After failing to reach the Division III regional tournament the past two seasons, Columbus Academy boys soccer coach Ron Leach believed his team was on the verge of a return trip.
The Vikings secured a spot in the regional with a 2-1 win over Grandview in a district final Oct. 27 at Westerville South.
It was Academy's first district title since 2009, when it defeated Grandview 3-0 in the final before losing to eventual state champion Worthington Christian 1-0 in a regional semifinal.
Last season, Grandview defeated the Vikings 1-0 in a district final.
Academy, which was seeded second in the district tournament, also defeated seventh-seeded Columbus International 2-0 in a semifinal Oct. 24.
"We've been right there knocking on the door, but we've come up short for the last couple of years," Leach said. "This is great. The kids are fighting hard. They wanted to go further than they did last year and they've accomplished that. It's just a great credit to a lot of heart and a lot of desire."
Academy and Grandview played to a scoreless tie Oct. 2, and the rematch was close throughout.
The third-seeded Bobcats, who finished 15-2-2, scored first when Ben Brannan beat Academy goalkeeper Thomas Nolan with 37 minutes, 49 seconds left in the first half.
The Vikings tied the game at 1 on Tim Leathery's goal on a cross from Jake Tuckerman with 11:07 left in the half.
Academy took the lead for good when Tuckerman scored on a breakaway with 1:34 left before halftime.
Nolan made five saves and Grandview goalie Ben Farynowski had six.
Academy was 14-2-3 before playing Mansfield Christian in a regional semifinal Oct. 31 at Lexington. The winner plays Toledo Ottawa Hills or Archbold in a regional final at noon Saturday, Nov. 3.
The regional champion plays in a state semifinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, against Garrettsville Garfield, West Salem Northwestern, Kent Roosevelt or Elyria Catholic.
The state final is noon Nov. 10 at Crew Stadium.
Field hockey team wins district title
The field hockey team earned the program's fifth consecutive state tournament berth with a 1-0 win over Olentangy Liberty in a district final Oct. 27 at Dublin Jerome.
Hana Sinno scored with 6:59 remaining in the first half.
Academy, which was the top district seed and improved to 17-0-1, had several chances to add to its lead, but goalie Maddie Passeralla made 15 saves for fourth-seeded Liberty.
Academy goalies Sarah Guendert and Megan Neubig combined for two saves.
"This is what it's all about," coach Anne Horton said of the district title. "This is a different group of girls. We lost 13 from last year. This is a first experience for a lot of these girls, so it's very special."
The Vikings also defeated Liberty 8-0 on Aug. 27.
Academy beat eighth-seeded Jerome 4-0 in a district semifinal Oct. 23.
Academy will play Cincinnati Ursuline Academy (17-0-1) in a state semifinal at noon Friday, Nov. 2, at Upper Arlington. The winner will play Watterson (18-1) or Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown (15-3-1) in the state final at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at UA.
Academy defeated Watterson 1-0 on Oct. 11.
Last season, Hathaway Brown beat the Vikings 2-1 in overtime in a state semifinal.
Academy is seeking its first state title since 2006, when it defeated Watterson 4-0 in the final.
Girls runners qualify for state
The girls cross country team secured its second consecutive Division III state berth by finishing third (104) in the 15-team regional Oct. 27 at Pickerington North, behind Mount Gilead (92) and Sugarcreek Garaway (101) and ahead of Grandview (110).
The top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced to state Saturday, Nov. 3, at National Trail Raceway.
Last season at state, the Vikings finished 14th (321) in the 16-team meet behind champion Liberty Center (65).
"Anytime you go in there and you've been to a certain place and seen the course, you develop a certain sense of calmness in you," coach Mike Ramseyer said.
At regional, sophomore Abby Wilson finished fifth of 124 runners in 19:33.85 and junior Susan Peck was 11th in 19:59.49.
"I'm incredibly happy," Peck said. "(At district) I had the flu. I couldn't eat anything. I was actually running on no food at all and coming back (for regional) and being able to make it in the top 16 -- and I know that I did my best for my team -- really made me proud."
Other runners were freshmen Cobi Warstler (39th, 21:24.03) and Sydney Brault (40th, 21:25.62), sophomore Sydnie Boykins (57th, 22:07.28), junior Grace Christiansen (93rd, 23:22.66) and senior Sarah Lazarus (101st, 24:28.95).
Juniors Aron Aziz and Ben Uchimura competed in the boys regional, with Aziz finishing 30th (17:48.61) of 119 runners and Uchimura finishing 46th (18:14.21).
Football team loses to Granville
The football team closed its season with a 34-20 loss at Granville on Oct. 26.
The Vikings finished 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the MSL-Ohio.
Jared Harris rushed for 125 yards on 28 carries. Hart Wise had touchdown passes of 33 and 23 yards to Tyler Gittins and 76 yards to Bryce Bailey.
"Our kids played tough and hard. They simply ran out of gas," coach Jim Collis said. "Our guys play both ways and special teams. ... I'm really proud of this team and they played beyond anyone's expectations."