In her first season as Westerville Central girls volleyball coach, Shelley Ebright has promoted a family atmosphere within the program.
That focus on family begins with the coaching staff. Ebright's husband, Rob, serves as a technical adviser and their daughter, Sammie, is an assistant coach.
After beginning the season 6-0, the Warhawks lost four consecutive matches but then won six more in a row to improve to 12-4 overall and 3-3 in the OCC-Buckeye Division before playing Olentangy Orange on Sept. 24.
Junior right-side hitter Josie Curran credits Shelley Ebright for the team's success.
"I love it so much. She's a great coach," Curran said. "She's really good for our team. We really want to play as a team together and we want to play for each other this year. It's a better atmosphere overall."
Sammie Ebright has become a key part of the leadership during matches, instructing the team during timeouts, while her mother talks one-on-one with a player. Sammie is a 2012 graduate of Big Walnut and a former college player at Division I Austin Peay.
The Ebrights also have involved followers of the program, as players dance with fans to help celebrate home wins.
"The dance has been the big thing," Shelley Ebright said. "That really moves them. They want to be out there to play and win."
Following a four-set win over visiting Westerville North on Sept. 19, the Warhawks held an autograph session during which they signed team posters for supporters.
"This is for the youngsters, but also the parents and grandparents," Shelley said. "It gives them an opportunity to take pictures. It's just something else to make the girls feel if they work hard they deserve that extra fun."
Central completed a regular-season sweep of North with a 25-17, 22-25, 25-14, 25-15 win. The Warhawks also defeated the Warriors 25-15, 25-21, 25-15 on Sept. 3.
"We were getting outhustled and then we were struggling a little bit offensively, so we made a setter change," Shelley said. "Mia (Cline) came in and did a great job."
Shelley Ebright called the return of junior defensive specialist and libero Ava Hampton another key to the win. Hampton missed time with a right knee injury.
"Ava has been the glue of our team," Shelley said.
Shelley is familiar with the North program. She coached the Warriors from 1988-99, leading them to the Division I state tournament in 1997 and three consecutive district titles from 1995-97.
"It doesn't matter, any time it's for 'Rule the 'Ville,' we could all be 0-16 and it's still going to be a fantastic match," Shelley said. "North came out and hustled."
The Warhawks have received a balanced effort. Junior outside hitter Riley Kindall led the team in kills (145) and aces (20) through 16 matches, while senior setter Hayle Tillman led in assists (286) and Hampton led in digs (110).
"We have so much room still for growth," Shelley said. "We're young. We have some seniors out there, but we have a lot of young blood out there playing and holding their own and they're competing. They're competing for spots."
Girls tennis coach likes team's progress
Girls tennis coach Brad Baker said he is pleased with his team's improvement.
The Warhawks were 5-7 overall before playing Hilliard Bradley on Sept. 23. They finished 2-3 in the OCC-Buckeye.
"We had a couple losses that could have gone either way," Baker said. "I'm very happy where the team is now. We just ran the gauntlet of the Olentangy and Pickerington teams. The back half of our season should afford us the opportunity to finish the year with a winning record. We are young at doubles, but I'm really encouraged by what I see. There's lot to look forward to in the years to come."
Hockstok leads girls cross country team
Ashley Hockstok led the girls cross country team in the Celtic Clash on Sept. 21 at Dublin Jerome, finishing eighth of 194 runners in 19 minutes, 49.6 seconds.
Tara Will was ninth (19:53.2), followed by Remington Schultz (42nd, 21:13.9), Kayla Jones (47th, 21:23.8), Rylee Mensel (49th, 21:24.6), Ellie Mallon (67th, 21:59.5) and Lauryn Chapman (84th, 22:24.4).
Central finished seventh (155) of 22 teams behind champion Buckeye Valley (98).
Below are the coming schedules for the Central cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 28 -- Bear Den Dash at Olentangy Berlin
Oct. 2 -- Hilliard Darby Dash
Sept. 26 -- Westerville North and Westerville South at Medallion
Sept. 28 -- Dublin Jerome Honorary Invitational at the Country Club at Muirfield Village
Oct. 1 -- Division I sectional at Denison Golf Club. The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.
Sept. 26 -- North and South at Royal American
Oct. 2 -- Division I sectional at Blacklick Woods. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 8 at New Albany Links.
Oct. 1 -- Home vs. Pickerington North
Sept. 26 -- Home vs. New Albany
Sept. 30 -- Home vs. Licking Heights
Sept. 26 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto
Sept. 30 -- Home vs. DeSales
Oct. 1 -- At Columbus School for Girls
*Sept. 26 -- At Olentangy. The Warhawks lost to the Braves 25-17, 25-20, 26-24 on Sept. 10.
Oct. 1 -- At Jerome