The Big Walnut High School boys soccer team didn't match its success from last season, when it finished 14-1-4, won its first OCC-Capital Division championship since 2003 and was ranked third in the final Division II state poll.
Nonetheless, coach Brett Weiss sees positives in what the Golden Eagles achieved this fall.
Big Walnut finished 12-7-1 overall and went 3-3-1 in the OCC-Capital Division to tie Delaware Hayes for fourth, behind Olentangy Orange (7-0), New Albany (5-2) and Olentangy (5-2) and ahead of Watkins Memorial (3-4), Mount Vernon (1-6) and Franklin Heights (0-7).
Seeded seventh, the Golden Eagles opened the district tournament with a 5-1 win over Whitehall on Oct. 16. They then defeated sixth-seeded Hamilton Township 6-1 in the second round Oct. 18 and ninth-seeded Granville 2-1 in overtime in a district semifinal Oct. 23 before losing to second-seeded Watterson 2-1 in a district final Oct. 27.
Last season, Big Walnut lost to DeSales 2-1 in double overtime in a district final.
"We had a lot of challenges and a lot of rough patches," said Weiss, who completed his second season leading the program. "There are games we'd like to play again. But overall, the boys should be pretty happy with the season."
Big Walnut loses four seniors in forward Austin Foor, backup goalkeeper Alex Bravender and midfielders Shane Facemyer and Ethan Green.
Foor led the teams in goals (20) and assists (7) and was named first-team all-league and second-team all-state. Facemyer had 12 goals and three assists and was first-team all-league.
"Austin and Shane barely came off the field for us," Weiss said. "You've got your (scoring threat) and the guy who links the back to the front. Those are important components to any team. They definitely will be missed."
Expected to return are juniors Bradyn Dronsfield (defender), Nick Herbert (midfielder), Tyler Sholl (goalie) and Dominic Zumpone (defender) and sophomores Bobby Bogantz (forward), Adam Carifa (midfielder), Noah Gibson (midfielder) and Tyler Ledbetter (midfielder).
Dronsfield was second-team all-league and Zumpone and Gibson were special mention and honorable mention all-league, respectively.
Sholl finished with 72 saves.
"We have a very experienced back line coming back," Weiss said. "That's a good backbone to have. You have to be able to stop people."
The OCC-Capital will undergo another change next season, as Watkins Memorial will be moving to the Licking Valley League. Worthington Kilbourne, which moved from the OCC-Central to the OCC-Cardinal this year as part of OCC realignment last summer, will fill the vacant spot in the OCC-Capital.
Also this year, Olentangy moved from the OCC-Cardinal to the OCC-Capital and Hilliard Bradley switched from the OCC-Capital to the OCC-Cardinal.
"You bring in a team like Worthington Kilbourne and they're successful. The league just got tougher," Weiss said.
Reardon won't return as girls soccer coach
The girls soccer team made a marked improvement this season, finishing 10-8 overall after going 4-13 last year.
Despite that improvement, Jim Reardon has been told by athletics director Steve Glesenkamp that his coaching contract will not be renewed.
"I want to thank coach Reardon for his service to the Big Walnut girls soccer program the past seven years," Glesenkamp said. "Jim has been a valuable member of our coaching staff. He has always been a tremendous advocate for girls athletics in general and girls soccer in particular. His generosity to others is something that always impressed me. I hope he will consider helping us again next year in a different capacity in the girls soccer program."
Reardon compiled a 59-51-13 record in his seven seasons leading the program. Big Walnut finished with a winning record four times, including this season. The Golden Eagles went 10-5-2 in 2006, 12-4-2 in 2007 and 11-4-3 in 2008 and won the OCC-Capital title in 2008.
"It was great," Reardon said of his time at Big Walnut. "I'm proud of the program I developed. I think the girls liked me and respected me."
Reardon, who spent 14 seasons as the coach at Olentangy before being hired in 2006 to replace Derek Hone as Golden Eagles coach, believes his days of coaching are over.
"I'm done," he said. "I think I've had my fill. I'm proud of the fact I went 21 years and never got a yellow card or a red card."
In addition to posting its first winning season in four years this fall, Big Walnut went 3-3 in the OCC-Capital to place fourth, behind New Albany (6-0), Olentangy (4-2) and Orange (3-1-2) and ahead of Watkins Memorial (2-3-1), Delaware (1-4-1) and Mount Vernon (0-6). Franklin Heights did not have a complete league schedule this season.
Seeded sixth in the Division II district tournament, the Golden Eagles beat ninth-seeded London 6-0 in the first round Oct. 17 before losing to fourth-seeded Hartley 6-0 in the second round Oct. 20.
"It was a good year, a fantastic year," Reardon said. "Everything really went well."
The Golden Eagles lose eight seniors, including defenders Maggie Ferguson and Samantha Herbst, forward Ashley Meade, midfielder Jessie Wenger and goalie Jordan Lyle.
Wenger was second-team all-league and third-team all-district and Ferguson was honorable mention all-league. Herbst, Meade and Wenger were team captains.
Expected to return are juniors Skylar Fleak (midfielder), Haley Lescinsky (midfielder), Elyse Schnabel (forward) and Leah Shaw (defender) and sophomores Makenna Hammond (defender), Abby Tabor (forward) and Jennie Wenger (defender).
Bogantz led way for girls runners
It was an up-and-down season for the cross country teams.
"I think it was a good learning experience for all of us," senior Bethany Bogantz said. "Not being one the better teams, we all had to pull our own and work hard."
Bogantz earned her second trip to the girls regional meet and finished 59th of 118 runners in the Division I meet Oct. 27 at Pickerington North in 20 minutes, 50.47 seconds.
Reynoldsburg's Leah Wallace (18:44.9) won the regional title and Westerville North's Haley Sandvik (19:24.64) secured the 16th and final qualifying spot for the state meet held Nov. 3 at National Trail Raceway.
In the Division II regional meet in 2010, Bogantz finished 28th (20:58.6).
"It was one of the best feelings ever," she said of being a regional qualifier for the second time. "I was super excited. I would have loved to have my team there. But being there individually was an honor."
Bogantz led the Golden Eagles in the 14-team district 1 meet Oct. 20 at Watkins Memorial, finishing 15th of 97 runners in 20:30.57 as the top five teams and top 20 individuals advanced to regional.
Big Walnut finished 11th (275) at district, behind regional-qualifiers Hilliard Davidson (35), New Albany (84), Westerville North (98), Teays Valley (103) and Pickerington Central (135).
Also competing for the Golden Eagles were senior Stephanie Keller (35th, 21:31.53), sophomore Makenna Hemming (65th, 22:55.3), sophomore Hannah Seabrook (80th, 23:32.62), sophomore Addison Shawver (83rd, 23:47.21), junior Catie Craig-Bowden (85th, 24:07.27) and senior Leah Viertel (88th, 25:04.92).
In the OCC-Capital meet Oct. 13 at Lancaster, Big Walnut finished fifth (127), behind New Albany (33), Orange (65), Olentangy (82) and Watkins Memorial (84) and ahead of Delaware (140) and Mount Vernon (155). Franklin Heights did not have a team score in the girls or boys meets.
Bogantz led the Golden Eagles, placing seventh (20:45).
The boys team finished seventh (151) in the league meet, behind New Albany (32), Olentangy (56), Orange (91), Watkins Memorial (115), Delaware (144) and Mount Vernon (145).
Sophomore Jon Kahrmann led the Golden Eagles, finishing 23rd (17:56).
Big Walnut finished 10th (280) in the 12-team district 2 meet, behind regional-qualifiers Davidson (39), Lancaster (64), Dublin Coffman (100), Bradley (104) and Hilliard Darby (136).
Senior A.J. Barber led the Golden Eagles, placing 37th (18:05.18) of 88 runners.
Also competing were sophomore Kahrmann (49th, 18:24.37), junior Jacob Oppenheimer (60th, 18:37.21), sophomore Bobby Bogantz (61st, 18:37.54), sophomore Jared Boseker (73rd, 19:24.33), senior Colton Shidaker (74th, 19:28.51) and junior Logan Perry (77th, 19:42.42).
The boys team loses four seniors, including two who competed at district this year in Barber and Shidaker. Among the runners expected to return are Bobby Bogantz, Boseker, Kahrmann and Oppenheimer.
The girls team also loses four seniors, including three who competed at district this year in Bethany Bogantz, Keller and Viertel. Among those expected to return are Craig-Bowden, Hemming, Seabrook and Shawver.