Reynoldsburg Roundup: Raiders volleyball program continues to build after earning first OCC win

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Sam Gilmore, a senior middle hitter, and the Reynoldsburg boys volleyball team earned the first OCC victory in the program's history by beating Westerville South 25-16, 25-22, 19-25, 25-20 on April 20. The Raiders first played in 2017 and started OCC play a year later.

With his only previous experience coming during gym class in eighth grade, Sam Gilmore joined the Reynoldsburg boys volleyball team for the first time in 2019 and ended up contributing in every match that season.

One of Gilmore’s fellow seniors, outside hitter Gabe Sargent, has a similar story. He joined the program as a sophomore after gaining limited experience in the sport in eighth grade but lost the 2020 spring season after it was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

As Reynoldsburg coach Matt Bailey continues to build the program he started in 2017, patience has been an especially important virtue. 

“Since we missed last year, being able to work with the guys and trying to build this program has been an honor,” Gilmore said. “I’m trying to be a leader for the team and doing the best we can to have a good season this year.” 

Standing about 6-foot-4, Gilmore is hoping his presence at middle hitter grows as the season progresses. 

The Raiders played in one match before being quarantined because of a COVID-19 issue. 

Senior setter Al Coumbassa was able to return for their 25-15, 25-13, 25-20 loss to Delaware on April 12, but he was joined on the court by the program’s junior varsity players because most of the remaining members of the varsity were in quarantine until the next day. 

Gilmore wasn’t cleared to begin practicing until April 19 and then went through a five-day acclimation period before returning. 

The Raiders – who did not compete in the OCC in 2017 and then went winless in league play in both 2018 and 2019 – finally broke through with a conference victory April 20, beating Westerville South 25-16, 25-22, 19-25, 25-20 in OCC-Ohio Division action to improve to 1-6 overall and 1-3 in the league. 

On April 17 in the Purple Reign Tournament at Middletown, Reynoldsburg went 0-3, but Bailey believes a close loss to Huber Heights Wayne (20-25, 25-23, 25-17) boosted his team’s confidence. 

“The guys are really coming around,” Bailey said. “Being off for the week because of COVID had hurt us. It’s taking them a while to get into the swing of things. … They’re super excited about (the) win (over South). 

“They’re starting to put things they learned into play. Al Coumbassa is stepping up huge. For never having set before, he’s coming along nicely. We’ve moved to a 5-1 with Al being the setter, (and) it’s stabilized our offense more. We still have some players playing out of rotation. The role players are starting to step up as well.” 

The other returnee from the 2019 team that went 1-24 overall is junior outside hitter Desmond Barber. 

Monty Rollins (middle hitter) and John Hayes (libero/opposite hitter) are the other seniors. 

Sargent filled in at middle hitter during Gilmore’s absence. 

“We’re just trying to push past it and work together, sticking together,” Sargent said. “We’ve been growing tighter since we started and everyone’s mutual friends.” 

Senior Brian McClain, who plays third singles, was part of a sweep at singles as the Raiders defeated Lancaster 3-2 on April 20 to improve to 6-2 overall and 2-0 in OCC-Buckeye play.

Boys tennis team 

off to strong start 

With a 3-2 victory over Lancaster on April 20, the boys tennis team was 6-2 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Buckeye Division. 

The Raiders feature sophomore Jaden Coley at first singles, with junior James Knorr typically at second and senior Brian McClain at third. All three earned victories against the Golden Gales, with Coley improving to 6-2.

“All of my singles players are fairly strong,” coach Brett Stewart said. “I feel like every match they play they have a good chance to win. Our doubles are getting there.” 

The Raiders finished third (20 points) on April 17 in the eight-team Reynoldsburg Doubles Tournament behind Olentangy Berlin (23) and Watkins Memorial (22). 

Reynoldsburg figures to face one of its tougher challenges to date April 30 when it travels to Gahanna in a match that was rescheduled from April 9. 

The Lions also have a sophomore at first singles in Brandon Carpico. 

“Brian McClain is a senior, James is a junior and Jaden is a sophomore, so we’ve got a little bit of a mixture of experience and youth in our singles,” Stewart said. “(Coley is) still very, very young. I think he’s going to play a lot of guys this year that are very good, and it’s going to be good for him.” 

Seniors Ryan Burns and Dane Myers and sophomores Davis Harris and Malik Stallings have seen regular action in doubles. 

“Some of the biggest things with doubles is we’ve worked on serving and returning,” Stewart said. “Kind of their mentality with their serve coming up is they’ve been nailing their first serve but don’t really have a plan behind it, so we’ve been working a little bit more on strategic work on our first serve – like when to come in, when not to come in, where to volley, where not to volley, and returning has been a big one, too.” 

Track teams continue 

postseason prep 

A little more than two weeks remain until the boys and girls track and field program competes in the OCC-Buckeye Division meet May 13 and 15 at Lancaster. 

On April 16, the boys team tied Westerville Central for fourth (86 points) in the nine-team New Albany Invitational behind champion Pickerington North (142) and the girls finished seventh (55) of eight teams behind champion Gahanna (156.5). 

Leading the boys at New Albany were seniors Seth Davis and Marsellis Davis, who finished first (1 minute, 59.84 seconds) and second (2:00.58), respectively, in the 800 meters. Seth Davis also won the 1,600 (4:28.63). 

Junior Ibrahim Fall placed second in the 200 (22.47) and third in the 100 hurdles (11.15). The 400 relay (43.37) of Fall, seniors Andre Turner and Markez Gillam and junior Deon Campbell and the 1,600 relay (3:27.59) of Marsellis Davis, Seth Davis, senior Kyle Cannon and sophomore Tehron Spencer also placed second.

Taking third were Gillam in the 200 (22.69) and the 3,200 relay (8:52.1) of seniors Mekhi Lewis and Dominic Sabo and freshmen Alex Begeny and Jackson Powell. 

For the girls, the Raiders got a first-place finish from the 1,600 relay (4:16.72) of seniors Adja Mbow and Mya Graham and juniors Nya Collier and Jamiona Ross. 

Collier was runner-up in the 300 hurdles (46.78) and third in the 100 hurdles (15.54), senior Avril Moyer took third in the 3,200 (11:56.61) and the 400 relay (49.97) of Graham, Ross, senior Kasha Rhodes and sophomore Hollyn Tillman also was third. 

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