Girls Volleyball: Dedication guides Westerville Central to first OCC title since 2015

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Mia Cline and her Central girls volleyball teammates had reason to celebrate after going 8-1 to win the OCC-Ohio title, the program's sixth league title and first since 2015.

As the Westerville Central girls volleyball team continued the season, second-year coach Shelley Ebright and her players developed various hashtags as motivation. 

They included “outwork, outplay,” “hustle, hit and dig, and never quit” and “leave it better than you found it.” 

These mottos apparently worked, as Central secured its first OCC championship since 2015 by finishing first in the OCC-Ohio Division at 8-1. It is the Warhawks’ sixth league title. 

“We’ll put 2020 up there,” Ebright said about adding a championship banner in the gymnasium. “With their hard work, I truly believed it was possible to make the turnaround. The girls have been working this year, starting the second week of June. We started at 7 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, working hard, and they haven’t stopped since.” 

Central’s lone league loss came against Pickerington North 25-22, 12-25, 25-22, 25-23 on Sept. 10, and the Warhawks avenging that setback 25-22, 25-14, 25-17 on Oct. 1. 

The Warhawks secured the title with a 25-17, 25-23, 25-14 win over New Albany on Oct. 15. 

“A goal was to win a league title,” senior Josie Curran said. “(Ebright) has totally flipped this program around from what it was two years ago. (The league title) means a lot. It means we’re progressing as a program and that us seniors left something here for the other ones to build up to.” 

The Warhawks were 11-12 two years ago and 17-7 last season in Ebright’s first season. 

Team leaders through 19 matches were Mia Saunders (732) in assists, Tatum Hubble (212) and Riley Kindall (208) in kills, Ava Hampton (308) and Kindall (221) in digs, Kindall (34) and Hampton (31) in aces and Melody Kwarteng (22) and Kindall (15) in blocks. 

“This is a great thing with the way 2020 has been going and to be able to come and do this,” Ebright said. “We talk to them all the time about being sisters and being accountable to each other. That’s a big piece and they’ve been not playing for themselves, but playing for each other, and that’s made a huge difference especially in this 2020 climate. It’s been a big deal on and off the court.” 

The eighth-seeded Warhawks improved to 19-2 overall with a 25-15, 25-16, 25-19 victory over 22nd-seeded Mount Vernon on Oct. 22 in the second round of the Division I district tournament and will play host to 19th-seeded Lancaster in a semifinal Thursday, Oct. 29. 

The winner of that match will face top-seeded Olentangy Orange or 18th-seeded Big Walnut in a district final Saturday, Oct. 31 at the site of the higher seed.

Central's only district title came in 2012.

“The seniors have left it better than they found it,” Ebright said. “We added an OCC title this year. We want to continue to make it better than they found it. It’s setting a real precedent for the next set of seniors moving up. … We’ve now set some tradition in place and we want to continue that." 

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekFrank