Boys Volleyball: Olentangy Orange Pioneers looking to outwork opponents

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Coach Karlie Foy and the Orange boys volleyball team are expecting a strong season. The Pioneers were seventh in the initial Division I state poll. They also were the top-ranked team in the East Region.

Spring break provides a chance for many students to take a respite. That wasn’t the case for the players in the Olentangy Orange boys volleyball program.

The Pioneers were hard at work during the break, trying to hone their skills for a season in which they have high expectations. They were seventh in the initial Division I state poll and the top-ranked team in the East Region.

“They work really hard, and they never complain about coming to gym on weekends or over spring break,” third-year coach Karlie Foy said. “They are ready to go. When we walk into the gym there is an extreme level of focus.

“‘Better than yesterday’ is the slogan chosen by our seniors. They make strides every single day so they can be competitive in the postseason.”

The Pioneers have a pair of senior college recruits in George Mason-bound Luke Little (middle hitter/right-side hitter) and Jake Smith (outside hitter), who his headed to Charleston.

Little had 66 kills in 2019, but suffered a broken leg in practice after the ninth match. Smith totaled 202 kills, 89 aces and 121 digs.

“This senior class is my first since we started the program (in 2018) and Luke and Jake are the core of that group,” said Foy, whose team opened April 6 at Liberty in OCC-Central Division play. “We have had a couple of scrimmages and we have been super-competitive. We have an opportunity to be a more mature team than before. We can be comfortable being uncomfortable serving under pressure and doing those new things we have been working on.”

The Pioneers are trying to figure out whether they play better with one or two setters. Senior Owen Dickson is the primary setter, with senior Lawton Hinley splitting between setter and outside hitter. Junior Evan Schultz has moved from the outside to middle hitter, and senior libero Alex Heffner anchors the back row.

Junior Levi Adkins is a defensive specialist/libero. Freshman right-side hitter Brenden Borer is the brother of junior Hanna Borer, an all-state setter for the girls program.

INSIDE THE PIONEERS

Coach: Karlie Foy, third season 

Next match: April 8 vs. Westerville North

Key athletes: Brenden Borer, Owen Dickson, Alex Heffner, Luke Little, Jake Smith, Lawton Hinley and Evan Schultz

Height, balance are 

strengths for Patriots

With three of his players being at least 6-foot-6, Liberty coach Dave Hale believes his team will outsize many of its opponents. 

The tallest player is 6-10 senior middle hitter Cole Young, who was a contributor in 2019 when the Patriots shared the OCC-Buckeye title with Olentangy at 7-1, went 13-8 overall and reached a Division I East Region semifinal. 

Young has committed to Ohio State. 

“Cole Young is our only player who has varsity experience,” Hale said. “Otherwise, I think our strength will be our balance. We have many players who can contribute, and that makes our practices very competitive and our team better. Our size should be a strength as well.” 

Senior outside hitter Parker Budreau and junior middle hitter Carter Smith are 6-6. 

Also expected to be a part of the offense are seniors Blaise Buzash (right-side hitter/middle hitter) and Andrew Pugh (outside hitter/defensive specialist) and juniors David Jenkins (right-side hitter/outside hitter), Noah Koknat (outside hitter) and Colby Whiteside (outside hitter). 

Senior Nicholas Talbott and freshman Connor Severson are setters, with senior Ian Gutierrez as a defensive specialist and sophomore Jack Sullenberger at libero. 

“It’s been great to be able to be on the court again,” Hale said. “I certainly appreciate it even more since we were canceled last year. Things have been going well. We have a great group of guys who get along with each other and who listen well. I’m hopeful that we can compete for the league title, but it will be a challenge.” 

INSIDE THE PATRIOTS 

Coach: Dave Hale, 16th season 

Next match: April 8 vs. Hilliard Bradley 

Key athletes: Parker Budreau, Blaise Buzash, Ian Gutierrez, Andrew Pugh, Nicholas Talbott and Cole Young 

—Jarrod Ulrey 

Bears looking to

gain confidence

First-year Berlin coach Megan O’Dell has been working to get her players up to speed.

The Bears were 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Cardinal after losing to Thomas Worthington 25-6, 25-14, 25-14, on March 30.

"We have some kids back, but they are still relatively new to volleyball,” O’Dell said. “It was a first-year program in 2019 and we didn’t play last year.

“They are struggling a little bit getting (the new system) down. I coach a little differently than coach Dana (Stearns) did. They are still getting used to me.”

Seniors Colton Beechley (middle/outside hitter), Eli Gamble (setter), Drew Granger (outside hitter), Sam Newball (middle hitter) and Shon Pham (defensive specialist) and junior Mason Clark (outside/right-side hitter) return from 2019.

Senior Ansh Arora (middle/right-side hitter), junior Matt Mannino (libero/defensive specialist), sophomore Ethan Day (defensive specialist) and freshman Mitch Zahner (middle/outside hitter) also play key roles.

“We have to play up with confidence,” said O’Dell, who had a previous stint as an assistant at Canfield. “They get so down on themselves and kind of quit on themselves. I hate to see that.

“They display their ability so much better in practices and scrimmages than they do in matches. They get a little scared because with scrimmages nothing is really on the line, but in games they will actually have a loss counted so they freak out a little bit. We have to work on that confidence.”

INSIDE THE BEARS

Coach: Megan O’Dell, first season 

Next match: April 8 at Hilliard Darby

Key athletes: Eli Gamble, Drew Granger, Matt Mannino, Sam Newball, Shon Pham and Mitch Zahner

—Scott Hennen

sports@thisweeknews.com

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