Boys Volleyball: Westerville South Wildcats hope to grow during return season
After reaching a Division I state quarterfinal in 2017, the Westerville South boys volleyball team finished 3-12 in 2018 and had to cancel its 2019 season because the Wildcats did not have a coach.
Now Chris Bielby, who led South for seven years before stepping down following the 2014 season, is attempting to get the program back on track.
Bielby helped start the New Albany boys program in 2018 and led the Eagles for two seasons before returning to South.
“I like what I see so far,” Bielby said. “I don’t have (players with) experience, but I have players who are athletes. They’re willing to learn. For most of them, it’s a new sport.”
The Wildcats, who opened with a 25-18, 26-24, 26-24 win over visiting Centennial on March 29, have just two players with significant experience.
One is sophomore setter Nathan Bielby, the coach’s son, who has competed at the club level. The other is sophomore outside hitter Michael Murray, who played in middle school.
The rest of the roster is made up of players who are new to the sport, including seniors Ian Chuah (middle blocker), Owen Curran (opposite hitter) and Charles Williams (outside hitter).
They are joined by junior Jaelen Powell (defensive specialist), sophomores Samuel Hulett (opposite hitter/outside hitter) and Quentin Sheets (middle blocker) and freshman Justin Anthony (opposite hitter/defensive specialist).
South’s OCC-Ohio Division opener against Reynoldsburg on March 30 was postponed because the Wildcats did not have enough players.
Other teams in the OCC-Ohio are Delaware, Gahanna, New Albany, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North and Westerville Central.
“I want them to have fun and learn a lot,” coach Bielby said. “We want to be competitive, we want to win some matches and have a blast doing it.”
INSIDE THE WILDCATS
•Coach: Chris Bielby, first season
•Next match: April 8 at Delaware
•Key athletes: Nathan Bielby and Michael Murray
Warriors still building
confidence on court
North continues to be a work in progress in its third season under coach Eva Optiz.
The Warriors dropped their first two matches, losing 25-13, 25-20, 22-25, 28-30, 16-14 to DeSales on March 29 and 25-19, 25-14, 25-22 to Hilliard Bradley on March 30 in OCC-Central action.
“We’re working on being confident in what we’re doing and all of the hard work we’ve put in,” Opitz said. “What we’ve been preaching since day one of practices and open gyms is being a better player for the person next to you. You have to be able to regulate yourself. We’re constantly talking to them about not making themselves a target and being the person to pick the team up.”
Seniors Collin Cook (middle hitter/outside hitter), Nathan Gillenwater (outside hitter/setter) and Nathan Sharpes (setter/defensive specialist) return from 2019, while classmates Logan Dowling (defensive specialist/outside hitter) and Zach Shields (outside hitter) are key contributors as well.
Sophomores Ian Ford (outside hitter), Jayden Henderson (outside hitter/setter) and Corey Howlett (outside hitter/setter) are playing their first varsity matches.
“One thing I’d say about this team is we have more options,” Optiz said. “We have depth and players who can play various positions, which is not something we had two years ago.
“Our anticipation and reading is something we need to work on. We need to be focused on the next thing. We get caught up in the task at hand instead of being able to react if things don’t go in the order of operations the way we expect. We have to be able to step in and do something else.”
INSIDE THE WARRIORS
•Coach: Eva Opitz, third season
•Next match: April 8 at Olentangy Orange
•Key athletes: Collin Cook, Ian Ford, Logan Dowling, Nathan Gillenwater and Jayden Henderson
Warhawks to focus
With just two players who had previously participated in the program, Central coach Jimi Yu hopes his team improves throughout the season.
Seniors Dylan Bertelsen (libero/outside hitter) and Brett Zepfel (setter) saw some time on varsity as sophomores when the Warhawks finished 7-12.
“The concern is we don’t have a lot of varsity experience,” said Yu, who is in his 12th season. “Another concern is I knew I had a good freshmen class last year and I didn’t get to work with any of them. They’re sophomores now and we have to go back and work on fundamentals. They’re learning those as varsity players.”
Junior Aiden Tamulonis is a middle hitter, while the sophomore class includes Paolo Funes (opposite hitter/outside hitter), Daniel Latham (outside hitter), Nicholas Pieroni (middle hitter) and Andrew Plas (setter).
Freshman John Marple (defensive specialist) also should contribute.
Central opened April 6 against Pickerington Central and visits Reynoldsburg on April 8 for an OCC-Ohio match.
“I want the guys to enjoy the season and stay safe,” Yu said. “I want to build our sophomore and freshman classes.”
Yu is being assisted by Vicki Phillips (Westerville South) and Josh Lee (Delaware), both of whom are former area coaches.
INSIDE THE WARHAWKS
•Coach: Jimi Yu, 12th season
•Next match: April 8 at Reynoldsburg
•Key athletes: Dylan Bertelsen and Brett Zepfel