Girls Volleyball: Westerville Central Warhawks pushing way into area’s elite

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Ava Hampton, a libero, was named Player of the Year in the league and first-team all-district. Hampton was one of three seniors for the Warhawks, who finished 19-3 overall and went 8-1 to win the OCC-Ohio Division title.

In both of her first two seasons, Westerville Central girls volleyball coach Shelley Ebright has guided the Warhawks to Division I district tournament finals and their first OCC title since 2015. 

Central finished 19-3 overall with a 25-16, 25-9, 25-13 loss at top-seeded Olentangy Orange in a district final Oct. 31. The Warhawks lost to Olentangy Liberty in a district final a year ago. 

Central went 8-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division to finish first ahead of Pickerington North (7-2) and Gahanna (5-1). 

“We’re really pleased with the season and how it turned out,” said Ebright, who was named league Coach of the Year. “Our goal last year was to start to turn the program around and the girls did that. Their goal this year was – like their slogan is – leave it better than you found it for the seniors and they did that also. You can’t complain when you make improvements each year.” 

The Warhawks lost 25-22, 12-25, 25-22, 25-23 to North on Sept. 10 but avenged that setback with a 25-22, 25-14, 25-17 win on Oct. 1. 

Central beat Gahanna 20-25, 22-25, 25-22, 27-25, 15-8 on Sept. 17, with the teams’ second meeting canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus. 

Libero Ava Hampton, who was one of three seniors, was named Player of the Year in the league and first-team all-district. She led the team in digs (357). 

“I wasn't expecting it at all, but I couldn’t have done it without my coaches or my teammates,” Hampton said of her postseason awards. “It was a really big surprise. I was shocked when I found out.” 

Senior outside hitter Riley Kindall, who led the team in aces (41) and was second in kills (229), was first-team all-league and second-team all-district. 

Sophomore outside hitter Tatum Hubble led the team in kills (231) and was second-team all-league. 

Senior right-side hitter Josie Curran was special mention all-league, and junior setter Mia Saunders was honorable mention all-league. Saunders led the team in assists (826). 

Other players eligible to return are juniors Shannon Clarke (defensive specialist), Mia Cline (defensive specialist) and Melody Kwarteng (middle hitter/right-side hitter), sophomores Olivia Childress (right-side hitter/middle hitter) and Brianna Wade (setter) and freshmen Casey Ingram (outside hitter), Abby Lane (middle hitter/right-side hitter) and Lauren Sackett (libero/defensive specialist). 

Despite losing three key players to graduation, Ebright believes her team can remain one of the area’s top programs. 

“We’re hoping next year we just continue to move forward,” Ebright said. “We’ll take these next few months off and we’ll be back at it again in April.” 

Hampton credited Ebright for the recent success. 

“I wish I would’ve had her as coach when I was a freshman,” Hampton said. “She turned our program around so quickly within the two years that she was here.” 

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekFrank

•Record: 19-3 overall 

•OCC-Ohio standings: Westerville Central (8-1), Pickerington North (7-2), Gahanna (5-1), Grove City (4-5), New Albany (2-7), Westland (0-10) 

•Seniors lost: Josie Curran, Ava Hampton and Riley Kindall 

•Key returnees: Tatum Hubble, Melody Kwarteng and Mia Saunders 

•Postseason: Defeated Mount Vernon 25-15, 25-16, 25-19; def. Lancaster 25-6, 25-14, 25-11; lost to Olentangy Orange 25-16, 25-9, 25-13 in Division I district final.