Girls Volleyball: Multiskilled Olentangy ended league championship drought

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Olentangy sophomore Sophia Weithman spikes the ball against Thomas Worthington on Sept. 15 as sophomore Jonna Spohn looks on. The pair helped the Braves capture the OCC-Cardinal championship. It was the program’s first league title since 2015 and ninth overall.

Several Olentangy girls volleyball players felt their OCC-Cardinal Division championship had been years in the making, not weeks.

Four seasons in the OCC-Buckeye with perennial powers Liberty and Orange — teams that combined to win six Division I district championships from 2016-19 and finished first or second in some order in the league each of those years — were challenging but educational for the Braves.

Olentangy went 12-6 overall during the regular season and 9-0 in the OCC-Cardinal, earned the 11th seed in the district tournament and split two postseason matches, falling to host and seventh-seeded Liberty 19-25, 25-20, 25-18, 26-24 in a district semifinal Oct. 27.

“We were the underdogs with Orange and Liberty, so when we got realigned (into the OCC-Cardinal) this year, we knew it would be a different challenge,” senior middle hitter Ellen Kinnaird said. “We played like we had nothing to lose. (A league championship) meant everything to us. We threw everything out on the court and played our best.”

The OCC-Cardinal championship was the program’s first league title since 2015 and ninth overall.

Olentangy began the postseason Oct. 21 with a 25-16, 25-15, 23-25, 19-25, 15-9 home win over 12th-seeded Gahanna in a second-round match.

That win featured several ways in which coach Travis Weitthoff saw his team outmatch opponents. Serving was largely effective, but kills ranged from powerful to soft taps into empty areas of the court after the Braves appeared to take the Lions out of their system.

“If we had to point to one thing, we’re a good serving team. But we put ourselves in the position of going four and five sets, and that pays off when you get to the tournament that you’ve done that before,” Weitthoff said. “We just go hard every point and see what happens. We have a bunch of different weapons our players provide. They all have their roles.”

Olentangy’s lineup also changed during the season with the addition of sophomore setter Emma Bebo. Classmate Jonna Spohn was the Braves’ libero.

“We do a good job of spreading out the ball. We kind of know in tough situations who to give the ball to, based on where their block is and how we’re passing,” senior outside hitter Sophie Sparks said before the district semifinal. “If they’re sitting on me or Ellen, we can give it to somebody else and they can put it away.

“The chemistry of the team has definitely grown. We had a lot of kinks early but toward the middle, we put things together and started working together better.”

Olentangy hopes losing only three seniors in Lauren Beaumont (defensive specialist), Kinnaird and Sparks might signal the continuation of its success. Other players eligible to return include juniors Erin Cecil (setter), Zoe Kohlhurst (middle hitter) and Leah Weisner (defensive specialist) and sophomore outside hitter Sophia Weithman.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Record: 13-7 overall

OCC-Cardinal standings: Olentangy (9-0), Thomas Worthington (7-3), Berlin (4-5), Dublin Jerome and Hilliard Darby (both 4-6), Marysville (0-8)

Seniors lost: Lauren Beaumont, Ellen Kinnaird and Sophie Sparks

Key returnees: Emma Bebo, Erin Cecil, Zoe Kohlhurst, Jonna Spohn and Sophia Weithman

Postseason: Defeated Gahanna 25-16, 25-15, 23-25, 19-25, 15-9; lost to Liberty 19-25, 25-20, 25-18, 26-24 in Division I district semifinal