Boys Volleyball: Seniors drove Hilliard Bradley Jaguars to state tournament

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Bradley's Jonah Gilbert (0) celebrates a point with teammates Elijah Solokha (5) and Camden Bartels (8) during a Division I state semifinal against Cincinnati Moeller on June 6 at Pickerington Central. The Jaguars lost 25-17, 23-25, 25-17, 25-20 to finish 19-4.

Coach Zach Franklin had his voice crack when asked about the seniors on the Hilliard Bradley boys volleyball team.

The sixth-ranked Jaguars went further than any team in program history, losing 25-17, 23-25, 25-17, 25-20 to second-ranked Cincinnati Moeller in a Division I state semifinal June 6 at Pickerington Central.

“The seniors meant everything to this team,” said Franklin, whose team finished 19-4 overall and 9-3 in the OCC-Central Division. “They’ve improved so much from their sophomore year. My mom said it best, ‘They play with a lot of heart.’ You can see that. To score consistently against a team like Moeller is incredible. They really blew me away this year.”

Senior outside hitter Jonah Gilbert had 42 kills and senior setter Tak Tam had 53 assists in the match against the Crusaders, who went on to defeat Cincinnati Elder 22-25, 25-20, 25-11, 25-18 for their record ninth state title.

The Jaguars reached state once before, losing at Moeller 25-11, 25-15, 25-17 in a quarterfinal in 2012.

Bradley advanced to the semifinal by defeating seventh-ranked Massillon Jackson 18-25, 25-21, 25-9, 25-16 in a quarterfinal June 5 at Central. Gilbert had 47 kills and Tam had 58 assists.

In the East Region tournament, the second-seeded Jaguars defeated seventh-seeded Dublin Jerome 25-23, 25-14, 25-17 on May 28 at Westerville Central to win a title.

“It means a lot (to make it to a state semifinal),” Tam said. “I don’t play club or anything like that. I play soccer and I’m pretty short (5-foot-6), so to have made it this far is surreal.”

Gilbert, a 6-5 outside hitter, was named state Player of the Year and finished with 719 kills, good for 9.54 per game. The Grand Canyon signee also was region and OCC-Central Player of the Year.

“Jonah has such great court vision,” Franklin said. “He rarely hits the ball out, which is incredible for a high school player.”

Gilbert, Tam (honorable mention all-region and all-league) and outside hitter Jin Tam (special mention all-region, honorable mention all-league) led a 12-player senior class.

Expected back are juniors Chase Letcavits (middle hitter) and J.J. Moine (libero) and freshman setter Will Swary (setter).

“It’s going to be a total rebuild,” Franklin said. “It will be my first rebuild here since I came to Bradley. J.J. will move to outside hitter and Will, our setter, plays club so that helps.”

Darby saw its streak of consecutive OCC titles end at 20 as it finished second in the OCC-Cardinal at 9-3, behind Worthington Kilbourne (10-2). 

The Panthers also saw their streak of consecutive state tournament appearances end at 14 after losing to Thomas Worthington 25-19, 16-25, 26-24, 22-25, 17-15 in the second round of Division I East Region tournament May 22 to finish 12-9 overall. 

Middle hitter/opposite hitter Paxton Schwandt — the team’s lone senior and the only player with varsity experience entering the season — was first-team all-league and second-team all-region. 

Junior Chase Ellis (middle hitter) and freshman Aidan Kolb (defensive specialist/libero) were second-team all-league and honorable mention all-region. 

Freshman Mason Heit (setter) was special mention all-league and junior Jake Mamula (outside hitter) was honorable mention all-league. 

Other players eligible to return include juniors Josh Hutchinson (outside hitter), Grayson Mobley (outside hitter) and Brylan Poole (outside hitter), sophomores Patrick Kane (middle hitter) and Devin Neville (defensive specialist) and freshman Laz Duncan (outside hitter). 

—Frank DiRenna 

Davidson coach Rusty Herring was pleased with his team’s development despite the Wildcats finishing 3-15 overall and 2-10 in the OCC-Central.

Junior Freddie Grieble (libero) was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-region, while junior Hayden Johnson (outside hitter) was honorable mention all-league. 

Other players eligible to return include juniors Ryan Hill (setter), Greg Efaw (middle hitter), Will Knapke (middle hitter), Adin Rothermel (outside hitter), Van Johnson (opposite hitter) and Nathan Vidrick (defensive specialist). 

“If we measure the season by wins and losses, we weren’t as successful as we expect ourselves to be,” Herring said. “Yet, we built a tremendous amount of grit this season and the guys never stopped fighting. Our league was extremely competitive and we played some strong non-league opponents as well. These opportunities pushed us hard this season and we look forward to building upon that and returning next season.” 

—Frank DiRenna 

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BRADLEY 

Record: 19-4 overall

OCC-Central standings: Olentangy Orange (10-2), Bradley and Olentangy Liberty (9-3), Westerville North (7-5), Dublin Coffman (5-7), Davidson (2-10), Upper Arlington (0-12)

Seniors lost: Yazeed Ubusundus, Camden Bartels, Hayden Bryant, Jonah Cobb, Taner Diehl, Leyton Gibson, Jonah Gilbert, Arell Layiev, Jared Pallas, Elijah Solokha, Jin Tam and Tak Tam

Key returnees: Chase Letcavits, J.J. Moine and Will Swary

Postseason: Defeated Dublin Scioto 25-10, 25-13, 25-20; def. New Albany 25-15, 25-14, 23-25, 26-24; def. Dublin Jerome 25-23, 25-14, 25-17; def. Massillon Jackson 18-25, 25-21, 25-9, 25-16; lost to Cincinnati Moeller 25-17, 23-25, 25-17, 25-20 in Division I state semifinal

DARBY 

Record: 12-9 overall   

OCC-Cardinal standings: Worthington Kilbourne (10-2), Darby (9-3), Dublin Jerome (8-4), Thomas Worthington (7-5), Olentangy (6-6), Olentangy Berlin (2-10), Dublin Scioto (0-12) 

Senior lost: Paxton Schwandt 

Key returnees: Chase Ellis, Mason Heit, Aidan Kolb and Jake Mamula

Postseason: Lost to Thomas 25-19, 16-25, 26-24, 22-25, 17-15 in second round of Division I East Region tournament

DAVIDSON 

Record: 3-15 overall   

Seniors lost: Luc Canestraro and Jack Lansky 

Key returnees: Freddie Grieble and Hayden Johnson 

Postseason: Def. Reynoldsburg 25-8, 25-9, 25-14; lost to Gahanna 25-14, 25-15, 25-18 in second round of Division I East Region tournament