Girls Volleyball: Olentangy Liberty showed resiliency after shutdown

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Liberty seniors Ali Sebenoler (5) and Abby Roubinek try to block Watterson’s Olyvia Kennedy during a Division I regional semifinal Nov. 5 at Hilliard Darby. The Patriots lost 25-10, 33-31, 25-17 to finish 13-6.

With a 25-14, 25-16, 25-13 victory over Reynoldsburg on Sept. 28, the Olentangy Liberty girls volleyball team snapped a two-match losing streak and seemed to put itself back on track heading into the second round of OCC-Central Division play.

Over the next 48 hours, however, the Patriots were placed in a 14-day team quarantine because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Liberty returned to action Oct. 15 to face Orange, the eventual league champion and No. 1 seed for the Division I district tournament, and lost 25-15, 25-15, 25-10.

The Patriots made up only one other previously postponed match before beginning postseason play, but that didn’t keep them from a celebration that was to come.

On Oct. 31 in a district championship match at second-seeded Dublin Scioto, seventh-seeded Liberty pulled a 25-20, 20-25, 22-25, 25-23, 15-10 upset that gave it a third consecutive title.

The Patriots lost to Watterson 25-10, 33-31, 25-17 in a regional semifinal Nov. 5 to finish 13-6. 

“Not only sports, but just school in general right now is just tough for these kids,” coach Jen Chapman said. “There’s a lot of stress I’d say more than normal and you add in the sports side of it as well, I felt like it was week to week whether we were going to continue to have a season or not. I encouraged the girls to be grateful for the opportunity to be in the gym and I think they embraced that and just kind of knew from seeing other programs that this could shut down at any time.”

The Patriots were among several central Ohio volleyball programs to endure quarantines. The uncertainty created what senior setter Logan Flaugh described as a new “mindset” once the season resumed.

Liberty, which defeated 11th-seeded Olentangy 19-25, 25-20, 25-18, 26-24 on Oct. 27 to advance to the district final, beat Scioto to move into a rematch against Watterson after losing to the Eagles 25-16, 25-22, 25-21 on Sept. 21.

“Just because of how crazy this season was, how we got shut down, we knew we need to be so grateful that we even have a season,” Flaugh said. “The past few weeks we’ve gotten so much better. People are filling in their roles and we just showed a lot of fight in the Scioto match and in all of our past matches. That’s what’s helped us reach our potential.”

Flaugh, who surpassed 2,000 career assists this fall and has started since her sophomore year at setter, is a Xavier recruit.

Her mother, Audrey Flaugh, was a setter at Ohio State and coaches for the Mintonette club program.

The other seniors are Madison Tinsley (libero), an Ashland recruit, Abby Roubinek (outside hitter/right-side hitter) and Ali Sebenoler (middle hitter).

Roubinek and Sebenoler were the team’s top attackers along with junior outside hitter McKenna Cook, while Cook and juniors Mackenzie Dyer and Grace Ganz joined Tinsley as defensive leaders.

Other contributors included juniors Kacey Hilvert (defensive specialist/libero), Ryann Kanable (middle hitter/outside hitter) and Kaili Worcester (outside hitter/right-side hitter) and sophomores Katherine Donahue (middle hitter), Gabi Moulton (setter), Claire Mrukowski (opposite hitter/outside hitter) and Meredith Mrukowski (outside hitter/right-side hitter).

“We have several hitters across the front row that can contribute and I don’t think we’re one-dimensional, so the depth of our offense is helpful,” Chapman said. “It also helps just having an experienced setter. I look at the setter as the point guard and quarterback and just having Logan on the court, she’s been in a lot of big-game scenarios and is just even-keeled and brings good energy to the court. We’re a tough serving team, we play scrappy defense and I think that can wear teams down. The combination of all those things and playing with a lot of heart makes a lot of difference.”

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Record: 13-6 overall

OCC-Central standings: Orange (10-0), Liberty (5-2), Dublin Coffman (6-4), Upper Arlington (3-6), Hilliard Bradley (2-7), Hilliard Davidson (1-8) 

Seniors lost: Logan Flaugh, Abby Roubinek, Ali Sebenoler and Madison Tinsley  

Key returnees: McKenna Cook, Katherine Donahue, Mackenzie Dyer, Grace Ganz, Kacey Hilvert and Kaili Worcester 

Postseason: Defeated Newark 25-12, 25-13, 25-13; def. Olentangy 19-25, 25-20, 25-18, 26-24; def. Dublin Scioto 25-20, 20-25, 22-25, 25-23, 15-10; lost to Watterson 25-10, 33-31, 25-17 in Division I regional semifinal