OCC Challenge gives boys volleyball teams postseason tune-up; all-league honors revealed

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Thomas Worthington's Joe Kolwicz was named Player of the Year in the OCC-Cardinal.
Thomas Worthington's Joe Kolwicz was named Player of the Year in the OCC-Cardinal.

Watching the first OCC Challenge since 2019, Thomas Worthington senior setter Joe Kolwicz noticed something significant while sitting in the stands May 16 at Hilliard Darby.

The boys volleyball competition in central Ohio has gotten stronger the past few years.

“We got here plenty early enough to watch everybody play,” Kolwicz said. “You get a good feel for the competition. I was here for the OCC Challenge my freshman year and I can tell you from there to now, there’s a world’s difference in the competition.”

The event, which wasn’t held the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, matches up teams based on the final league standings in three waves of best-of-three matches.

“It’s fun to play teams out-of-conference,” Darby coach Evan Bell said. “You saw really good OCC teams like New Albany go down to (Dublin) Jerome in two (sets) and Pickerington Central go down to us in three. So, it’s really cool to get (those) matchups and see who really has the best league.”

Kolwicz and Thomas fell to Olentangy Liberty 21-25, 25-20, 24-22 in the battle of the OCC’s top two teams. The marathon final set, which was win-by-two to 15, capped the night.

The Patriots also beat the Cardinals 25-19, 25-12, 25-20 on May 4 at home.

“(The OCC Challenge match) proves we’re just as good of a team as them,” Kolwicz said. “If anything, that’s a loss I can live with because it shows we’ve gotten better and we can hang with some of the best players in the state.”

All-league teams were announced in a ceremony in the main gym between the second and third waves. Kolwicz was named Player of the Year and Thomas coach Brian Lawless was named Coach of the Year in the OCC-Cardinal Division.

In the OCC-Central, Liberty’s Noah Koknat was named Player of the Year and the Patriots’ David Hale was Coach of the Year.

“I love this event,” Hale said. “I coached basketball for a long time and you vote for all-league awards and it’s a certificate or maybe a plaque for first team that you give kids at the banquet, whereas here they actually get recognized in front of their peers and in front of their parents. I think it’s a special event and I’m really glad volleyball does it.”

Pickerington Central’s Landon Tackett was named Player of the Year in the OCC-Ohio.
Pickerington Central’s Landon Tackett was named Player of the Year in the OCC-Ohio.

Pickerington Central’s Landon Tackett was Player of the Year and the Tigers’ Luke Rininger was Coach of the Year in the OCC-Ohio.

“The (second wave) was packed because everybody was starting to funnel in the (main) gym (for the ceremony),” Bell said. “It’s special for the league and special for the sport (to have it back). Not only the competitive piece, but also celebrating and acknowledging the players that earn awards. There’s a lot of kids and a lot of coaches that don’t know who’s dominating other leagues. It’s cool to finally put name to face and recognizing.”

The event also gives teams a chance to do a little scouting for the regional tournament, which begins May 20.

Liberty, Thomas, Mount Vernon and Pickerington Central are the top four seeds in the East Region in Division I and DeSales, St. Charles, Worthington Kilbourne and Olentangy Berlin are the top four in Division II. The draw was May 15.

“I think the good part about it (was) we got to see some of our weaknesses,” Rininger said. “Unfortunately, so did everybody else. That’s something we can focus on this week before (the postseason).”



All-OCC teams


First Team

Joe Kolwicz, Thomas Worthington (Player of the Year)

Gavin Grover, Olentangy

Will Haslett, Worthington Kilbourne

Bo O’Leary, Thomas Worthington

Chase Ellis, Hilliard Darby

Hayden Van Horne, Olentangy Berlin

Kai Van Bourgondien, Dublin Jerome

Coach of the Year: Brian Lawless, Thomas Worthington

Second Team

Josh Hutchinson, Hilliard Darby

Parker Van Horne, Olentangy Berlin

Aidan Kolb, Hilliard Darby

Henry Guerrera, Dublin Jerome

Cord Podolan, Worthington Kilbourne

Carter Schomok, Olentangy

Sam Trushel, Dublin Scioto

Special Mention

Miles Howland, Thomas Worthington

Mason Heit, Hilliard Darby

Alex Loeffler, Dublin Jerome

Mark Rice, Worthington Kilbourne

Honorable Mention

Mateo Zevallos, Thomas Worthington

Devin Neville, Hilliard Darby

Cam Eckelberry, Dublin Jerome

Michael Vargo, Worthington Kilbourne

Mitch Zahner, Olentangy Berlin

Jack Barga, Olentangy

Henry Hamilton, Dublin Scioto


First Team

Noah Koknat, Olentangy Liberty (Player of the Year)

Ashton Christensen, Dublin Coffman

David Jenkins, Olentangy Liberty

Greg Efaw, Hilliard Davidson

Ian Ford, Westerville North

Evan Schultz, Olentangy Orange

Rory Brennan, Upper Arlington

Coach of the Year: David Hale, Olentangy Liberty

Second Team

J.J. Moine, Hilliard Bradley

Freddie Grieble, Hilliard Davidson

Samuel Kim, Dublin Coffman

Jack Sullenberger, Olentangy Liberty

Colby Whiteside, Olentangy Liberty

Jaedyn Harris, Westerville North

Cameron Rau, Upper Arlington

Special Mention

Connor Severson, Olentangy Liberty

Aiden Rowe, Dublin Coffman

Honorable Mention

Colin Brooks, Olentangy Liberty

Jonathan Loynes, Dublin Coffman

Hayden Johnson, Hilliard Davidson

Beynah Barre, Westerville North

Levi Adkins, Olentangy Orange

William Poth, Upper Arlington

Will Swary, Hilliard Bradley


First Team

Landon Tackett, Pickerington Central (Player of the Year)

Andrew Dhume, Pickerington Central

Gabe Lowden, New Albany

A’me Baccus, Gahanna Lincoln

Daniel Latham, Westerville Central

Andrew Rakocy, New Albany

Shane Wilson Pickerington North

Coach of the Year: Luke Rininger

Second Team

J.J. Vandemark, Gahanna Lincoln

Quentin Sheets, Westerville South

Gavin Billingsley, Pickerington Central

David Cauley, Delaware Hayes

Desmond Barber, Reynoldsburg

Kyle Buchwalter, Pickerington North

Adam Borer-Sutton, New Albany

Special Mention

Nathan Hungerman, Pickerington Central

Om Patel, New Albany

Honorable Mention

Jacob Rybka, Pickerington Central

Alex Noreikis, New Albany

Jordan Mason, Gahanna Lincoln

Tyler Irby, Pickerington North

Isaac Robinson, Delaware Hayes

Nicholas Pieroni, Westerville Central

Firaole Kebede, Reynoldsburg

Nathan Bielby, Westerville South

This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Columbus-area boys volleyball teams compete in OCC Challenge