For the first time since 2009, the Bexley High School boys soccer team advanced to the Division II state tournament.
The Lions defeated Dover 1-0 in a regional final Nov. 3 at Zanesville to reach a state semifinal Nov. 7 at Hilliard Bradley against powerhouse Dayton Carroll.
Senior Jacob Cini scored the winner against Dover with 8 minutes, 4 seconds to go in the first 15-minute overtime.
"As you go into overtime you tell your team to make sure you get numbers behind the ball and that you're clean in your defensive third. Early on, we struggled in the overtime period," coach Greg Kullman said. "They put us under pressure and had a corner kick. With a sudden victory format, you get quite nervous. We found our legs and were able to get into the attacking third."
Adam Hirsch crossed the ball to Cini to set up the goal.
"I felt confident that if Hirsch could get a ball across -- he'd been beating (Dover players) down the field the whole time -- we'd be able to finish," Cini said. "I just followed along with him as he was running. He beats his guy, comes across, beats another guy and I'm like, 'This is the one, I've got to get it in.'
"This was our time."
Bexley improved to 14-3-4 entering its matchup with Carroll. The winner plays Cuyahoga Falls Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy or Bay Village Bay for the state title at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at Crew Stadium.
Carroll improved to 17-0-4 by defeating Cincinnati Indian Hill 2-0 in a regional final Nov. 3. The Patriots entered the state tournament seeking their third consecutive championship and fourth in five years.
Carroll also entered its matchup against Bexley having played in a state-record 58 consecutive games without a loss, according to OHSAA records.
"They get good players and they have a good coach who has been there a number of years," Kullman said. "They have a tradition of winning and they're strong year in and year out."
In 2009, the Lions dropped a state semifinal 1-0 in a shootout to DeSales, the eventual state champion. In the previous round, Bexley beat Carroll 1-0 in a shootout to win a regional title.
Bexley showed the ability to stop a potent offense in its win over Dover, as it shut down Charlie Deeds, who entered the game with a team-leading 22 goals.
The Lions defeated Vincent Warren 3-0 in a regional semifinal Oct. 31 at Logan behind goals by Hirsch, Jacob Hodge and Will Gingery.
Field hockey team rebuilds quickly
After losing eight seniors from her 2011 team, field hockey coach Kara Hardesty wasn't sure how the Lions would fare this season, particularly on defense, where four starters graduated.
"While it was a bit of a question mark at the beginning of the year as to who would play where, it worked out really nicely," Hardesty said. "We'll just have to see going forward if that's what's best for everyone."
Bexley loses four seniors, all of whom started this fall in Talia Goldach, Sarah Jones, Alexis Levy and Ellie Williams.
The Lions expect to return eight starters in sophomore Abby Barno, freshman Ashley Barno, junior Kayley Barno, junior Megan Elisar, sophomore Kara Friedman, junior Marissa Kelly, junior Courtney Peterson and sophomore Grace Rosenthal.
Sophomore Julia Applefeld, sophomore Andrea Dressel and junior Emily Gatterdam also are expected to return.
Williams was first-team all-league, while Kayley Barno, Friedman and Peterson were on the second team. Abby Barno, Jones and Kelly were honorable mention.
Kayley Barno led the team in goals with 11 and Williams led in assists with 10.
Abby Barno played in goal for the first time and stopped 81 shots for a 79 percent average.
Bexley finished 9-5-4 overall and 7-3-1 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League, fifth behind Columbus Academy (10-0-1), Watterson (10-1), Olentangy Liberty (8-3) and Thomas Worthington (7-2-2).
Hardesty was named the state's Coach of the Year.
"We had more ties this year than we usually have," she said. "We tied (Cincinnati) Ursuline (at 0) and they played (in the state tournament). They were 17-0-1 and we were the one. ...
"Watterson played for a state title and we only lost to them 1-0. Even though it's a loss, we played them really tough. We tied Thomas Worthington (in the regular season) and they won state last year. You'd prefer to get the win, but we'd play those teams tough and got into overtime, even coming up with ties against some of the tougher teams in the state. It really benefited us going into the tournament."
In the district tournament, the fifth-seeded Lions defeated 11th-seeded Olentangy 6-0 in the first round Oct. 17 at home before falling at third-seeded Thomas 3-0 on Oct. 24.
Girls volleyball team ends on upswing
The season provided a chance for first-year girls volleyball coach Edward Cruz to get his system in place and set a foundation for the future.
The fact the Lions defeated Beechcroft 25-5, 25-9, 25-10 in the first round of the Division II district tournament Oct. 16 and went 5-2 in their last seven contests added to Cruz's belief they were a much better team late in the season.
"I told the girls that if we took our team near the end of the season and played the team from the beginning of the season, we'd beat it quite handily," Cruz said. "The second time through the conference we were beating teams we'd lost to the first time."
Bexley lost at defending state champion Hartley 25-6, 25-11, 25-8 in the second round Oct. 18 to end its season.
The Lions lose seniors Catherine Cronk, Kate Morgan and Camille Pipino, while junior Kayleigh Dietz, freshman Tyler Mansfield, sophomore Mary Massarelli, junior Sarah Podlasiak, sophomore Olivia Riley and junior Taylor Simmons are expected to return.
Morgan was named first-team all-league and Cronk was honorable mention all-league.
Cruz said he was especially impressed that different players led Bexley in the stat categories he charts: Morgan in kills (235), Massarelli in assists (433), Pipino in aces (40), Dietz in save percentage (95.4), Cronk in digs (235), Riley in free-ball passing (2.81) and Simmons in blocks (35).
The Lions finished 10-14 overall and 4-10 in the MSL-Ohio Division, sixth behind Newark Catholic (13-1), Licking Valley (11-3), Lakewood (10-4), Heath (9-5) and Granville (6-8) and ahead of Whitehall (3-11) and Columbus Academy (0-14).