Notebook: Dublin Jerome Celtics volleyball squad savoring return to court
With an eye on limiting potential quarantines that could be caused by COVID-19 exposures, the Dublin Jerome boys volleyball team made a decision before the season to not only wear face coverings throughout practices but even when it was competing in matches.
The Celtics view it as just one example of how much they cherish being back on the court after last season was canceled because of the pandemic.
Along the way, Jerome has gotten to have some celebrations that have made the extra effort worthwhile.
One of those came April 23 when the Celtics won the Battle of Dublin at Coffman featuring the district’s three programs, marking the third consecutive time they’ve won that honor and fifth overall.
After beating Scioto 25-18, 25-14, 25-19 on April 29 in an OCC-Cardinal Division match, Jerome was 8-4 overall and 6-4 in the league.
“(Winning the Battle of Dublin) is huge, especially for the seniors missing out on last season,” senior opposite hitter Ben Cripe said. “It’s kind of representing all of our seniors and our seniors last year to bring home something for Jerome, so it’s awesome.
“We’re having a great time. We’re growing every day. It’s so fun to watch your team grow and watch the players around you grow. We’re playing some high-caliber competition and we’re sticking with it, so it’s great.”
In the Battle of Dublin, Jerome beat Scioto 25-15, 25-20 and Coffman 25-23, 25-20 to capture the title. The Celtics also beat Scioto 25-22, 25-12, 25-19 on April 12 in the first round of league action.
According to coach Phil Cagnoli, Cripe and fellow senior Tyler Nutting (outside hitter) have helped set the tone as the program looks to make another deep postseason run after earning Division I regional runner-up finishes each year from 2017-19.
Junior Dhruva Thimmenahalli and sophomore Kai Von Bourgondien have been developing as setters as well.
“We take a lot of pride in bringing home the hardware,” Cagnoli said. “We want to represent our school. There’s a lot of relationships in the Dublin area and we wanted to make sure we at least have bragging rights for one more year.
“We’re learning, like everybody else. There’s a lot of inexperience, so we’re still figuring that out. You see the flashes of our potential. We don’t do it consistently yet.”
•Coffman boys volleyball coach Shane Farrell left the Battle of Dublin believing his team wasn’t far behind Jerome despite the 2-0 loss, which included a 25-23 setback in the first set.
“I’d have loved to have played best of five against Jerome,” Farrell said. “If we’d won game one, maybe it makes a difference. I tell them every day that we’re getting better. Losing to Jerome hurts, but that should motivate you to get better every day.”
Senior setter Ryan Loynes and senior outside hitters Mitchell Harder and Joseph Caligiuri have been leading the Shamrocks, who were 6-6 overall and 5-5 in the OCC-Central after losing to Westerville North 25-23, 25-18, 24-26, 25-22 on April 29.
Coffman beat Upper Arlington 25-17, 25-21, 25-11 on April 26 and Hilliard Davidson 25-16, 25-21, 25-12 on April 27 in league matches.
“Our passing at the beginning of the season wasn’t good, but it’s gotten better,” Farrell said. “Mitchell Harder on the outside is the one we’ve been relying on to get kills. Our outside hitter, (Caligiuri), has a jump serve that’s come a long way. That’s what’s kept us in a lot of games.”
•With a 5-0 win over Hilliard Darby on April 27, the Jerome boys tennis team wrapped up its sixth consecutive league championship.
The Celtics finished 5-0 in the OCC-Cardinal and were 11-1 overall after a 4-1 victory April 28 over Wellington.
Junior Max Fickas was 6-3 while playing first singles and had teamed up twice with junior Tanish Pairu at first doubles, including a 6-3, 6-4 victory against Wellington.
Junior Eli Wiblin has been at second singles most of the season and also has seen action at first doubles, with sophomore Rohan Athavale at third singles.
“It feels great,” Fickas said. “We’ve got a really solid team with a great facility and great players.”
Fickas was encouraged about his growth after beating Olentangy’s Sam Routzahn 6-3, 6-1 on April 22 to help wrap up a 4-1 victory. He had only one loss to an opponent from central Ohio through his first 11 matches.
•The Coffman boys tennis team has been showing signs of growth.
After beating Darby on April 26 and Hilliard Bradley on April 27 by 5-0 scores, the Shamrocks were 3-5 overall and finished 3-2 in the OCC-Central.
In addition, Coffman scored 36 points April 24 to capture the championship at the Lexington Invitational.
The lineup has featured senior William Sun at first singles, senior Anton Bakunin at second singles and both sophomore Shinya Akiyama and senior Siddharth Rajagopal at third singles.
Senior Sanjay Janardhan, junior Isaac Frank and sophomore Fedor Bakunin have spent most of the season playing doubles.
“We’ve got four seniors, but we have some guys that are young,” coach Brett Hundertpfund said. “We’re just trying to find our rhythm, honestly. We played a lot of good teams early.”
•The Scioto boys tennis team is seeking an OCC-Capital title.
The Irish were 6-3 overall through April 28 and 5-0 in the league before playing Worthington Kilbourne on May 4.
Scioto beat Westerville North 4-1 on April 28. Entering play May 4, Kilbourne was 5-1 in the league and North was 4-2.
Through nine matches, Akash Manoj was 7-2, Luis Ramirez Marquez was 6-3 and Sohum Patel was 5-3 in singles.
In doubles, Moksh Desai and Aaryan Patel were 7-2 and Anutam Srinivasan and Visvam Srinivasan were 5-4.
“I’ve been very pleased with the senior leadership as well as the growth of the younger players,” coach Sean Gilbert said. “The sophomores and even the freshmen have grown substantially throughout the season, even though the end of the season and sectional tournament is quickly approaching.”
•The Scioto boys volleyball team entered its match against Thomas Worthington on May 4 looking for its first win under first-year coach Thane Fanfulik.
The Irish were 0-14 overall and 0-10 in the OCC-Cardinal.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Fanfulik said. “Of course, we’re not getting the results that we hoped for. We should have gotten a few wins here and there. Everybody on the coaching staff and the team all agree that we haven’t really played our best full match. We’ve had a few moments here and there where we play 10 to 12 points really well. We know what our play level is.”
Scioto went 0-2 in the Battle of Dublin, losing to Jerome 25-15, 25-20 and Coffman 25-12, 25-12.
“It was a really cool event,” Fanfulik said. “It sounds like a really cool event without COVID, getting a bunch of things for the program that’s hosting it. It’s really cool that we bring the three Dublin schools together to play an event like that.”
Fanfulik pointed to the play of outside hitter Shrey Darji and libero Sam Trushel as positives during the season.
“We’re probably 80, 85 percent first-year players,” Fanfulik said. “Never played volleyball, never thought about it. They just came to tryouts and now they’re on the team, which is not a bad thing. We have a lot of really good athletes. You can tell they’re there to learn the sport and they’re there to try their best and pay attention and be coachable.”