Notebook: Olentangy Braves boys volleyball team makes run to Division II state final

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Olentangy's Sam Irwin (left) tries to console teammate Jacob Nussdorfer as they watch Middletown Fenwick receive the Division II state championship trophy June 6 at Pickerington Central. The Braves lost the state final 25-22, 25-18, 25-16.

Despite being ranked ninth in the final Division II state poll and earning the third seed in the East Region tournament, Olentangy boys volleyball coach Emi Holsclaw said the Braves might have caught some observers by surprise during a run to their second state tournament in three seasons.

After a 12-8 regular season, Olentangy made program history by advancing to the state final, in which it fell 25-22, 25-18, 25-16 to Middletown Fenwick on June 6 at Pickerington Central. The Braves lost in a semifinal in 2018.

“We have a really tough league (the OCC-Cardinal Division), so I think we were an underdog in a way. We won during the regular season but we weren’t dominant,” Holsclaw said of a league schedule that included a split of two matches against Worthington Kilbourne, the top seed in the regional tournament. 

“These guys in the postseason really put in a lot of extra effort, a lot of mental focus and they adjusted their mentality. It was cool to see in the postseason. They showed what they could do. It was a good group.”

In the championship match, senior outside hitter Sam Kaylor, a Rio Grande recruit and honorable mention all-state selection, had a team-high 12 kills as well as eight digs and three blocks, while freshman middle hitter/outside hitter Gavin Grover had eight kills, eight digs and two blocks.

Freshman libero/defensive specialist Max Gutierrez added 13 digs.

Fenwick took control with a 7-0 run late in the second game and an 8-0 sprint early in the third to win its first title since 2013 and second overall.

Kaylor said the Braves, who swept defending champion Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit 25-13, 25-18, 25-19 in a semifinal, learned from the experiences of the 2018 team. He was one of four seniors who were in the program as freshmen that year.

“We learned that mentality, we understood what it took and our goal all along was to get to state (as seniors),” Kaylor said. “It was the commitment really. They were all locked in and focused.”

Seniors Max Kaiser (setter) and Jacob Nussdorfer (opposite-side hitter) will play at Mount Union.

Freshman setter Jack Barga was among several underclassmen to see playing time.

“These kids know the game. They work really hard and it’s just a matter of mentality-wise, getting them to believe in themselves, be confident and really go for it,” Holsclaw said. “I knew that athletically, we had that capability (to make state).”

•The Liberty boys volleyball team came agonizingly close to advancing to a Division I state semifinal but fell to Cleveland St. Ignatius 25-22, 19-25, 27-29, 25-18, 15-13 in a quarterfinal June 5 at Pickerington Central to finish 20-4. 

In the fifth game, the Patriots were leading 10-7. It was their first appearance at the state tournament.

“Both teams were going back-and-forth the whole match,” coach Dave Hale said. “We lost the first set and we could have gotten down, but we came out and won set two convincingly. We were right there, and it kind of makes it hurt that much more because we were right there.” 

The Patriots lose a senior class that was led by Cole Young, an Ohio State recruit who was first-team all-league, all-region and all-state. 

Senior Andrew Pugh (outside hitter/defensive specialist) was first-team all-league and all-region and honorable mention all-state. Senior Nicholas Talbott (setter) was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-region. 

Senior Parker Budreau (outside hitter) was honorable mention all-league, and junior Noah Koknat (outside hitter) was special mention all-league. 

—Jarrod Ulrey 

•The Berlin boys volleyball team will look to build on the experience it gained under first-year coach Megan O’Dell.

The Bears finished 6-18 overall and 2-10 in the OCC-Cardinal.

Setter/outside hitter Eli Gamble (honorable mention all-league) and outside/right-side hitter Drew Granger (honorable mention all-region, second-team all-league) led a six-player senior class.

Top players expected back include juniors Mason Clark (outside/right-side hitter) and Matt Mannino (libero/defensive specialist), sophomore Ethan Day (defensive specialist) and freshman Mitch Zahner (middle/outside hitter).

—Scott Hennen

Nolan Fogg (left) and Mason Onate should be among the top returnees for Liberty. Onate set program records for batting average (.500), doubles (11) and hits (46), while Fogg batted .360 with 25 RBI.

•The Liberty baseball team loses 12 seniors after going 23-7 overall and being a Division I district runner-up — finishes that were almost identical to 2019 when the Patriots went 23-6 and also had their season end in a district final. 

“We’ve always had high standards, and when your standards are as high as ours, you’re never going to win enough games,” coach Ty Brenning said. “It’s been a special group of seniors because for the past 13 months, people have told them what they can’t do. They’ve been super selfless.” 

Key graduation losses include Nick Falter (P), Adam Lane (OF), Dom Magistrale (CF), Landon Smith (1B), Joe Tootle (P), Michael Tuttle (2B), Brian Yamokoski (C) and Sam Zabonik (P). 

Yamokoski was second-team all-district and all-league as the Patriots shared second place in the OCC-Central with Upper Arlington at 10-5, behind Orange (14-1). 

Magistrale was first-team all-league and second-team all-district, batting .356 with a team-leading 31 RBI. Falter was honorable mention all-league, going 5-1 with a 2.13 ERA in 46 innings, while Tootle went 6-2 with 62 strikeouts in 46 innings. 

Sophomore shortstop Mason Onate earned first-team all-league and all-district honors while setting program records for batting average (.500), doubles (11) and hits (46). 

Sophomore pitcher Anderson Gomez went 8-1 with a 2.07 ERA and was first-team all-district and second-team all-league.

Junior outfielder Nolan Fogg batted .360 with 25 RBI and was special mention all-league and honorable mention all-district.

Other key returnees should include juniors Connor Bourn (OF/P) and David Dielman (INF) and sophomores Brock Amelung (1B/P) and Josh Stickel (INF). 

—Jarrod Ulrey 

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BERLIN BOYS VOLLEYBALL

Record: 6-18 overall

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

Seniors lost: Ansh Arora, Colton Beachley, Eli Gamble, Drew Granger, Sam Newball and Shon Pham

Key returnees: Mason Clark, Ethan Day, Matt Mannino and Mitch Zahner

Postseason: Defeated Licking Heights 25-15, 25-21, 25-10; lost to Olentangy 25-20, 25-12, 25-13 in Division II, East Region quarterfinal

OLENTANGY BOYS VOLLEYBALL

Record: 16-9 overall

Seniors lost: Sam Irwin, Max Kaiser, Sam Kaylor, Tyler Mandelkorn and Jacob Nussdorfer

Key returnees: Jack Barga, Gavin Grover and Max Gutierrez

Postseason: Def. Berlin 25-20, 25-12, 25-13; def. DeSales 21-25, 25-19, 25-15, 25-16; def. St. Charles 25-23, 22-25, 25-23, 25-17; def. Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit 25-13, 25-18, 25-19; lost to Middletown Fenwick 25-22, 25-18, 25-16 in Division II state final

LIBERTY BOYS VOLLEYBALL 

Record: 20-4 overall  

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

Seniors lost: Parker Budreau, Blaise Buzash, Ian Gutierrez, Andrew Pugh, Nicholas Talbott and Cole Young 

Key returnees: David Jenkins, Noah Koknat, Connor Severson, Carter Smith, Jack Sullenberger and Colby Whiteside 

Postseason: Def. Mount Vernon 25-11, 25-12, 25-17; def. North 25-13, 25-16, 25-21; def. Thomas 25-20, 26-24, 25-18; lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius 25-22, 19-25, 27-29, 25-18, 15-13 in Division I state quarterfinal 

LIBERTY BASEBALL 

Record: 23-7 overall  

OCC-Central standings: Orange (14-1), Liberty and UA (10-5), Davidson (5-10), Coffman (3-12), Bradley (2-13) 

Seniors lost: Luke Dawson, Joey Dierker, Nick Falter, Adam Lane, Max Lundquist, Dom Magistrale, Landon Smith, Drew Thornton, Joe Tootle, Michael Tuttle, Brian Yamokoski and Sam Zabonik 

Key returnees: Brock Amelung, Connor Bourn, David Dielman, Nolan Fogg, Anderson Gomez, Mason Onate and Josh Stickel 

Postseason: Def. Westland 10-0; def. Westerville Central 4-2; lost to New Albany 5-2 in Division I district final 

OLENTANGY BOYS LACROSSE

Record: 11-7 overall

OCC-Cardinal standings: Jerome (5-0), Thomas  (4-1), Olentangy (3-2), Berlin (2-3), Darby (1-4), Marysville (0-5)

Seniors lost: Brendan Beals, Daniel Kelley, Alec Palmer, Brady Ramsey, Owen Riedel, Ben Wilch, Nick Wilson and Toby Wilson

Key returnees: Mike Parsio and Ryan Petrone

Postseason: Def.Whitehouse Anthony Wayne 14-3; lost to Liberty 13-7 in Division I, Region 1 quarterfinal

OLENTANGY GIRLS LACROSSE

Record: 10-12 overall

OCC-Cardinal standings: Thomas (5-0), Jerome (4-1), Darby (3-2), Olentangy (2-3), Berlin (1-4), Marysville (0-5)

Seniors lost: Caroline Brenneman, Macy Lorz, Addi Prindle, Maddie Richeson and Abby Shipley

Key returnees: Kyndall Caffey, Grace Maddox, Megan Miller, Sydney Nickel and Reagan Richeson

Postseason: Def. Delaware 15-9; def. Strongsville 11-9; lost to Medina 19-8 in Division I, Region 1 semifinal