With the majority of his team expected to return, Westerville South boys volleyball coach Chris Bielby hopes to use the remainder of the season as a confidence-builder for his players.
After going winless in the OCC-Ohio Division a year ago, South posted two victories to finish 2-12 in the league. The Wildcats beat Reynoldsburg 19-25, 25-21, 20-25, 25-13, 15-8 on April 4 and Pickerington North 16-25, 25-22, 25-19, 31-29 on April 5.
The Wildcats were 4-14 overall before playing Olentangy Berlin on May 12, and faced Olentangy Orange in the OCC Challenge on May 16 at Hilliard Darby.
“We’re doing fine,” Bielby said. “This is the best group of kids I’ve ever seen. They all come in to practice willing to learn, willing to try new things. We’re having fun. They all like each other, which is important. The future looks good. Next year should be really good.”
The Wildcats should return their nucleus next season, as defensive specialist Ellis Dzokoto is the only senior.
South has again featured junior Nathan Bielby, the coach’s son, who has played multiple positions.
“It hasn’t been a problem coaching my son,” coach Bielby said. “Our house is volleyball. He’ll want to talk about it (at home) more than I will.”
Through 17 matches, Bielby led the Wildcats in assists (148) and was second in kills (42).
“I like playing for my father,” he said. “We improved last season. We only have two returners this year. The fact that we have a j.v. team this season is crazy. We didn’t have one last year. It brings more awareness to the sport, and it gets more people involved.”
Another key contributor has been junior outside hitter Quentin Sheets, who led South in digs (146) and kills (144).
“Quentin might be the best player on the team,” coach Bielby said. “He’s very powerful. He’s a great passer. I’d like to see him try to be a setter and see how that works.”
The remaining players had limited experience entering the season, but have gained confidence, according to coach Bielby.
Sophomore Seth Peeler led in aces (23) and junior Maddox Miller led in blocks (28). Both are middle hitters.
Division I regional tournament play begins May 20. The draw was scheduled for May 15.
•North maintained a winning record despite a four-match losing streak in late April, which coincided with various illnesses running throughout the team and sidelining several players and the head coach.
The bright side for the Warriors was several players standing out in new roles, including juniors Max Cheeseway (middle hitter), Avi Nelson (middle hitter) and Kylan Smith (outside hitter/right-side hitter). All came up from the junior varsity in late April.
“They continue to learn from each other,” said assistant coach Pierce Monnin, who filled in for head coach Mark Posey during the first week of May. “To step into these roles as we’ve been missing so many people week by week, to come up to varsity and help us win and still compete ... when we’re missing three, four or five guys, it can be tough to compete from day to day. The older guys are helping them feel comfortable and work their way in.”
Monnin also noted the return of junior setter Jayden Henderson, who made his season debut during a 25-20, 25-20, 23-25, 26-24 win at Briggs on May 3, and strong play from senior Jaedyn Harris and junior Simon Falayi.
According to Monnin, Falayi and Harris both have a vertical reach of more than 11 feet.
North was 13-8 overall before playing Gahanna on May 11 and finished 6-6 in the OCC-Central.
•Despite its only regular-season losses entering May having come against another team ranked in the top five statewide, DeSales coach Andy Feltz thought his team needed more aggression on the court.
He hopes the Stallions have found that in the form of jump serving as the Division II East Region tournament approaches.
“Five of the six guys are jump serving now, which we weren’t doing before. I felt we had to put pressure on our opponents and the best way to do that was to serve hard,” Feltz said of a move he made after a 25-20, 25-18, 25-22 loss at St. Charles on April 21, a setback that gave the Cardinals a season sweep of the Stallions. “We’ll have some errors but we have to live with that. It’s paid off. We’ve had some great serving nights.
“Some of the guys were already doing it and the others had done it a little in the past. Not everybody has the same style. (Michael) Cavanaugh is a ‘toss it high’ guy. Cam White is a rhythm guy. We’re working with each individual kid to get the best version of their aggressive serve.”
DeSales was 16-4 overall before playing Mount Vernon on May 13. The Stallions were ranked second in the state poll of May 9 behind Hamilton Badin, one spot ahead of St. Charles.
This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Boys Volleyball: Coach sees bright future for Westerville South