Boys Volleyball: Hilliard Davidson Wildcats excited to return to court

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Luc Canestraro serves during Davidson's 25-21, 27-25, 25-22 loss at Thomas Worthington on March 26. He is one of two seniors for the Wildcats along with Jack Lansky.

After losing several players to graduation in 2020, Hilliard Davidson boys volleyball coach Rusty Herring knew his team would have a new look this spring. 

Those players never got the chance to compete last year, as the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. However, despite the shakeup on the roster, Herring believes the Wildcats have potential. 

“We love to interact with these boys and compete, so to bring back the season and have a little bit of normal and get to do what we did (March 26) is absolutely fantastic,” said Herring, who is in his sixth season. 

Davidson opened March 26 with a 25-21, 27-25, 25-22 loss at Thomas Worthington. It then began OCC-Central Division play with a 25-20, 25-19, 25-17 win over Upper Arlington on March 30. 

Bradley, Dublin Coffman, Olentangy Liberty, Olentangy Orange and Westerville North round out the league. 

Davidson features two seniors while juniors make up the rest of the roster, but no one has significant varsity experience. 

Seniors Luc Canestraro (setter/opposite hitter) and Jack Lansky (outside hitter) should provide leadership. 

Juniors include Ryan Hill (setter), Freddie Grieble (libero), Greg Efaw (middle hitter), Will Knapke (middle hitter), Hayden Johnson (outside hitter), Adin Rothermel (outside hitter), Van Johnson (opposite hitter) and Nathan Vidrick (defensive specialist). 

“With minimal to zero varsity experience because we graduated 12 seniors last year, the effort that we put in (against Thomas) was outstanding,” Herring said. “They want to win and expect to win immediately. … We have fantastic kids and fantastic families. We’re so fortunate with what we have in our program and they’re ready to go.”

INSIDE THE WILDCATS 

Coach: Rusty Herring, sixth season 

Next match: April 8 vs. Coffman 

Key athletes: Luc Canestraro and Jack Lansky 

Panthers have 

lofty expectations 

Darby also has a new-look roster, but the expectations haven’t changed. 

Third-year coach Evan Bell expects his team to again contend for the OCC-Cardinal title in addition to having success at the regional and state levels. 

The Panthers are seeking their 20th consecutive OCC championship and 15th consecutive Division I state tournament berth.

“We’re growing and we’re challenging ourselves to be better,” Bell said. “With losing a big class in 2020 and then obviously having last year off, we’re very inexperienced, we’re very young and we’re going to see a ton of improvement as the season goes on.” 

Darby opened with a 25-9, 25-18, 25-14 league win over Dublin Scioto on March 30. Other teams in the revamped OCC-Cardinal are Dublin Jerome, Olentangy Berlin, Olentangy, Thomas and Worthington Kilbourne. 

Paxton Schwandt, a first-year player, is the only senior and will start at middle hitter. 

“Paxton’s a stud athlete and he’s been grinding in the gym since September or October,” Bell said. “He’s obviously very raw and inexperienced, even for his age.” 

Juniors Josh Hutchinson and Jake Mamula are starting at outside hitter, with junior Chase Ellis at middle hitter, freshman Mason Heit at setter and freshman Aidan Kolb at libero. 

Bell also expects contributions from juniors Grayson Mobley (outside hitter) and Brylan Poole (outside hitter), sophomores Devin Neville (defensive specialist) and Patrick Kane (middle hitter) and freshman Laz Duncan (outside hitter). 

“Every week is going to be beneficial,” Bell said. “We’ve been priding our guys and our message has been getting 1 or 2 percent better every day while we’re in the gym. It’s not going to happen all at once. We have some great pieces. Hopefully everything clicks and falls into place right around May.” 

INSIDE THE PANTHERS 

Coach: Evan Bell, third season 

Next match: April 8 vs. Berlin 

Key athletes: Chase Ellis, Josh Hutchinson and Paxton Schwandt 

—Frank DiRenna

Senior veterans to

lead Jaguars on court

Three senior returning starters are expected to lead Bradley.

Outside hitter Jonah Gilbert and brothers Jin Tam (outside hitter) and Tak Tam (setter) return from 2019. Gilbert, who has committed to Grand Canyon, had 570 kills, 97 blocks and 35 aces to earn honorable mention all-state and first-team all-region honors.

“We have some returning talent, but we expect to let Jonah do a lot of work for us and fill in around that,” 10th-year coach Zach Franklin said. “We have the Tam brothers back and they’ve been stepping up very nicely.

“Tak has been quiet in the past because it was (2019 graduate) Attia (Soliman) who was the vocal leader. Jin has been a vocal leader and it’s impressive to see, but Tak has been massive for us this year in that respect.”

Senior Taner Diehl is a defensive specialist, while junior J.J. Moine is at libero after being a defensive specialist as a freshman. Seniors Camden Bartels and Elijah Solokha are middle hitters, while senior Leyton Gibson will be on the outside.

“I definitely like our defense,” Franklin said. “Even though we’re undersized, we’re still able to get the ball up in the air to give Jonah and Jin a chance to terminate.

“We definitely want to get more people involved. Elijah has been a nice new addition, and we’re making him a weapon out of the middle and he’ll help the outside. Camden played club last year, but this is his first varsity season.”

The Jaguars opened March 31 by defeating visiting Westerville North 25-19, 25-14, 25-22 in an OCC-Central match.

INSIDE THE JAGUARS

Coach: Zach Franklin, 10th season

Next match: April 8 at Liberty

Key athletes: Jonah Gilbert, Jin Tam and Tak Tam

—Scott Hennen

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