The Canal Winchester High School girls volleyball team won its first two matches in the Division I district tournament despite missing two key players from its lineup.
Outside hitters Taylor Griffin (foot) and Raven Hamilton (knee) were lost to season-ending injuries during the final week of the regular season, but the 21st-seeded Indians beat 23rd-seeded Mount Vernon 25-14, 25-22, 17-25, 25-22 in their postseason opener Oct. 14 and defeated 37th-seeded Zanesville 27-25, 25-9, 25-18 in the second round Oct. 16 to improve to 12-13.
The Indians played second-seeded Dublin Coffman in a district semifinal Oct. 23 at Bloom-Carroll. The winner faces eighth-seeded Olentangy or 12th-seeded Dublin Scioto in a district final Saturday, Oct. 26, at Bloom-Carroll.
"When Raven and Taylor both went down the same week, a team that knew better might have folded," coach Kris Kern said. "But our young team is in unchartered waters and so we just kept playing hard through those injuries. At one point in the tournament, we had two freshmen, two sophomores, one junior and one senior on the floor at the same time, and we were winning the match. We're definitely playing at a level that I didn't think we'd be able to play at this season."
Kern said liberos Maddie Porter and Haley Webster and setter Kacey Bingmer led the Indians to their first two tournament victories. Two outside hitters who played junior varsity this season, sophomore Noelle Saeger and freshman Mackenzie Hamilton, have helped fill the void created by the injuries.
"Mackenzie has developed into one of our better hitters, and Noelle is doing a good job of hitting, too," Kern said. "Hitters usually get all of the credit, but it really comes down to setting and defense. (Bingmer) is our only setter and she's doing a remarkable job. Haley has switched to libero this year and played the best matches of her life in the tournament. And Maddie's doing a great job passing, too."
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 30, at Hilliard Davidson, where it will face Davidson, Gahanna, Hilliard Bradley or Lancaster.
"We've already made it further than most people expected us to, so we don't have anything to lose from this point on," Kern said. "We're definitely peaking at the right time, so I just want to see us continue to play well."
Football team set to face Warriors
The football team plays host to Westerville North on Friday, Oct. 25, in its final home game of the season.
Canal Winchester dropped to 0-8 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Cardinal Division with a 30-13 loss to host Dublin Jerome on Oct. 18. That same night, North lost to Hilliard Bradley 21-20 to fall to 2-6 and 0-5.
The Warriors have lost six consecutive games after winning their first two. Their 48-21 win over Franklin Heights in their season opener Aug. 30 ended a 45-game losing streak that began in the 2008 season.
Against Bradley, North running backs Andy Struttman and Jonathan Taylor both scored on a 1-yard run and defensive lineman Antonio Shelton returned a fumble 48 yards for a touchdown.
Canal Winchester allowed 369 total yards, including 264 rushing, against Jerome, which improved to 4-4 and 2-3. The Indians managed only 134 total yards, including just 28 rushing on 23 carries, against the Celtics.
Running back and defensive back Khari Golden scored both touchdowns against Jerome, recovering a blocked punt in the end zone in the third quarter and catching a 15-yard pass from quarterback Nick Hammond in the fourth quarter.
Girls runners move on to regional meet
The girls cross country team advanced to the Division I regional meet Saturday, Oct. 26, at Pickerington North.
The Indians scored 164 points to secure the fifth and final qualifying spot in the 14-team district 2 meet Oct. 19 at Watkins Memorial behind Gahanna (39), Scioto (78), Olentangy Liberty (84) and Westerville Central (100).
Megan Tamasovich finished 12th in 20 minutes, 3.76 seconds to pace the Indians. Also scoring were Cassidy Long (19th, 20:14.85), Julia Cook (43rd, 21:12.74), Natalie Tennison (45th, 21:17.7) and Nicole Tennison (48th, 21:31.86).
At regional, the top four teams and top 16 individuals advance to the state meet Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway.
The boys team finished eighth (257) in the 14-team district 2 meet behind champion Jerome (23), as Westerville South (129) secured the fifth and final regional-qualifying berth.
Jason Appel led the Indians, finishing 33rd (17:28.1). Also scoring were Luke Schirr (45th, 17:50.27), Ethan Fusek (48th, 17:54.5), Bryce Carroll (63rd, 18:43.72) and Nick Sweeney (68th, 18:55.64).
The top 20 individuals advanced to regional.
Boys soccer team wins tourney opener
The boys soccer team opened the Division I district tournament with a 3-1 win over 24th-seeded Hilliard Darby in the second round Oct. 19 at home.
Midfielders Zach Barwick, Bailey Butler and Phillip Kelley each scored and goalkeeper Aaron Graber had eight saves for the seventh-seeded Indians, who had a first-round bye and were 13-1-3 before playing 21st-seeded Olentangy in a district semifinal Oct. 23 at home.
The semifinal winner faces third-seeded Gahanna or 14th-seeded Westerville South in a district final Saturday, Oct. 26, at Canal Winchester.
The district champion will advance to a regional semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 30, at Westerville North, where it will play Coffman, Lancaster, Pickerington Central, Thomas Worthington or Westerville Central.
Girls soccer team ousted from tourney
The girls soccer team saw its season come to an end with a 1-0 loss to 21st-seeded Scioto in the first round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 15.
Seeded 26th, Canal Winchester had beaten Scioto 4-1 in its OCC-Cardinal finale on Oct. 8, but couldn't duplicate that result. The Indians, who had five shots on goal compared to three by the Irish, finished 6-7-4 overall.
"We beat Dublin Scioto a week ago and it's always tough to beat a team twice in one season, much less twice in a week," coach Emily Buccilla said. "We sat back on our heels instead of going at them in the first half and they scored on their only good opportunity of the game.
"We put an extra forward in to create more opportunities and we had 10 good scoring chances, but we failed to capitalize on any of them. We hit the crossbar twice and we missed several wide-open shots in front of the goal."
The Indians went 3-3-1 in the OCC-Cardinal to place fifth, behind Jerome (5-1-1), Bradley (5-2), Westerville South (4-2-1) and Westerville Central (3-1-3) and ahead of Westerville North (2-3-2), Darby (1-5-1) and Scioto (0-6-1).
"We didn't understand the intensity of competing in a higher-level league like the OCC until the end of the season, but we played well and surprised a couple of teams in our new conference," Buccilla said.
The Indians expect to return all of their starters in juniors Makala Blankenship (midfielder), Emmi Coonfare (goalie), Kylie Harper (midfielder), Katie Kissner (midfielder), Kristin Riggs (midfielder) and Taylor Thompson (defender), sophomores Julia Blum (defender), Betsy Cadwallader (forward), Destiny Chester (forward), Kaylee Guiler (midfielder) and Maddie McCoy (defender) and freshmen Francy Booher (defender), Kiana Brooks (defender) and Alyssa Edwards (midfielder).
Cadwallader had a team-best 10 goals.
Booher and Brooks split starts on defense. Harper replaced Guiler as a starter in the midfield midway through the season when Guiler suffered a knee injury, and Kissner replaced Harper as a starter after Harper was injured.
"We return every single player, and that's an advantage we'll have over most teams next year," Buccilla said. "I'm super excited about the future of our program because there's nowhere to go but up."