The Watterson High School hockey team is coming off its best season in its short history, and fifth-year coach Don Lewis expects his program to take another big step forward this winter.
The Eagles, who finished 5-18-1-1 overall last season after going 1-22 the previous season, opened Nov. 23 with a Capital Hockey Conference-Blue Division game against DeSales.
"We are embarking upon our fifth season, and the entire feel of the program is different," Lewis said. "Our initial teams were brave and determined young men, some of whom had never played hockey previously. We like to joke that my two forward lines were recruited from my English classes.
"Watterson hockey has matured to the point where a significant number of players have multiple years of higher-level experience prior to entering high school hockey. ... We are now experiencing the benefit of quality players selecting Watterson as the place they want to play their high school hockey."
The forwards are seniors Luke Andracki and Jaesuk Bae, juniors Sam Magee, Zac McKenna, Derek Petrucci and Isaac Royer, sophomores Jerrod Petersen, Johnny Shultz and Nate Simpson and freshmen Thomas Abrams, Brandon Arens, Nick Infante and Jake Shultz.
The defensive corps consists of senior Scott Engram, juniors Tommy Hatem and Noah Slade and sophomores Nick Naderhoff, Adam Schrepferman and Mark Zelnik.
Senior Aaron King is the starting goaltender and junior Sean Roark is his backup.
King is the team captain and Magee and McKenna are alternate captains.
In 17 league games last season, Magee had 17 goals and seven assists, McKenna had six goals and King had an .876 save percentage.
"This is a balanced team with defensive capabilities and an extraordinary scoring punch," Lewis said. "In three preseason (games), (we had) 36 goals for and only three against. While we anticipate much stronger competition in the regular season, we are nonetheless thrilled with the early-season returns on our investment of hard work. "Having moved five forwards from last season into defensive positions, we expect a great amount of success in moving the puck up the ice, from breakouts to scoring opportunities. ... Our forwards are going to change people's perceptions of Watterson hockey."
Watterson went 4-12-0-1 (9 points) to place third in the five-team CHC-Blue last season, behind Gahanna (19, 8-6-1-2) and Worthington Kilbourne (15, 7-9-1). Gahanna moved to the CHC-White and was replaced by Thomas Worthington.
All of the CHC teams are playing 16 league games this season.
"The goals for this season are to build upon the success of last year, our finest to date," Lewis said. "Obviously, you want to grow a program and evolve upward each year, so we are looking to surpass that record significantly.
"The (CHC) is a tough place to cut your teeth as a young program, but Watterson hockey has been baptized by fire and we are looking to skate with just about anybody."
Girls basketball team aiming for CCL title
The girls basketball team is counting heavily on its transition game this season.
Watterson returns two starters in 5-foot-8 senior guard Makenzie Bevins and 5-5 senior point guard Emily Amen.
Last season, Bevins averaged 9.5 points and was named first-team all-CCL, as the Eagles finished 13-11 overall and went 6-2 in the CCL to tie DeSales and Hartley for the league title. Amen was second-team all-CCL.
Also on the team are seniors Rachel Limes (5-11, post player) and Dominique Garrett (5-10, post player) and juniors Juliana Bigler (5-9, guard), Jordyn Brobst (5-7, guard), Maria Fisher (5-5, guard), Bryn McQuade (5-7, guard), Sydney Mayle (5-9, guard) and Maggie McCarthy (5-7, guard).
"We don't have much size, but we have decent speed and these girls have a fire to them that teams don't always have," 13th-year coach Tom Woodford said.
"We lost most of our height, so we'll look to push the ball more and we'll need to be strong with our transition offense and defense. We have to find open shooters and score well in transition."
The Eagles are aiming for their seventh consecutive CCL title.
"Any of us could win the CCL this year," Woodford said. "Hartley has a 6-3 post player (Marissa Brown) who is the most dominant player in our league. DeSales has good guards and a lot of experience back. Ready had a good summer and always plays hard, so the CCL is going to be competitive, top to bottom."