Boys Volleyball: Olentangy Liberty, Hilliard Bradley, Olentangy win regional titles
Olentangy Liberty 3, Thomas Worthington 0
The top-seeded Liberty boys volleyball team won its first regional title, defeating sixth-seeded Thomas 25-20, 26-24, 25-18 in a Division I East Region final May 28 at Westerville Central.
“It was a great team effort, I thought,” said coach Dave Hale, whose team improved to 20-3. “That’s the thing to love about these guys, we’re not one dimensional. We have lots of guys who can attack it, and that’s what it took. It took a lot of good play.”
After winning the first set, the Patriots found themselves down 16-9 in the second set, but Hale said their ability to not buckle under pressure allowed them to battle back.
“We kept our cool a couple times, especially that second set when they had a huge lead on us,” he said. “But we just kept chipping away at it, not going into panic mode or anything like that. So that’s another thing I really like is we have a team that’s pretty even-keeled, which is good.”
Noah Koknat had 12 kills and eight digs for the Patriots. Connor Severson had 19 assists and two aces, Cole Young had six kills and six blocks, Nick Talbott had 15 assists and six kills and Jack Sullenberger had 12 digs.
Thomas coach Brian Lawless said while his team played hard, it had too many errors and missed opportunities. The Cardinals had 14 errors in the first set.
“We hurt ourselves,” he said. “Liberty is a great team. They were effective attacking. We had trouble getting (blocks up) and kind of bled some points in some crucial times in that second set — we had a really big lead to start off.
“I’m glad that our guys fought as hard as they did. As Thomas Worthington volleyball we’ve done that in every single match that we’ve played. We’re proud of what we did this season and wish it would have turned out better tonight, but I’m proud of how our guys played.”
Thomas finished 18-8.
Liberty will play Cleveland St. Ignatius or Lakewood St. Edward in a state quarterfinal June 5 at Pickerington Central.
Hilliard Bradley 3, Dublin Jerome 0
Senior outside hitter Jonah Gilbert dominated with 37 kills as second-seeded Bradley defeated seventh-seeded Jerome 25-23, 25-14, 25-17 in a Division I East Region final May 28 at Westerville Central.
The Jaguars improved to 18-3 and will play Jackson or Stow-Munroe Falls in a state quarterfinal June 5 at Pickerington Central. The last time the program reached state was in 2012.
“The kids kept to the game plan,” Bradley coach Zach Franklin said. “(The Celtics) were setting to the outside, and we did a good job of getting them out of system.”
Gilbert was all over the court for the Jaguars, making things difficult for the Celtics’ attempts to contain him.
“(Gilbert) is a special player,” said Jerome coach Phil Cagnoli, whose team finished 13-9. “We had some ideas and did some things to try to slow him down but a player of that caliber is hard to do that for. I’m not sure we could have done anything different.”
Gilbert was relieved to finally break through and get a chance to play at state.
“It has been a goal of mine since my freshman year because only one Bradley team has made it to state,” said Gilbert, the district Player of the Year and a Grand Canyon University signee. “It feels so good to reach that goal and see that hard work can pay off.”
Olentangy 3, St. Charles 1
Twelve kills, nine digs, five aces and two blocks from Sam Kaylor and 13 kills from Jacob Nussdorfer powered third-seeded Olentangy to a 25-23, 22-25, 25-23, 25-17 win over fourth-seeded St. Charles in the Division II East Region final.
The Braves, who improved to 15-8 and will play Brecksville-Broadview Heights or Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit in a state semifinal June 5 at Pickerington Central, are making their second state tournament appearance in three seasons.
In an often back-and-forth and sometimes frenetic match, Olentangy scored the final three points of the third game after trailing 23-22 and led throughout the fourth.
“Volleyball, at least for me, is always a game of momentum and it can swing either way. I kept telling the guys that even when it felt like (momentum) was on our side, we had to respect them,” Braves coach Emi Holsclaw said. “We focused on keeping the energy and focus on our side as much as we could and be patient, regardless of the score … and see if we could execute the plan.”
Gavin Grover added eight kills and 10 digs for Olentangy.
Nick Bennison had 15 kills and Miller Kuntz had 42 assists for St. Charles, which finished 18-9 and was seeking its second regional title in three seasons.
“It was a great game. I think all of the top four teams in the region had a chance to win it, and Olentangy played a great match,” Cardinals coach Ned Gruber said. “Sam Kaylor came on strong. He played well against DeSales (in a regional semifinal May 25) and had a great match against us.”