Londyn Coles of the Pickerington High School Central girls volleyball team laughed when her coach, Eric Hughes, called her the "showy" hitter in the Tigers' front row, and when teammate Makayla Estes said Coles' hits are more stylish.
"When Londyn finishes, it's always with a pretty hit," said Estes, a senior outside hitter. "When Sydney (Charlton) and I finish, it's uglier, but it gets the job done. I do take pride in that. It shows how hard we are working to get the ball over the net."
Whatever it looks like, the front row of Charlton, Coles and Estes got the job done through 24 matches and helped the Tigers to their first league championship in 25 years and to within two wins of their first district title in 24 years.
Seeded sixth in the Division I district tournament, Central was 21-3 before playing eighth-seeded Watterson in a district semifinal Oct. 23 at Whitehall. The Tigers swept through their first two tournament matches last week, defeating 38th-seeded Reynoldsburg 25-15, 26-24, 25-16 in the first round Oct. 15 at home and coming from behind to edge 14th-seeded Hamilton Township 23-25, 20-25, 25-22, 25-17, 15-9 in a second-round home match Oct. 17.
Coles, a junior, is in her first year as a starting middle hitter. Charlton, a senior, has started at right-side hitter this season after being an outside hitter last year. Estes played in the back row as a junior before moving forward.
"As a hitter, you figure out where you want to swing based on who is talking with you. A big part of how I play is because of my teammates," Coles said. "It's definitely not just me. We can be a showy team because we work so well communication-wise with one another and that reflects on everybody."
According to Hughes, Charlton and Estes are more likely to grind points out.
"We can rely on all them when we're in trouble," Hughes said. "Makayla has always been steady, always the rock. Sydney has turned into a clutch player. She learned from the seniors last year and was able to be less of the go-to (player), but when we needed her, she was always ready. She's always prepared to take the ball when we need her to."
Charlton is a Texas Wesleyan University commit. The move will put her about 15 miles west of where her older brother, 2013 Central graduate Taco Charlton, plays as a starting defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys.
"We have a great bond on and off the court. That makes it a lot simpler to play together," said Charlton, who was a right-side hitter on club teams before this season. "The footwork is definitely different. The sets are different. Your position is completely different."
The Central-Watterson winner plays third-seeded Olentangy or 12th-seeded Dublin Jerome in a district final Saturday, Oct. 27, at Whitehall. The district champion advances to a regional semifinal Nov. 1.
According to Estes, the grind of sharing the OCC-Ohio Division championship with Grove City helped prepare Central for the pressure it would face in the postseason.
"We take so much pride in this," Estes said. "We've embraced the pressure. We've put all of our heart and soul into this."
Cross country teams move on to regional
Three runners in the top 10 powered the boys cross country team to 64 points and a second-place finish in the Division I, district 2 meet Oct. 20 at Hilliard Darby and a berth in the regional meet Saturday, Oct. 27, at Pickerington North.
Brady Johnson placed second in 16 minutes, 6.7 seconds, followed by Jacob Jobe (seventh, 16:36) and Tyler Gunderson (10th, 16:55.3) as Central finished behind Hilliard Davidson (30) as 16 teams scored.
Also scoring for the Tigers were Jailen Willis (20th, 17:11) and Chase Balko (25th, 17:18.5).
In the district 1 girls race, Lauren Marvin was seventh (19:46.1) to lead Central to 106 points and a third-place finish behind champion Thomas Worthington (36) as 15 teams scored.
Also scoring were Grace Osborn (11th, 19:57.8), Maddie Schmidt (12th, 20:01.3), Brenna Todd (35th, 21:51.8) and Sydney Hansen (41st, 21:55.7).
In both district races, the top five teams and top 20 individuals advanced to regional.
At regional, the top five teams and top 20 individuals advance to the state meet Nov. 3 at National Trail Raceway.
Girls soccer team advances in tourney
The girls soccer team entered the week playing its best soccer of the year and having earned two distinctions not recently seen in the program.
Central defeated 19th-seeded Grove City 4-1 in the second round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 18 at North, giving the 17th-seeded Tigers two postseason wins for the first time since 2010. Ramiya Roy had two goals and Tatum McElwain and Brooklyn Miller each scored one as Central improved to 10-7-1.
On Oct. 15, Roy scored both goals as the Tigers opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over 28th-seeded Lancaster at North.
Central competed in its first district semifinal since 2014 on Oct. 23 when it returned to North to visit the second-seeded Panthers.
The winner plays eighth-seeded New Albany or 15th-seeded Westerville Central in a district final Saturday, Oct. 27, at a neutral site. The district champion faces Davidson, Dublin Coffman, Olentangy or Olentangy Orange in a regional semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 30, at a neutral site. The regional final is Nov. 3.
The Tigers lost to Davidson 6-1 on Oct. 11 in their regular-season finale.
Boys soccer team ousted by Darby
The boys soccer team split two Division I district tournament games last week, winning 2-0 at 26th-seeded Mount Vernon in the first round Oct. 17 before falling 3-1 at 12th-seeded Darby in a second-round game Oct. 20 to finish 6-9-3.
The 28th-seeded Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the first half at Darby before the Panthers scored three unanswered goals in the second.
Central played its best soccer late in the season, going 4-1-1 in a six-game stretch that began with a 2-0 win at Fairbanks on Sept. 29 and lasted through the win at Mount Vernon.
Several key players are eligible to return, including juniors Mirnes Bubalo (midfielder), Cavan Castellon (midfielder), Garvin Osei-Frimpong (goalkeeper) and Gabe Petrefski (defender) and sophomore forward Koen Droese.
The Tigers will be looking to improve on their 1.4 goals per game average.
Their season high came in a 5-3 loss to Westerville Central on Aug. 28.