During the waning moments of a serve-receive drill Aug. 11, Watterson High School girls volleyball coach Chuck Gleich began giving orders and encouraging his players to practice with more enthusiasm.

During the waning moments of a serve-receive drill Aug. 11, Watterson High School girls volleyball coach Chuck Gleich began giving orders and encouraging his players to practice with more enthusiasm.

Just when it seemed as if they were growing tired, Gleich decided to lighten the mood.

After senior opposite-hitter Sunny Finnegan passed to a teammate, Gleich called out "Well, Sunny, I guess you can pass." Without missing a beat, Finnegan said, "See, I told you I could," which induced a laugh from Gleich and several of the players.

At the conclusion of practice, Finnegan and classmates Isabel Custadio and Maria Harmon said that moment was a perfect example of the kind of chemistry the Eagles have.

"I asked coach before practice if I could pass a little bit more because he usually has someone pass for me when we're in serve receive, so he put me in that passing drill," said Finnegan, whose team opened last Saturday by beating Cincinnati McAuley 25-10, 25-19 and losing to Erlanger (Ky.) St. Henry 25-20, 20-25, 25-19. "We had some fun joking around about it, but that's one of the nice things about this team. We're open with each other and we feel comfortable talking with our coaches about anything."

Watterson will play host today to Columbus School for Girls, compete Saturday in the Best of Ohio at Toledo St. Ursula and visit Worthington Christian on Tuesday.

The Eagles finished 25-2 overall last year after losing to Cincinnati Mother of Mercy 17-25, 25-15, 25-10, 25-19 in a Division I regional final.

Harmon said the Eagles' unity has helped them rally together to replace the six graduates, including Miami-recruit Cassie Farrell.

"We've had to overcome a lot, because we didn't have any middle hitters or liberos returning, but we're all working together well," Harmon said. "I think we're able to do this because we're all good friends. We have a lot of fun together, but we do know when it's time to get serious and work hard, too. We've got great team chemistry."

There are nine seniors on the roster -- opposite-hitters Bridgid Davis (5-foot-8) and Finnegan (6-0), middle-hitters Katie Middleton (5-10) and Maddie Shirk (5-9), defensive specialists Kali Luffy and Karli Lutton, setters Custadio and Kaitlin Lewis and outside-hitter Harmon.

Filling out the lineup are juniors Marissah Burt (defensive specialist), Kelley Canale (5-8 middle-hitter), Carrie Carmody (setter) and Taylor Ely (5-9 outside-hitter) and sophomore Michelle Sunderman (6-0 middle-hitter).

"Everyone on the team is really close," Custadio said. "We know we've got some big shoes to fill because we lost great players like Cassie Farrell and Katie Sumner. A lot of people are underestimating us, but we know we've got good replacements for that senior class."

Watterson was first (10-0) in the CCL ahead of runner-up Hartley (8-2) last year for its first outright title in four years.

"Ready has improved a lot and Hartley is still strong, so it's going to be a nice league again," Gleich said. "DeSales is always a big match for us, too."

Last year, the Eagles beat Worthington Kilbourne 25-16, 25-23, 25-13 in a district final to win their sixth consecutive district championship. They beat Dublin Coffman 25-18, 25-23, 25-16 in a regional semifinal.

"Our girls know our past well and they want to keep our tradition going," Gleich said. "It will be difficult to duplicate our one-loss season because we're playing a much tougher schedule, but we're going to peak at the right time in the tournament."

The field hockey team, which finished 14-6-1 last year after losing to Thomas Worthington 3-0 in the state final, opened last Tuesday against Hartley.

The Eagles will play today at Columbus School for Girls and face visiting Worthington Kilbourne on Wednesday.

Four starters are back in senior forward Elena deVerteuil, junior forwards Nina Passen and Maria Swartz and senior defenseman Gwen Gowins.

Filling out the roster are senior defenders Elizabeth Barr, Reilly Feldmann, Lesley Horstman and Allie Lombardo, senior midfielders Mackenzie Schwieterman and Molly Vlahakis, junior forward Mary Ceritelli, junior defenders Allison Delp, Liz Englehart, Abbie Rubadue and Mallory Skrobot, junior midfielders Jamie Hackbarth, Lauren Kurth, Sara Pardi and Emily Vlahakis, junior goalkeeper Domini Paradiso and sophomore forward Abby Barker.

"Our defense is almost completely new and we've got a new goalkeeper, so we've got to communicate well on defense," coach Janet Baird said. "Nina and Maria are fast but we've lost a bit of speed as a team. We've got a lot of work to do if we're going to have a season like we had last year. But we improved a lot last season and I'm confident we can do it again."

Last year, Watterson opened the district tournament by beating Kilbourne 1-0 and then defeated Olentangy Liberty 4-0 in a semifinal and Columbus Academy 2-0 in the final.

The Eagles defeated Kettering Alter 1-0 in a state semifinal. Watterson beat Kettering Fairmont 4-1 in the state final in 2005 and lost to Academy 4-0 in the state final in 2006.

"We've made it to the state final three years in a row and we're not planning on stopping that trend," Feldmann said. "Nobody expected us to make it that far last year either, so we know we can do it again. Our defense is the key. When we play good team defense, we're tough to beat."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Watterson boys and girls golf teams:

BOYS

Aug. 18 -- Finished fourth (319) in Columbus Academy Invitational behind champion St. Charles (306)

Aug. 19 -- Finished fourth (323) in New Albany Invitational behind champion St. Charles (315)

*Aug. 21 -- Defeated Ready 162-191. Aaron Hannigan and Brad Shepherd were medalists (40).

Last Saturday -- Finished fifth (320) in Cincinnati Moeller Invitational behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (302)

*Last Tuesday -- Played Worthington Christian

Last Wednesday -- Played Hilliard Darby

Saturday -- At St. Charles Invitational at Delaware Country Club

*Tuesday -- At Highlands vs. St. Charles

GIRLS

Aug. 18 -- Finished first (323) in Top 14 ahead of runner-up Pickerington North (346). Emily Ransone (73) was medalist.

Last Saturday -- Finished first (306) in second round of MOGGL tournament ahead of runner-up DeSales (367). Lauren Grogan (75) was medalist.

Last Monday -- Defeated Columbus School for Girls 166-221

Last Wednesday -- Competed against DeSales and Gahanna

Tuesday -- At Champions vs. Dublin Jerome and Pickerington North

*CCL contest

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Watterson girls tennis, boys soccer, girls soccer and boys and girls cross country teams:

TENNIS

Aug. 18 -- Def. Upper Arlington B 3-2

Aug. 20 -- Lost to Olentangy 4-1

Aug. 21 -- Lost to Wellington 3-2

*Last Tuesday -- Played DeSales in CCL opener

Today -- At Upper Arlington. Watterson lost 5-0 last year.

Tuesday -- At Bexley

Wednesday -- At Hilliard Davidson. Watterson won 5-0 last year.

Of note: The Eagles were 4-2 before last Tuesday.

BOYS SOCCER

Aug. 19 -- Lost to Olentangy Liberty 4-2 in opener. Alex Brust scored two goals.

Last Saturday -- Tied Grove City at 0. Paul Gray made nine saves.

Last Tuesday -- Played New Albany

Saturday -- Home vs. West

*Tuesday -- Home vs. Hartley. Watterson won 2-0 last year.

GIRLS SOCCER

Aug. 19 -- Def. Thomas Worthington 2-0 in opener. Isa Hollern and Meghan Caldwell scored. Mary Kate Campbell had three saves and Olivia Rancour had two.

Aug. 21 -- Def. Hilliard Darby 1-0. Kathryn Sullivan scored. Rancour and Campbell had two saves.

Last Saturday -- Def. Grove City 2-0. Rachael Callahan and Kelly DeNiro scored. Rancour and Campbell had three saves.

Today -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne. Watterson lost 2-1 last year.

CROSS COUNTRY

Last Saturday -- Boys: Finished fourth (131) in 15-team Newark Catholic Invitational behind champion Watkins Memorial (71); Girls: Finished eighth (192) in 15-team Newark Catholic Invitational behind champion Northland (85).

Sept. 6 -- At Northland Invitational

*CCL contest