Notebook: Olentangy Liberty Patriots boys volleyball team hits stride for tourney

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Andrew Pugh and Liberty were 17-3 after beating Worthington Kilbourne 25-19, 26-24, 25-22 on May 12 and Dublin Jerome 25-22, 20-25, 25-12, 25-18 on May 13. The Division I East Region tournament drawing was May 16 and the postseason begins May 21.

It will remain a mystery to Cole Young where he got his 6-foot-10 build, considering his father is 6-4 and his mother is 5-10.

He always has been among the tallest people in his class, which made basketball and volleyball seem like logical sports in which to compete.

This season has been one he was looking forward to with the Olentangy Liberty boys volleyball team, which has emerged as one of the area’s top squads.

“As a team we’ve done pretty well,” Young said. “The years before my senior year I was kind of just in the mix with all the other players, but this year I’ve had to step up and try to be a leader and motivate my teammates to want to work hard. We’re having a lot of fun.”

A middle hitter who has committed to Ohio State, Young played for the boys basketball team as a freshman and sophomore before turning his focus to volleyball.

He’s one of six seniors for the Patriots, who were 17-3 overall after beating Worthington Kilbourne 25-19, 26-24, 25-22 on May 12 and Dublin Jerome 25-22, 20-25, 25-12, 25-18 on May 13. They finished 9-3 in the OCC-Central Division, with Orange winning the title at 10-2.

The Division I East Region tournament drawing was May 16 and the postseason begins May 21.

“In every one of our losses, it’s been mostly a serve-receive issue, but I think we’ve fixed that,” Young said. “Our passing’s going to be a major factor and being able to stop those teams with really tough serves, because that’s hurt us a little bit, but we’ve gotten better at that. … My height helps me with blocking and hitting over people.”

Young is joined at middle hitter by senior Parker Budreau, who is 6-6 and has committed to Mount Union, with senior Andrew Pugh and junior Noah Koknat at outside hitter.

Junior Carter Smith, who also is 6-6, was injured and missed 11 matches before returning at right-side hitter to join junior David Jenkins.

Senior Blaise Buzash and junior Colby Whiteside also have helped out at right-side hitter and outside hitter. 

Freshman Connor Severson is at setter, with senior defensive specialist Nicholas Talbott and sophomore libero Jack Sullenberger leading the defense.

“Coming into this season, I had no idea how we’d do because we only had one returner from last year and that’s Cole, and no one else has ever played varsity,” coach Dave Hale said. “I really think we’re a pretty balanced team.”

•The Orange baseball team clinched the OCC-Central title outright by defeating Dublin Coffman 9-5 on May 11.

It’s the first league championship for the Pioneers since winning back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014.

Josh Laisure drove in two runs, scored once and had two stolen bases in the title-clinching win. Caden Konczak had a double and single, scored three runs and stole two bases, and Connor Till had two singles.

Orange had assured itself of at least a share of the title with a 3-1 win over Upper Arlington on May 10. Austin Knupp and Matt Wolfe both singled three times and Cole Cahill picked up the victory while striking out six.

The Pioneers improved to 22-2 overall and 13-1 in the OCC-Central with a 3-0 win over Hilliard Bradley on May 12. 

“Before the season we set goals and winning the league title is usually the first on that list,” said Wolfe, a junior shortstop who has committed to Vanderbilt. “That’s a goal checked off our checklist, but we can’t settle for this. We have to keep on grinding and we have to win district and go from there.”

The Pioneers earned the top seed in the Division I district tournament and opened May 19 against 35th-seeded Chillicothe or 41st-seeded Columbus West after a first-round bye.

With a win, Orange would play host to 19th-seeded Central Crossing, 27th-seeded Licking Heights or 33rd-seeded St. Charles in a district semifinal May 25. 

—Scott Hennen

•The Olentangy boys volleyball team begins Division II East Region play this weekend, and the Braves got a preview of how challenging the postseason will be with a 26-24, 25-18, 25-13 loss to regional and OCC-Cardinal foe Kilbourne on May 11.

Olentangy was ranked ninth and Kilbourne seventh statewide in last week’s coaches poll.

The Braves finished the regular season 12-8 overall and 6-6 in the league.

“We have a lot of impact players who can do some really impressive things. We’ve had some great moments as a team where we’ve seen where we should be,” coach Emi Holsclaw said. “The piece we’ve struggled with a little bit is mentally handling when we’re down, so we’ve put ourselves in some tough situations in practice to help ourselves grow.

“When we click together, we have a tough front row. We’ve had some matches where our blocking has been really locked in. Between Jacob (Nussdorfer), Sam (Irwin) and Sam (Kaylor), we’ve put up really good blocks and we’ve run some good free-ball plays when our passing has been good.”

Gavin Grover led the Braves in kills (141) and digs (131) and Kaylor had added 140 kills and 125 digs through 19 matches.

“My favorite part about this team is they all have the ability to be big contributors,” Holsclaw said. “You always want a well-rounded offense and a solid defense. You don’t want everybody in the gym to think (the ball) is going to one guy. You want to have at least three good options if not four. Offensively, we’ve had big contributors in different matches all season.”

—Dave Purpura

•The Berlin boys tennis program has its first qualifiers to the Division I district tournament May 20 and 22 at Reynoldsburg.

The Bears did not have any district qualifiers from a Division II sectional during its inaugural season in 2019, and last season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

In a sectional May 11 at Reynoldsburg, second-seeded Josh McKnight reached the second day of play May 15 to guarantee his qualification for district. The fourth-seeded doubles team of Akhil Demarla and Kathir Maarikarthykeyan also made the final day.

Final sectional placing was determined May 15.

The top four finishers in singles and doubles at district advance to state May 28 and 29 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.

—Scott Hennen

•The Liberty boys and girls track and field teams each turned in third-place finishes in the Delaware County championships May 7 at Orange, with the boys scoring 116.5 points to finish behind Big Walnut (141) and Orange (138.5) and the girls scoring 91 to place behind Orange (169) and Olentangy (115.75). 

Both teams are competing in the Division I, district 1 meet, which concludes May 22 at Hilliard Darby. The top four in each event advance to the regional May 26 and 28 at Pickerington North. 

The boys team has a pair of strong hurdlers in senior Anirudh Rao Banda and sophomore Jaxson Eckert. 

In the Delaware County meet, senior R.J. LaRosa won the 1,600 meters (4 minutes, 32.97 seconds) and junior Dean Stack won the high jump (5 feet, 10 inches). 

Juniors Drew Gaitten and Nick Johnson have been among the top sprinters, with senior Winston Fox joining LaRosa in middle distance. 

“We’ve had some guys banged up and that’s given some other guys an opportunity to step up and build some depth overall,” coach Nate Cikach said. “I like where we’re headed.” 

—Jarrod Ulrey

Berlin's Libby Cuckler (left) battles Orange's Ellie Beck earlier this season. The Bears opened the postseason May 19 and the Pioneers played their postseason opener May 17.

•The Berlin girls lacrosse team, which was seeded 11th in the Division II, Region 7 tournament, faced ninth-seeded Dayton Carroll on May 19 in the first round.

The winner plays in a regional quarterfinal May 22 at top-seeded DeSales. 

If the Bears advance to a regional semifinal May 25, possible opponents include fourth-seeded Bexley and fifth-seeded Columbus School for Girls.

The Bears had won three consecutive games and were 7-10 overall after defeating Pickerington North 11-9 on May 11. 

Libby Cuckler scored five goals and Eleanor Walsh had two goals, while Grace Bosetti, Braelyn Eckard, Dacey Redman and Courtney Suchan all scored once. Goalie Alison O’Hanian had 11 saves.

“The girls have been doing really well and you can see it in their play,” said coach Meghan Matey, whose team finished 1-4 in the OCC-Cardinal. “Just with things like catching and throwing has gotten better, and their chemistry has improved, too.”

—Scott Hennen

•The Orange girls lacrosse team had a familiar opponent when it opened the Division I, Region 1 tournament.

The 11th-seeded Pioneers faced ninth-seeded Westerville South on May 17 in the first round. They were 3-14 overall after closing the regular season by defeating the Wildcats 15-13 on May 13.

The winner faces top-seeded Medina on May 21 in a regional quarterfinal, and the regional semifinal is May 24.

The Pioneers finished 1-4 in the OCC-Central after defeating Bradley 17-5 on May 10. Sophia Meek scored four goals to pace Orange on offense, followed by Kathryn Beckley (3 goals, 2 assists), Jordan Sullivan (3 goals, 1 assist), Emma-Cait Cogan (2 goals, 2 assists), Ellie Beck (2 goals, 1 assist,), Jenna Durst (1 goal, 1 assist), Raneem Ali (1 goal, 1 assist) and Dori Moses (1 goal). 

Goalie Abigail Struntz had 13 saves.

—Scott Hennen

•Despite two hits each from Mackenzie Condo, Jaycee Feeney, Caleigh Peterson, Jaelyn Peterson and Gabriella Ross, the 33rd-seeded Olentangy softball team lost 9-6 at 14th-seeded Westerville South on May 12 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

The Braves outhit the Wildcats 12-7 but committed three errors in finishing 7-18.

—Dave Purpura

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