During the girls volleyball team's breakthrough season last fall, Olentangy Liberty High School senior Abby Erickson gained more of an understanding of what she calls being "team-oriented."
She never lost sight of her individual role in that sport or in what she soon would be undertaking this winter as a key member of the girls basketball team.
A middle hitter in volleyball, the 6-foot-2 Erickson made a conscious effort to stay in aerobic shape so she could perform as a post player in basketball.
"It's a completely different game, a completely different kind of tired," Erickson said. "You don't run as much in volleyball, so the first week getting back is a transition, but once you get there, it's so much fun."
Erickson played a contributing role last season when the basketball team went 14-12 but was a Division I district runner-up.
Over the summer, she committed to play volleyball for the University of Toledo, where she'll join former teammate and 2018 Liberty graduate Maddie Fogg.
Erickson then helped the volleyball team reach the state tournament for the first time and earned second-team all-OCC-Buckeye Division honors. The Patriots went 27-1, with their only loss coming in a state semifinal.
Erickson is the tallest player for a basketball team that was 9-3 overall before playing Gahanna on Jan. 8 and is 4-1 in the OCC-Buckeye as it prepares to return to league action Friday, Jan. 11, at Olentangy.
"It hasn't taken her long (to get into basketball shape)," coach Sam Krafty said. "Abby can have a major impact on this team with her size and athleticism. It gives us a chance to get (6-1 forward) Teegan (Pifher) out of the post and on the perimeter where she can make some shots. On the first day of practice, (Erickson) said even during volleyball she had been working out and getting in some extra cardio. The sports are so different, but she's practicing well and playing well."
Erickson had her best offensive performance through 12 games when she scored 12 points in a 60-25 victory over Johns Creek (Georgia) on Dec. 27 in the Patriots' opening game of the Innisfree Hotels Pensacola Beach Classic in Florida.
Liberty then beat Dry Ridge (Kentucky) Grant County 58-36 on Dec. 28 and Lawrence-ville (Georgia) Mountain View 60-43 on Dec. 29 in the event before returning to league action with a 66-51 victory over Westerville Central on Jan. 4.
Freshman guard Trinity Ramos had 19 points and was one of four Patriots to score in double figures against the Warhawks.
Through 12 games, Pifher was averaging 12.3 points, followed by junior wing player Kelly Levering (9.0), Ramos (7.5) and Erickson and senior guard/wing player Jessie Barna (both 6.0).
"I've always been tall, and I think I've just gotten more confident with the ball over time," Erickson said. "Back in the day when I hadn't been playing for quite as long, I'd get scared when I had the ball or it would be a mental game for me, but it's kind of come together for me.
"(In volleyball) we played against a lot of really skilled teams that on paper probably should have beaten us, but what it came down to was our team played for each other and our team was always excited and brought the energy every time. With the skill (the basketball team has) we can go really far. We put a big emphasis on playing for each other."
Boys basketball team enjoying being tested
Over the holiday break, the boys basketball team competed in the same Innisfree Hotels Pensacola Beach Classic that the girls basketball team participated in.
The Patriots rolled past New Orleans Brother Martin 72-54 on Dec. 28 and Johns Creek (Georgia) 84-60 on Dec. 29 but lost their opening game of the event, falling to Memphis (Tennessee) Christian Brothers 75-67 on Dec. 27 despite getting 32 points from Ben Roderick. Christian Brothers was 14-4 before Jan. 8.
Roderick concluded the tournament with a 51-point performance against Johns Creek that broke the single-game program record he set when he scored 37 in an 81-66 victory over Orange on Dec. 7.
Liberty was 8-2 after beating Huber Heights Wayne 80-56 on Jan. 5 and before playing Gahanna on Jan. 8, with its other loss coming to Cincinnati Taft, 74-73 in the All-Ohio Nike Hoops Showcase on Dec. 1 at Gahanna.
"All of our non-league games are against really good opponents, and I did that because I want to play good teams," coach Greg Nossaman said. "I don't care about our record. We want to win the league and get to the district finals. That doesn't have anything to do with our non-league. I just want to make our kids better and play against good competition."
Roderick missed the final seven games of last season with an injury but had 29 points in the Patriots' opener against Taft and hasn't slowed down.
With college recruiters from Wisconsin in attendance Dec. 14 at Westerville South, Roderick scored 24 during a 69-62 victory.
Through nine games, Roderick was averaging 31.6 points, followed by senior guards Nick Nakasian (15.0) and Joey Thatcher (9.0) and sophomore guard Henry Hinkle (9.0).
Hockey team set for busy weekend
The hockey team will face a pair of sister schools and one of the area's perennially strongest programs this weekend.
The Patriots will play Orange at 8:20 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11, at Chiller North, Dublin Jerome at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, at Chiller North and Olentangy at 11:45 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 13, at Nationwide Arena.
While both Orange and Olentangy compete in the Capital Hockey Conference-White Division, Jerome and Liberty are among the six teams in the CHC-Red Division. The Celtics, who are the defending district champion, beat the Patriots 5-1 on Jan. 2.
Liberty, which was first in last week's area coaches poll, was 15-5-2-1 after beating New Albany 4-3 in overtime Jan. 5 and St. Charles 3-2 in overtime Jan. 6.
Azusenis commits to Colorado State
During the early signing period for football that began Dec. 19, senior offensive lineman Alex Azusenis committed to play for Colorado State.
Below are the coming schedules for the Liberty boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 11 -- Home vs. Olentangy
*Jan. 11 -- At Olentangy. The Patriots beat the Braves 54-31 on Dec. 4.
Jan. 16 -- At Dublin Scioto
*Jan. 16 -- Westerville South at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
Jan. 12 -- McGee Invitational at Dublin Coffman
*Jan. 11 -- Orange at Chiller North
*Jan. 12 -- Dublin Jerome at Chiller North
*Jan. 13 -- Olentangy at Nationwide Arena
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 11-12 -- Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium in Canton
*Jan. 10 -- Home vs. Orange
*Jan. 11 -- Home vs. Olentangy