Notebook: Worthington Kilbourne Wolves boys volleyball team working to gain ground

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group
Kilbourne boys volleyball coach Meladee Hopkins is leading an inexperienced roster this spring. The Wolves returned only two players with at least a full year of varsity experience.

Worthington Kilbourne boys volleyball coach Meladee Hopkins characterized her team as “pretty raw” to the varsity level entering the season. 

Because of last season being canceled, the Wolves returned only two players with at least a full year of varsity experience in seniors Aiden Novotny and Kieran Cummings. 

“We are definitely a little bit behind because of missing that year of playing and instruction and experience,” said Hopkins, who is in her fourth season. “I have a bunch of kids that are pretty raw to the varsity level. But the thing is, we’re young and inexperienced at the varsity level but I have 11 seniors in my program.” 

The Wolves will deploy a starting lineup consisting of seniors Will Hortz and Novotny as outside hitters, senior Luke Myers and junior Ben Fisher as middle hitters, Cummings and junior Cord Podolan as setters and right-side hitters and sophomore Will Haslett at libero. 

Senior defensive specialist Mark Towns, senior right-side hitter Evan Sugar and senior David Straveler – who plays several positions but is primarily a defensive specialist and outside hitter – will see time off the bench. 

Hopkins said her senior-heavy group has ambitions of holding its own in the OCC-Capital Division and attaining postseason success. The Wolves’ last postseason in 2019 culminated in a Division II regional semifinal loss to Watterson. 

Kilbourne opened April 3 with a 25-22, 25-20 win at Fairfield. 

“We want to compete,” Hopkins said. “The boys would love to make (a run in the) regional (tournament). That’s their goal, and they’d love to make it to the state tournament, but we have a long way to go before we reach that point. 

“But they want to be successful, and there’s certain teams they want to be victorious over. Our goal is just to be able to play a whole season ... have fun and win as many games as we can.”

INSIDE THE WOLVES 

•Coach: Meladee Hopkins, fourth season 

•Next match: April 15 at Dublin Scioto 

•Key athletes: Kieran Cummings, Will Hortz and Aiden Novotny

Cardinals volleyball

team out to fast start 

The Thomas boys volleyball team is one of the fortunate spring squads that doesn’t have to put the pieces back together after missing last season. 

The Cardinals lost only one 2020 senior and returned the rest of their roster this year. The result is a team that’s well-acclimated to varsity play and has delivered early success. 

“We were fortunate that we weren’t super impacted by (the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic),” third-year coach Brian Lawless said. “We feel good about the experience that we have. This is definitely my most experienced team that I’ve had in terms of just knowing the game of volleyball and playing a lot of volleyball.” 

The Cardinals’ experience and depth translated into a 4-0 start. Thomas was 5-2 before facing Loveland on April 10. 

“It’s been a great start to the season for us so far,” Lawless said. “I don’t know the last time Thomas Worthington volleyball started 4-0. It speaks to the work that our guys have been doing.”

The starting lineup features senior Ethan Archer at libero and junior Joe Kolwicz at setter. Juniors Trevor Thompson and Bo O’Leary are the middle blockers, and junior Miles Howland is at right-side hitter. 

Senior Nathan Molloy and sophomore Devin Shaner were the starting outside hitters through the first four matches, although Lawless said senior Ryley Briones is expected to start at outside hitter once he returns. 

Junior Mateo Zevallos, a libero and defensive specialist, is a key player off the bench. 

One of the keys to the Cardinals’ strong start has been their ability to close out sets. Lawless cited a season-opening 25-21, 27-25, 25-22 win March 26 against Hilliard Davidson. 

“These guys aren’t afraid to play big-time teams with big-time players,” Lawless said. “Just being able to close out sets and keep our composure, they’ve done a great job of closing out sets when it’s tight and making sure they’re being efficient.” 

INSIDE THE CARDINALS 

•Coach: Brian Lawless, third season

•Next match: April 15 at Dublin Jerome 

•Key athletes: Ethan Archer, Miles Howland, Joe Kolwicz, Bo O’Leary and Nathan Molloy 

Wolves tennis team

needs experience 

Now in his 21st season, Kilbourne boys tennis coach Steve Metzmaier said gaining experience is going to be a priority for the Wolves. 

Kilbourne returns only one letterwinner in junior Owen Alderman. Metzmaier said the rest of the roster is still learning and improving. 

“We just need a lot of experience from these guys,” he said. “They’re not used to sets and matches and this kind of stuff, but it’ll come around. 

“With as little experience as these guys have, we want to get them to (improve), get them to know what tennis is about a little bit more and just have fun.”

Metzmaier said last week that the Wolves didn’t have a finalized singles and doubles lineup other than Alderman at first singles. 

“He’s by far the best player on the team. He plays a lot of tennis, a lot of tournaments,” Metzmaier said. “I foresee him having a great season in the OCC.” 

Metzmaier said leading candidates for the other singles spots include senior Tanner Hauptman at second singles and sophomore Aja Sampath at third singles. 

Top doubles candidates include junior Ethan Emami and freshman Joey English at first doubles and juniors Nate Plant and Nivaas Kalyanam at second doubles. 

INSIDE THE WOLVES 

•Coach: Steve Metzmaier, 21st season 

•Next match: April 15 at Big Walnut 

•Key athletes: Owen Alderman, Tanner Hauptman and Aja Sampath

Cardinals tennis team

impresses new coach 

First-year Thomas boys tennis coach Lisa Miller wasn’t sure how prepared her roster would be, particularly after the Cardinals lost out on last season. 

She found out the players were already a step ahead. 

“They were surprisingly in shape and ready to go when I arrived,” Miller said. “I was impressed by the players. We encouraged them about a month early to get out there and get some play in and start getting in some conditioning, and they followed our recommendation. 

“But they’ve had huge growth from the time we started to now. ... They’re putting their whole heart into it and they’re committed.” 

Senior Will Newberry is playing first singles. 

“He is just an all-around excellent player with every stroke,” Miller said. “We are so happy to have him return in that position to lead us this year.”

Sophomore Sebastian Johnson is at second singles. 

“He is very strong in just the classic strokes of tennis,” Miller said. “He’s very enjoyable to watch.”

Third singles will be filled by junior Zack Yablok or sophomore Trent Milmeister, with the other playing doubles. 

Among the top players at doubles are junior Matt Hughes, who has missed time with injury, and sophomores Matt Riegert and Elijah Nisthauz.

INSIDE THE CARDINALS 

•Coach: Lisa Miller, first season 

•Next match: April 16 at Westerville Central 

•Key athletes: Matt Hughes, Sebastian Johnson, Trent Milmeister, Will Newberry, Elijah Nisthauz, Matt Riegert, Zack Yablok

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve