular season Thursday, Oct. 11, at home against Marysville.
The Panthers were 7-4-3 overall and 2-2-1 in the OCC-Cardinal before the final game of the Hilliard Cup on Oct. 9 at Bradley.
Darby will have some time to prepare for the Division I district tournament, as it is seeded 12th of 48 teams and has a first-round bye. The Panthers will play host to 26th-seeded Mount Vernon or 28th-seeded Pickerington Central in the second round Oct. 20.
Boys runners, Santos shine in Darby Dash
The boys cross country team had four of the top 13 finishers in the home Darby Dash on Oct. 3, as the Panthers scored 57 points to place second behind Olentangy Orange (38) in the 10-team field.
Sean Carney led Darby in the two-mile event, finishing fifth of 197 runners in 10 minutes, 21.5 seconds. He was followed by Tyler Hessenauer (10th, 10:37.1), Balaji Kurapati (11th, 10:39.9), Eric Lowery (13th, 10:43) and Owen Martin (18th, 10:48.4).
The girls team finished fourth (95) of nine teams in the Darby Dash, behind champion Davidson (45).
Daniella Santos finished first of 173 runners in 11:21.9. Also scoring for the Panthers were Alivia Cannon (12th, 12:46.5), Madison Murphy (25th, 13:27.4), Erin Cowen (36th, 14:02.2) and Zarsha Khuhro (43rd, 14:32.4).
Both teams will compete in the OCC-Cardinal meet Saturday, Oct. 13, at Davidson.
Girls tennis team competes at sectional
Seniors Sacha Smoot and Kelsie Huss of the girls tennis team both fell one win shy of qualifying for the Division I district tournament in singles.
The Panthers ended their season in a sectional Oct. 5 and 6 at Bradley, where the top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district Thursday, Oct. 11, and Saturday, Oct. 13, at Reynoldsburg.
Smoot beat Liberty's Cathy Zhu 6-2, 0-6, 6-1 and Bradley's Dhriti Sanyasi 6-2, 6-3 before losing to Thomas Worthington's Sarina Xie 6-1, 6-1 in a district-qualifying match.
Huss defeated Liberty's Ananya Dhati 6-0, 6-0 and Grove City's Becca Bane 6-3, 6-1 before losing her district-qualifying match 6-2, 6-2 to Westerville South's Levi Burks. Also in singles, senior Caitling Su lost 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 to Mount Vernon's Lucy Ogle in a play-in match.
In doubles, senior Sydney Davis and junior Nidhi Patel had a first-round bye before losing 6-0, 6-2 to Athens' Ami Brannan and Kiki Chen, and senior Mia Miller and freshman Lexi Mincy lost to Davidson's Sophia Persad and Katherine Sarkel 6-4, 6-2 in the first round.
Seasons end for boys, girls golfers
The boys and girls golf teams ended their respective seasons in Division I sectionals Oct. 2, but neither team has any seniors.
The boys team shot a 336 to finish 11th of 13 teams at Darby Creek, where the top four teams and top four individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to the district tournament Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.
Competing for the Panthers were freshman Jared Wells (82), juniors Michael Beard (83), Marcus Hunter (85) and Adam Tivin (86) and sophomore Zach Brandewie (101).
The girls team shot a 430 at Mentel Memorial to place ninth of 11 teams as the top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to district Oct. 9 at Cooks Creek.
Sophomore Maria Hayes led Darby with a 92, followed by sophomore Madison Hoschak (102), junior Morgan Bair (110) and sophomore Bailey Miller (126).