Pickerington Central Roundup: Youthful girls volleyball team enjoying strong season

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Central's Chloe Jackson (left) and Rylee Osborne go for a block against host North during a match Sept. 29. The Tigers are contending for the OCC-Buckeye Division championship despite a young roster.

It is not lost on Pickerington Central girls volleyball coach Eric Hughes that his starting lineup includes just one senior as well as two sophomores and a freshman, yet the Tigers entered the week closing in on a league championship. 

Hughes just doesn’t emphasize that youth or even discuss it with his players. 

“As a coach, we don’t say a word to the players about (grade levels). They play hard,” Hughes said. “These are building blocks for the years to come, the experience of being there. We know how it feels to lose a tough five-(game) match. Maybe next time, we get that win.” 

Central took a 12-match winning streak into an Oct. 8 match against Groveport, and Hughes cited early season setbacks to Hartley (25-22, 20-25, 23-25, 25-21, 15-11 on Aug. 22) and Gahanna (19-25, 23-25, 25-19, 25-22, 15-12 on Sept. 5) as teachable moments. 

The Tigers were 14-4 overall and in the driver’s seat for the OCC-Buckeye Division championship at 7-0 in the league before Oct. 8. 

A league title would be Central’s second in three years. Before splitting the OCC-Ohio title with Grove City in 2018, the Tigers had not won a league championship since 1993. 

“We’re happy to have the record we do with such a young team,” Hughes said. “We have a lot of juniors, but not a lot of varsity time after graduating the number of seniors we have. You’re bound to have a smaller class at some point, so not only do we only have one senior, but among the juniors only a handful of them have lettered. So we’re happy to have the record we do, but we know we let a couple games slip away. We learned from those. 

“If we had a few more varsity players who had been there before, maybe those go the other way.” 

After losing seven players to graduation last year and six in each of the previous two seasons, defensive specialist/libero Vanessa Glass is this year’s only senior. 

Two sophomores start in Emma Beretich (middle hitter) and Amari Walker (defensive specialist/libero) as well as a freshman in outside hitter/defensive specialist Myriah Massey. 

“I think we’re where we’re supposed to be with our team. We have a lot of high expectations,” Walker said. “Everybody does their part and we have good energy every match. We play together well. We should have won some of the early matches. We need to push hard. We need to have that instinct to finish.” 

Central finished OCC-Buckeye play this week with matches at Lancaster on Oct. 13 and at home against Reynoldsburg on Thursday, Oct. 15. The Golden Gales were one match behind the Tigers in the league before Oct. 8. 

“We’re just a very scrappy team,” Hughes said. “Serve-receive isn’t as strong as it was last year. Blocking isn’t quite as strong as in years past. Central sort of built itself on strong blockers, making it easy on the back row, so it’s a young blocking team and our back row and defense have stepped up.” 

Aidan Allen shot an 84 in a Division I sectional tournament Oct. 6 at Turnberry to help the Tigers advance to district Oct. 13 at Apple Valley.

Boys golfers

advance to district 

The boys golf team competed in the Division I district tournament Oct. 13 at Apple Valley, aiming for its first state berth as a team since 1995 and third in program history. 

Led by Cole Crandall and Carter Woodward’s rounds of 77, the Tigers finished fourth (316) in a sectional Oct. 6 at their home course of Turnberry behind champion Olentangy Liberty (297) as 15 teams scored. Also scoring were Jaden Thompson (78) and Aidan Allen (84). 

Blake Bennett shot a 93. 

The top four teams advanced to district, where the top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Oct. 23 and 24 at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course. 

That same day, the girls team’s season came to an end when it finished ninth (407) in a Division I sectional at Mentel Memorial behind champion Dublin Coffman (331) as 12 teams scored. 

The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 13 at New Albany Links. 

Scoring for the Tigers were junior Ella Drake (90) and seniors Riley Stewart (99), Jessica Tarr (104) and Karlie Skaggs (114). 

Junior Audrey Roberts shot a 124. 

Runners prepare

for league meet 

The boys and girls cross country teams will seek their first league championships since 2015 when Central plays host to the OCC-Buckeye meet Saturday, Oct. 17. 

Both teams finished fourth in the OCC-Ohio last year, with North winning the boys title and Gahanna winning on the girls side, but conference realignment took Central and Lancaster —whose girls were second and boys finished third a year ago — out of that division. 

Central’s final tune-up for the OCC-Buckeye meet was Oct. 10 at the Chillicothe Unioto Invitational. 

The girls team captured its best invitational finish of the season Oct. 3, scoring 55 points to place second in the 10-team Group 1 race of North’s Panther Invitational behind the Panthers (45). Grace Osborn’s fourth-place finish (20:42) led three teammates in the top 13. 

Talia Mauro was 11th (21:19.4), two spots ahead of Amber Carter (21:26.3). 

The Cardinal and Ohio divisions also will run at Central this weekend. 

The remaining two OCC divisions, the Capital and Central, will be at Westerville North.   

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekDave 

GIRLS GOLF 

OCC-Ohio standings: Grove City (20-0), Pickerington North and Gahanna (13-7), Pickerington Central (9-11), Big Walnut (5-15), Lancaster (0-20) 

Seniors lost: Karlie Skaggs, Riley Stewart and Jessica Tarr 

Key returnees: Ella Drake and Audrey Roberts 

Postseason: Ninth (407) at sectional behind champion Dublin Coffman (331)