Girls Volleyball: Hitters set up Pickerington Central for success

DAVE PURPURA
dpurpura@thisweeknews.com
Senior setter Brooke Norwood is among the top returnees for the North girls volleyball team, which hopes to improve on last year's second-place finish in the OCC-Ohio Division.

The Pickerington Central girls volleyball team has enjoyed several routes to success during a five-year stretch in which it has advanced to at least a Division I district semifinal each season and finished as a district runner-up twice.

This season threw fifth-year coach Eric Hughes something of a surprise almost right away.

"We have lots of talented hitters, almost too many. We joke around with other coaches that we have to figure out how to get everybody in," said Hughes, whose team is 2-0 entering its home opener Thursday, Sept. 3, against Gahanna. "We have too many good athletes to just leave somebody out. That's what our difficulty is this season, but it's good for the team."

Central returns four letterwinners in seniors Kennedy Chambers (outside hitter) and Vanessa Glass (defensive specialist/libero), junior J.J. Bouarouy (setter) and sophomore Emma Beretich (middle hitter). It also has an influx of hitters as it tries to improve on last year's records of 11-12 overall and 3-7 in the OCC-Ohio Division.

The Tigers' top hitters in the preseason included Chambers, juniors Kelsey Crumley, Chloe Jackson, Jayla Joseph and Rylee Osborne and freshman Myriah Massey.

According to Hughes, Massey played sand volleyball during the summer and took a little time to get up to speed during practice.

"After the first week or two of practice, we realized just what we had. She earned a spot on varsity she didn't initially have, so that was kind of a surprise," Hughes said. "It's different than in years past. We didn't have a solid plan this year for who might play what position."

Joseph, Massey and Osborne also are defensive specialists.

Rounding out the roster are juniors Natalie Chiles (defensive specialist) and Brianna Lewis (defensive specialist) and sophomores Willow Alls (setter), Paige Mock (middle hitter) and Amari Walker (defensive specialist).

Central is 80-42 since the start of the 2015 season. The Tigers lost in district semifinals last year as well as in 2016 and 2018 and were district runners-up in 2015 and 2017.

Central opened Aug. 25 with a 25-11, 25-20, 25-12 win at Hilliard Darby and edged host Dublin Jerome 23-25, 13-25, 25-13, 25-15, 18-16 the next night.

Now in the OCC-Buckeye as part of conference realignment, the Tigers begin league play Sept. 10 at Newark.

"We need to work a lot on our cohesion. Once we figure that out, things should go pretty well," Hughes said. "We're still a young team when it comes to varsity time. We'll have some growing pains, but I still consider this a reloading year rather than a rebuild year."

Experience returns for Panthers

Seniors Lauren Greegor and Lilian Muszynski, who combined for 350 kills last season, and senior setter Brooke Norwood return to lead North, which hopes to improve on last year's 17 wins and second-place finish in the OCC-Ohio.

Muszynski had a team-leading 179 kills and Greegor added 171 kills as well as 32 aces as the Panthers went 17-6 overall and 7-3 in the league, three matches behind Gahanna (10-0). Greegor and Norwood tied for the team lead in aces.

North opened Aug. 27 with a 25-11, 25-16, 25-15 home win over Newark and continued its season Sept. 1 at Watterson.

"We have a pretty solid core (with) lots of seniors. Some positions we're still trying to figure out and there will be some girls playing different positions," seventh-year coach April Boudreau said. "The (veterans) know the expectations. They know the speed of the game. Brooke has been setting for two years, but she's been on the court for three. We have a lot of high expectations and solid leadership."

Other returnees from last year include seniors Jordan Gerritsen (opposite hitter), Anna Martin (libero/defensive specialist) and Emily Piekenbrock (middle block/outside hitter) and sophomore Kyleigh Bryant (libero/outside hitter).

According to Boudreau, Bryant was only the second freshman to have played varsity in her tenure. The other was Kaitlyn Rhoades, a 2020 graduate who had 374 digs last season and 1,071 in her career -- the first Panthers player to record at least 1,000 -- and now plays at Lourdes College in suburban Toledo.

That list is expected to grow this year as right-side hitter/setter Erin Piekenbrock began the season on the roster.

Rounding out the roster are senior Brayden Johnson (opposite hitter), juniors Leah Jarvis (setter), Brooklyn Wilson (defensive specialist) and Callie Winstel (defensive specialist) and sophomore Faith Clemens (defensive specialist).

North begins OCC-Ohio play Sept. 10 at Westerville Central.

"Having Grove City and Gahanna, those two powerhouses, still in the league with us always makes it tough," Boudreau said. "Westerville Central always has a strong program. New Albany is usually tough and they are well-coached. Nothing is going to be easy."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

At a glance

PICKERINGTON CENTRAL

*Coach: Eric Hughes, fifth season

*Top players: Emma Beretich, J.J. Bouarouy, Kennedy Chambers and Vanessa Glass

*Key losses: Londyn Coles, Alayja Floyd, Mackenna Glass and Brittany Miller

*Last season: 11-12 overall

*2019 OCC-Ohio standings: Gahanna (10-0), Pickerington North (7-3), Grove City (6-4), Pickerington Central (3-7), Lancaster and Reynoldsburg (both 2-8)

*2019 postseason: Defeated Canal Winchester 21-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-17; def. Briggs 25-6, 25-13, 25-11; lost to Olentangy Orange 25-10, 25-12, 25-17 in Division I district semifinal

PICKERINGTON NORTH

*Coach: April Boudreau, seventh season

*Top players: Kyleigh Bryant, Lauren Greegor, Lilian Muszynzki and Brooke Norwood

*Key losses: Lindsey Maziarz, Emma Perry, Kaitlyn Rhoades and Lily Wittman

*Last season: 17-6 overall

*2019 postseason: Lost to Grove City 25-23, 25-23, 25-21 in second round of Division I district tournament

Senior defensive specialist/libero Vanessa Glass is one of four returning letterwinners for the Central girls volleyball team, which finished 11-12 overall last season.