Canal Winchester High School boys soccer coach Erik Feinstein believes that his team missed an opportunity to beat Dublin Coffman in a Division I regional semifinal and move on to the next round.
Unable to convert any of their scoring chances, the Indians lost to the Shamrocks 1-0 in a regional semifinal Oct. 30 at Westerville Central to finish 15-2-3 overall.
"This was a very even game that could have went either way," Feinstein said. "We had some quality chances to score in the first half, but (junior midfielder) Jamie Robson had a goal taken off the board on a very close offsides call, and Coffman's goalie made a diving save on a shot by (junior forward) Sebastien Duque.
"Coffman had a couple of good chances in the second half and they scored. That's just the game of soccer."
After a scoreless first half, defender Pete Malloy scored off of a corner kick with 34 minutes, 55 seconds remaining to put Coffman ahead and Shamrocks goalkeeper Joe Zaborski made the lead stand, finishing with six saves.
Senior goalie Brandon Pfeiffer had eight saves for Canal Winchester.
"We had the better chances in the first half, but we didn't put one in," Feinstein said. "Coffman was able to score off a corner kick after the ball got battered around in the box, and that was the only goal they needed."
Despite the loss to Coffman, the Indians produced one of their best seasons in program history. They won their first district championship and tied the program record for wins, which was set in 1999.
Competing in the OCC-Cardinal Division for the first time, Canal Winchester went 5-1-1 to finish second, behind Hilliard Bradley (5-0-2) and ahead of Westerville South (3-0-4), Westerville Central (3-1-3), Dublin Scioto (2-4-1), Dublin Jerome (1-3-3), Hilliard Darby (1-6) and Westerville North (1-6).
"Our first league win against Westerville Central (2-1 on Sept. 3) was a highlight because it showed that we're someone to be reckoned with in the OCC," Feinstein said. "No one would have picked us to finish second in our league this year. We were just one point behind Bradley for first place and they were a very good team, so we'll take it."
Seeded seventh in the district tournament, Canal Winchester defeated 24th-seeded Darby 3-1 in the second round Oct. 19 after having a first-round bye. It then beat 21st-seeded Olentangy 2-0 in a semifinal Oct. 23 and 14th-seeded Westerville South 3-1 in a final Oct. 26 before falling to Coffman.
"This is one of the best two seasons we've had, along with our 1999 season," Feinstein said. "We played well and won three competitive games in the district tournament."
The Indians lose five starters in seniors Bailey Butler (forward), Bob Butler (midfielder), Daltyn Colley (defender), Ryan Miller (defender) and Brandon Pfeiffer (goalie/midfielder).
Colley was named first-team all-district and all-league, Bailey Butler was second-team all-league and Miller was special mention all-league.
Among those expected to return are Duque, Robson, juniors Tristan Daniels (forward), Aaron Graber (goalie/midfielder), Phillip Kelley (midfielder), Kyler Splunge (midfielder) and Luciano Thaboune (forward) and sophomores Zach Barwick (midfielder) and Blake Horne (defender).
Thaboune scored 15 goals and was third-team all-district and first-team all-league. Barwick and Splunge were second-team all-league and Horne was honorable mention all-league.
"We've got a lot of players coming back and there's going to be a lot of competition for spots on our team next year," Feinstein said. "This team raised the bar here by going further than any Canal Winchester team has ever gone in the tournament and our returning players will have even higher expectations for next season."
Cross country teams honored late coach
Members of the cross country teams were distraught after the passing of their coach, John Bender, who died of complications related to leukemia and congestive heart failure Sept. 14 while in his 21st season leading the program.
But according to Jeff Kline, who was in his 14th season as an assistant coach under Bender and took over as head coach, the runners dedicated the remainder of their season to their late coach.
"The kids gave their all in John's memory this season, and they were really inspired to run well in their conference and district meets for him, which they did," Kline said.
The girls team finished sixth (135 points) in the OCC-Cardinal meet Oct. 12, behind Scioto (54), Bradley (72), Westerville North (83), Jerome (89) and Westerville Central (90) and ahead of host Darby (178) and Westerville South (195).
The Indians finished fifth (164) behind champion Gahanna (39) in the 14-team Division I, district 2 meet Oct. 19 at Watkins Memorial to secure the final regional-qualifying spot before ending their season in the 16-team regional meet Oct. 26 at Pickerington North, finishing 16th (390) behind champion Gahanna (90).
Competing at regional were sophomore Megan Tamasovich (62nd, 20 minutes, 45.5 seconds), sophomore Cassidy Long (73rd, 20:58.37), senior Nicole Tennison (95th, 21:44.07), senior Natalie Tennison (103rd, 22:00.4), junior Julie Tennison (107th, 22:16.19), sophomore Joelle Zuberi (120th, 23:10.95) and sophomore Julia Cook (121st, 23:20.65).
The top four teams and top 16 individuals at regional advanced to state, which was held Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway.
"For the girls, the district race was definitely their best race of the year," Kline said. "We ran on a sloppy, muddy course, but the girls still ran well and it was huge for the team to move on to regional.
"Our seniors went out racing their best, and the nice thing is we've got a lot of talented runners coming back to lead us."
The boys team finished seventh (164) in the OCC-Cardinal meet, behind Jerome (23), Westerville North (66), Darby (81), Westerville South (97), Bradley (121) and Scioto (141) and ahead of Westerville Central (242).
The Indians ended their season in the 14-team Division I, district 2 meet, as they finished eighth (257) behind champion Jerome (23). Westerville South (129) secured the fifth and final regional-qualifying berth.
Competing at district were junior Jason Appel (33rd, 17:28.1), freshman Luke Schirr (45th, 17:50.27), freshman Ethan Fusek (48th, 17:54.5), junior Bryce Carroll (63rd, 18:43.72), senior Nick Sweeney (68th, 18:55.64), sophomore Imani Daniels (72nd, 19:07.94) and freshman Avery Warner (75th, 19:10.11).
"Our boys were more competitive than I thought they would be at the beginning of the year," Kline said. "It was an eye-opener running in the new conference we're in, but we actually felt good about getting seventh because we ran better than we had at that same point last year.
"Nick Sweeney was an outstanding team captain and our No. 5 or 6 runner this year, so we'll miss him. But we had a couple of freshmen really step up for us, so I'm excited about our future."
Football team falls to Scioto in finale
The football team lost to host Scioto 41-20 in its season finale Nov. 1 to finish 0-10 overall and 0-7 in the OCC-Cardinal.
Quarterback Nathan Densel completed 23 of 28 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown to lead the Irish, who led 27-0 at halftime. Scioto, which made the Division II, Region 5 playoffs, improved to 6-4 overall and finished 4-3 in the OCC-Cardinal.
Running back Edosa Omoruyi led the Indians' offense, rushing for 178 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, and quarterback Nick Hammond was 7-for-9 passing for 47 yards with an interception and ran for a score.