One of Ohio's most storied programs added to its legacy this fall when the Newark Catholic High School girls volleyball team made it to the state tournament for the 18th time.
The Green Wave entered this year's state event having won eight championships, with the last coming in 2004.
Coach Jeri Helber, who was a freshman at Newark Catholic in 1984 when it won the Class A title and has led the program to five state tournaments since she became coach in 2000, can't remember a team quite like the one this season.
"They're truly their own spirit," Helber said. "I wouldn't compare them to any other team. They have a lot of fun and they're very competitive."
Newark Catholic lost to Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph 27-25, 25-21, 25-18 in a Division IV state semifinal Nov. 7 at Wright State to finish 24-5.
Villa Angela-St. Joseph played Maria Stein Marion Local on Nov. 9 for the title.
The Green Wave was led this season by sophomore outside hitter Taylor Daignault and 6-foot senior middle hitter Becca Kapavik.
Senior Maddie Wirth (right-side hitter), 6-1 junior Jill Blacksten (middle hitter) and freshmen Mary Brigid Keck (outside hitter) and Megan Stanton (setter) also were key contributors.
"We're very balanced," Helber said. "We don't have that one big star, but we've got some great players. I think (we) just (peaked) at the right time."
Granville girls soccer team makes state final
Sophomore forward Nikki Cox proved to be one of central Ohio's most prolific scorers this season, and junior midfielder Taylor Drumm and sophomore goalkeeper Tori Long also were among the key players for the Granville girls soccer team.
Another important aspect of the Blue Aces' first run to the state tournament was that they had 12 seniors.
"Our team this year is just super close," said defender Kina McCombs, who was one of four senior captains with forward Riley Rosinski and midfielders Gabby Male and Chloe Kent. "We've got 12 seniors and we've played together for so long. It's pretty amazing we stuck together, but I'm so happy that we did."
Granville beat Kettering Alter 1-0 in a Division II state semifinal Nov. 5 at Hilliard Bradley to advance to the championship game Nov. 8 against Rocky River in Crew Stadium.
The Blue Aces lost their final two regular-season games but were 19-2-1 entering the state final.
Local teams make football playoffs
The football postseason kicked off Nov. 8 and Licking Valley, Licking Heights and Newark Catholic were among the teams that qualified.
Licking Valley made the Division IV, Region 13 playoffs as the top seed despite losing to Granville 30-23 in its regular-season finale Nov. 1.
The Panthers were 8-2 before opening the postseason Nov. 8 at home against eighth-seeded Steubenville. They shared the LCL-Big School Division title with Licking Heights and Granville at 3-1.
"I thought we had some real good moments (during the regular season)," coach Randy Baughman said. "We're just excited to be back in after not being in the playoffs since 2010."
The Licking Valley-Steuben-ville winner plays fourth-seeded Zanesville Maysville or fifth-seeded Bexley in a regional semifinal Friday, Nov. 15.
Licking Heights made the Division II, Region 5 playoffs as the fifth seed and was 9-1 before opening Nov. 8 at fourth-seeded Mansfield. The winner plays top-seeded New Albany or eighth-seeded Northland in a regional semifinal Friday, Nov. 15.
Newark Catholic, which won the LCL-Small School Division at 4-0, was 9-1 and the fourth seed for its Division VI, Region 21 playoff opener Nov. 8 against fifth-seeded Bellaire. The winner plays top-seeded Lucasville Valley or eighth-seeded Beverly Fort Frye in a regional semifinal Friday, Nov. 15.
Area runners shine at state
Newark senior Toby Hardwick finished his prep cross country career one spot from the top of the podium in the Division I boys state meet Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway.
Hardwick ran 15 minutes, 21.37 seconds to earn a runner-up finish to Boardman senior Mark Hadley (15:10.63). He was one of nine runners from the Central District to place among the top 25.
In the Division III girls race, Newark Catholic senior Mary Richardson was 23rd (19:37.43) and Granville Christian junior Lauren Keiser was 41st (20:03.8).
Keiser was the first athlete from her school to compete in a state event.