The Columbus School for Girls soccer team was forced to spend time working to improve its defense after injuries decimated its starting defensive lineup.
Although sweeper Kameron Millner (torn anterior cruciate ligament), fullback Mo Ruff (stress fracture in shin) and fullback Kellie Carlson (concussion) each missed multiple games during the early part of the season, the Unicorns gradually learned to play better team defense in their absence.
And once those three players returned, they combined with defenders Leah Glimcher and Maria Presper and goalkeepers Olivia Feldman and Caroline Pompili to help transform what once was CSG's biggest weakness into one of its strengths.
"We've really been harping about how we need to improve our defense the past month and a half because of the injuries we had and the schedule we play, and we've gotten a lot better," coach Mindy Hammond said. "Getting Mo, Kameron and Kellie back on the field has helped our defense tremendously and we're doing well on defense now. Olivia and Caroline are first-year goalies, but they have done a good job, and we feel confident with either one of them in goal."
With her team's defense strengthened, Hammond has turned her attention toward improving the Unicorns' offensive production.
CSG scored only three goals while going 0-6-1 during a recent stretch, beginning with an 11-0 loss to Watterson in a CCL game Sept. 8 and ending with a 5-1 loss to Worthington Christian on Oct. 2.
The Unicorns scored 13 goals in their first 13 games, as center midfielder Olivia Beeson had a team-high five, forward Quinn Walters had four and outside midfielder Eleanor Smith had three.
During the seven-game winless streak, CSG was competitive against Ready (2-1 loss Sept. 18), Wellington (scoreless tie Sept. 21) and Columbus Academy (2-0 loss Sept. 24).
"Now that our defense is playing well, we're working on improving our offense," Hammond said. "When we string two or three passes together, we're getting behind defenses and getting scoring opportunities, but we've had trouble finishing.
"We played our best game of the season against Wellington and we definitely had the better of the play, but we couldn't finish any of our chances. Ready's one of the top two Division III teams in central Ohio and we were real competitive against them. And we scored a goal against DeSales (4-1 loss Sept. 11) for the first time in the six years I've coached (here), so I know we have the potential to score more than we've been scoring."
The Unicorns wrap up the regular season by playing host Thursday, Oct. 11, to Chillicothe Zane Trace and playing Saturday, Oct. 13, at Fairbanks.
"Fairbanks is another Division III team in our district, so we want to win that game to get some confidence and momentum before playing in the tournament," Hammond said. "We've played a lot of Division I and II teams, so we should be well prepared for the Division III tournament. I'm happy with the way we've improved and how we've been playing lately, and I think we deserve to win some games."
Volleyball squad snaps losing skid
The volleyball team beat Patriot Prep 25-8, 25-12, 25-19 on Oct. 1 to snap an eight-match losing streak before losing its next three matches.
The Unicorns were 2-18 overall and 0-6 in the CCL before playing league matches Oct. 9 against DeSales and Oct. 10 against Hartley.
"I figured we'd have somewhere close to a .500 record at this point, but we're having trouble executing and we've lost a lot of matches that could have gone our way," coach Dave Mitchell said. "We're a small school and we don't have the horsepower or athleticism that a lot of other teams have.
"Our kids aren't having a lot of successes this season, but you never see them give up."
Mitchell said senior middle hitter Ellie Thompson, senior outside hitter Carly Green, senior setter Maddie McGregor and freshman outside hitter Erin McGuire have developed into team leaders.
"Ellie has worked on swinging faster and improving her blocking, and she's become a good anchor of our team," Mitchell said. "Maddie's doing well with her setting and she has good defensive skills. Carly's hustling well, and Erin's doing a real good job of hitting as a freshman."