The Groveport Madison High School boys soccer team entered the postseason on a roll.
The Cruisers were 2-5-1 midway through the regular season but won their final four regular-season games and were 8-7-1 before playing Teays Valley in the first round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 17.
"We've saved the best for the end, that's for sure," coach Deke Scott said. "To be honest, we've been preaching 'team first' the last couple of weeks and the guys have bought into it. We've actually played like 11 guys on the field instead of a bunch of individuals."
The Groveport-Teays Valley winner plays at Lancaster in the second round Saturday, Oct. 20, and the second-round winner will play at top-seeded Olentangy Liberty or at home against Logan or Whetstone in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 24.
Groveport defeated Teays Valley 1-0 on Sept. 29 and beat Whetstone 2-1 on Aug. 23 but lost to Lancaster 2-1 in an OCC-Ohio Division contest Sept. 11. The Cruisers have not played Liberty or Logan this season.
Liberty was first in the state poll last week and went 15-1 in the regular season.
"We had a really nice draw," Scott said. "We got lucky as far as the tournament goes, and we feel good about it because we have a chance. We're not going up against one of the top teams in the district the first couple of rounds. Just having a chance really has been positive for the guys.
"It's a huge benefit for our guys, especially having played (Teays Valley, Whetstone and Lancaster) before. They know going into the game that, if they play well, they have a chance (to win)."
Scott said his team's defensive corps has been the key to its success. Among the defenders are Matt Ater, Evan Mehl, Tyler Mehl and Limamu Mohammed. Javier Meneses has been a standout on offense, according to Scott.
Football team prepares to face host Central
The football team hopes to end a five-game losing streak when it travels to Pickerington Central on Friday, Oct. 19, for an OCC-Ohio contest.
Groveport lost to undefeated Pickerington North 35-7 on Oct. 12 at home to fall to 1-7 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Ohio. That same night, Central improved to 5-2 and 4-1 with a 35-6 road win over Newark.
The Cruisers were outgained 315-250 in total yards against North, which is 8-0 and 5-0.
Running back Jordan Garrettson scored Groveport's touchdown on a 2-yard run in the fourth quarter with the Cruisers trailing 35-0. He finished with 103 yards rushing on 23 carries and quarterback Mecca Swain had 101 yards rushing on eight carries.
Leading the way for Central against Newark were running back Brent Walton, who rushed for three touchdowns and 203 yards on 15 carries, and running back Tawuain Gordon, who rushed for two scores and 226 yards on 13 carries.
Central had 527 total yards on offense while limiting Newark to 22 total yards.
Girls tennis team shows improvement
Girls tennis coach Doug Ewart believes his team made strides this season despite finishing 1-12 overall and 0-7 in the OCC-Ohio.
"Obviously, when you start with a group of young and inexperienced players, you know it's going to be a rebuilding team," said Ewart, whose team defeated Canal Winchester 3-2 on Sept. 24. "We started Aug. 8 with a very raw team, but I will tell you, these girls worked hard. They bonded and they enjoyed themselves and each other. It was actually one of the most fun seasons I've coached."
According to Ewart, some of his players didn't even own a racket until the start of preseason practice.
"These kids never gave up," he said. "They had a good perspective of where they started. It was satisfying to watch the girls get better. We started winning courts and the highlight was seeing (junior) Hannah Roach win a match at the (Division I) sectional tournament.
"Sophomores Jordan Gilmore and Cheyanne Morris also won a match. They had beaten Reynoldsburg's second doubles team previously and that was a significant statement. Then they won a match in the sectional and I thought that was a good sectional. It proved that hard work pays off."
Groveport competed in the sectional Oct. 4 and 6 at Hilliard Davidson. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district, which was held Oct. 12 and 13 at Davidson. The Cruisers did not have any district qualifiers.
Groveport scored one point in the OCC-Ohio league tournament Sept. 29 at Reynoldsburg to tie Newark for seventh, behind Pickerington Central (35), Reynoldsburg (16), Gahanna (15), Pickerington North (14), Lancaster (10) and Grove City (5).
The Cruisers finished eighth in the final league standings with four points, behind Central (77, 7-0), Gahanna (45, 5-2), North (42, 5-2), Reynoldsburg (41, 4-3), Lancaster (34, 4-3), Grove City (17, 2-5) and Newark (5, 1-6).
Groveport had only one senior in Shirley Tang, who was new to the sport.
"She set the tone of work ethic (for the team)," Ewart said. "She saw the other girls and how they were playing and I think Shirley caught on really quickly. She knew if she was going to catch up to them she had to make up two or three years of experience in a short amount of time."
Expected to return are Roach, Gilmore, Morris, juniors Alex Goodwin and Kaysea Smith, sophomores Elise Goodwin and Raquel Hawkins and freshmen Montana Hill, Amber Nunez and Jordan Walton.
"We have a group of girls who really get the concept of there being no short cuts in anything," Ewart said. "It's not just about being a good tennis player or a good athlete, but it's about what it takes to be successful in life."