Boys Volleyball: Dublin Jerome Celtics hoping to peak in time for postseason

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Jerome coach Phil Cagnoli called his team "a work in progress" that is hoping to peak for the postseason. "We have some huge shoes to fill and losing last year has put us in a situation where we need to accelerate the growth of some of our younger players," he said.

Each year from 2017-19, the Dublin Jerome boys volleyball team often was overshadowed because it was in the OCC-Cardinal Division with perennial power Hilliard Darby, only to put together Division I regional runner-up finishes. 

Coach Phil Cagnoli wouldn't be surprised if his team ends up on a similar trajectory this spring. 

There are five seniors on the team, including three who contributed in 2019 when the Celtics went 17-9 overall and were runners-up (11-3) to Darby (14-0) in the OCC-Cardinal.

The rest of the league now includes holdovers Scioto, Olentangy Berlin, Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne along with Olentangy.

“We’re definitely a work in progress,” Cagnoli said. “We aim to hit our stride closer to the postseason. The goal hasn’t changed. We have some huge shoes to fill and losing last year has put us in a situation where we need to accelerate the growth of some of our younger players. It’s a situation I’m sure every team is dealing with, but it creates an unusual blend of experience and youth on the court.” 

Senior outside hitter Tyler Nutting should lead the offense, and seniors Hrushi Muskula (defensive specialist) and Ben Cripe (opposite hitter) also were contributors in 2019. 

Max Utrup (outside hitter) and Nelson Garcia (defensive specialist) are the other seniors. 

Junior Dhruva Thimmenahalli and sophomore Kai Von Bourgondien are the setters, with juniors Lewis Park and Bhawya Gupta and sophomore Cam Eckelberry serving as defensive specialists.  

Others who should contribute include juniors Will Helmreich (middle hitter) and Alex Loeffler (middle hitter) and sophomores Aidan Eberhardt (outside hitter) and Henry Guerrera (outside hitter). 

Tommy Poole, who was one of the area’s top liberos as a junior in 2019, is now playing for Ohio State. 

“This last year has been mentally challenging for everyone,” Cagnoli said. “It’s been really cool watching the guys get back into the gym, back into the flow, and to see everyone get excited again.” 

INSIDE THE CELTICS 

Coach: Phil Cagnoli, seventh season 

Next match: April 8 at Kilbourne 

Key athletes: Ben Cripe, Nelson Garcia, Will Helmreich, Alex Loeffler, Hrushi Muskula, Tyler Nutting and Max Utrup 

Shamrocks look to build 

on strong 2019 season 

For the first time under coach Shane Farrell, Coffman reached a Division I regional final in 2019. 

Two players who were contributors that season, seniors Mitchell Harder (outside hitter) and Ryan Loynes (setter), have returned. 

There are eight other seniors, but those players have limited experience at the high school level after last season was canceled. 

Coffman went 18-9 overall and finished second (12-2) in the OCC-Ohio behind Gahanna (14-0) in 2019. The Shamrocks are now in the OCC-Central with Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Davidson, Olentangy Liberty, Olentangy Orange, Upper Arlington and Westerville North.

“Our roster may look full of returning players, but in fact we’re very young,” Farrell said. “Many players have not played at a varsity level or at all. If we can combine the raw recruits with our veterans and jell, I think we can have a very successful season. The team seems to want to get better and work hard every day. With those attributes, we can achieve great things.” 

Senior Joseph Caligiuri is an outside hitter who should also be among the top offensive players. 

Seniors Aboubacar Aribot and Michael Scott and juniors Ashton Christensen and Samuel Kim are the middle hitters, with seniors Hwan Chen and Evan Hageman as right-side hitters. 

Seniors Kabir Dhanak, Joseph Hackett and Matthew Harris will serve as defensive specialists, with junior Alden Rowe as a defensive specialist and libero. 

“Our offensive outside hitting and having a good setter will really help us,” Farrell said. “Defensively, we’re tall and able to block really well.” 

INSIDE THE SHAMROCKS

Coach: Shane Farrell, sixth season 

Next match: April 8 at Davidson 

Key athletes: Aboubacar Aribot, Joseph Caligiuri, Hwan Chen, Evan Hageman, Mitchell Harder, Ryan Loynes and Michael Scott 

—Jarrod Ulrey 

New coach

guiding Irish

Thane Fanfulik is in his first season at Scioto. He was set to coach the Irish in 2020 after replacing Doug Arden, but the season was canceled because of COVID-19. 

“The reception has been pretty good,” Fanfulik said. “The numbers are pretty good. We have 19 to 20 players on the roster. … It’s definitely exciting to have a season. I’m ready. This group of kids is really good. They’re athletic, they pay attention and they’re ready to get after it.” 

Scioto opened with a 25-9, 25-18, 25-14 loss to Darby on March 30 in an OCC-Cardinal match. 

“I’ve looked at our OCC schedule,” Fanfulik said. “I’m not too worried about who we play. We’re going to go out there and we’re going to play ball. I’m more focused on getting these kids to a good volleyball fundamental level and then focusing on the teams we play.” 

The Irish have eight seniors, but all have limited varsity experience. 

Seniors Ibby Abumallouh (right-side hitter), Luke Calhoun (defensive specialist) and Braden Cunningham will split time at setter. 

Seniors Andrew Berkebile and Tyler Lloyd and junior Shrey Darji are outside hitters, while seniors Younes Ayed and Durvon Watts are middle hitters. 

Senior Frankie Villanueva Figueroa (defensive specialist), junior Henry Hamilton (right-side hitter) and sophomore Sam Trushel (libero) also are looking to contribute. 

INSIDE THE IRISH 

Coach: Thane Fanfulik, first season 

Next match: April 12 at Jerome 

Key athletes: Ibby Abumallouh, Younes Ayed and Luke Calhoun 

—Frank DiRenna

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