Boys Volleyball: Olentangy falls in state final; Hilliard Bradley loses in semifinal

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Olentangy's Sam Irwin (3) tries to console teammate Jacob Nussdorfer (15) as they watch the Division II state championship trophy being presented to Middletown Fenwick on June 6 at Pickerington Central. The Braves lost 25-22, 25-18, 25-16.

Outside of two lengthy runs, the Olentangy boys volleyball team largely hung with Middletown Fenwick in the Division II state final June 6.

But it was those two spurts for the Falcons, 7-0 late in the second game and 8-0 early in the third, that proved to be the difference in a 25-22, 25-18, 25-16 win at Pickerington Central that denied the Braves their first state title.

Sam Kaylor had a team-high 12 kills as well as eight digs and three blocks and Gavin Grover added eight kills, eight digs and two blocks for Olentangy, which was appearing in its second state tournament. The Braves lost in a semifinal in 2018.

“We didn’t play our best volleyball consistently,” Olentangy coach Emi Holsclaw said. “We made some errors when we shouldn’t have. We saw moments where we did what we could do, but Fenwick is phenomenal. They’re about the fastest team we’ve seen all year. It was a good matchup for us, but we made some errors when we shouldn’t have. If the first set had gone our way, maybe it would have been a different story.”

Olentangy came into the championship match off a 25-13, 25-18, 25-19 sweep of defending champion Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit in a semifinal June 5.

Fenwick improved to 2-0 in state finals, having also won the title in 2013, and finished the season on a 22-match winning streak after a 3-3 start.

Olentangy was within 22-20 in the first game before Fenwick pulled away.

The Braves led 12-11 in the second game before the Falcons scored seven unanswered points, and Fenwick scored eight in a row after trailing the third game 2-0.

Will Richards had 14 kills, 11 digs and nine aces to lead the Falcons. Setter John Luers, the state Player of the Year, had six kills and 26 assists and Ben Luers had nine digs.

“Their runs took us out of our groove,” Kaylor said. “The pressure (and) the atmosphere was a lot to take in.”

—Dave Purpura

Hilliard Bradley's Jonah Gilbert (0), Jin Tam (10) and Tak Tam (4) leave the court following a 25-17, 23-25, 25-17, 25-20 loss to Cincinnati Moeller in a Division I state semifinal June 6 at Pickerington Central.

Cincinnati Moeller 3, Hilliard Bradley 1

Bradley fell short of reaching its first state final, losing to second-ranked Moeller 25-17, 23-25, 25-17, 25-20 in a Division I state semifinal June 6 at Pickerington Central.

The sixth-ranked Jaguars finished 19-4.

Moeller had a distinct size advantage over Bradley up front. The Jaguars had a pair of 5-foot-6 front-row players in brothers Tak Tam and Jin Tam going up against the Crusaders’ Will Patterson (6-9) and Matthew Reinhold (6-4). The pair combined for 40 kills in the match.

“Having players that are 5-6 is small by girls standards, but our guys played hard and their best,” Bradley coach Zach Franklin said. “It’s tough when you go up against (6-9) and (6-4).”

Moeller coach Lee Meyer said his team made the most of its size advantage.

“We recognized where we have advantages, and we have to take advantage of those,” he said. “They recognized that, and our setter, J.J. (Beckelhimer), put the ball where he had to in the front row.”

Bradley’s Jonah Gilbert had 42 kills, and Tak Tam had 53 assists.

“(The Crusaders) had a couple of runs at the end the first and third (games) that were back-breakers,” Franklin said. “You just can’t say enough about these kids.”

—Scott Hennen

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