Jeff Warstler has one overriding goal in his first season as coach of the Columbus Academy boys basketball team.
Warstler hopes to maintain the program's commitment to success, as the Vikings finished last season 20-5 overall and tied Newark Catholic for first (12-2) in the MSL-Ohio Division.
Academy reached a Division III regional semifinal, losing to St. Bernard Roger Bacon 58-52. In the district tournament, the Vikings defeated Cardington 72-25, Berne Union 63-44, Ready 70-41 and Horizon Science Academy 91-72 in a final.
Warstler replaced Chris Jones, who resigned following last season.
"Chris Jones did an excellent job," Warstler said. "It's hard to follow in his footsteps, but it's nice that he kept this program in a great spot and it certainly makes life easier for me."
Warstler was the middle school girls basketball coach at Academy in 1998 and later was an assistant varsity boys basketball coach for two seasons, beginning in 2000.
He returned to coaching the sport in 2007, guiding the middle school boys program at Academy for three seasons. He resigned as girls tennis coach before last season but remains the boys tennis coach.
The Vikings opened the season by defeating Wellington 59-29 on Dec. 1 and played Mifflin on Dec. 3. They begin league play Thursday, Dec. 6, at Heath.
Daniel Aronowitz, a 6-foot-5 senior forward, scored 16 points in the opener and Aakaash Paladugu, a 6-4 senior post player, scored 14.
Last season, Aronowitz was second on the team in scoring at 12.4 points per game. He was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Also back is 5-8 senior point guard Jared Harris, who was honorable mention all-league last season.
Other returning players are seniors Abram Schottenstein (6-3, guard), Kyle Turner (6-3, forward) and Hart Wise (5-9, guard) and juniors Bryce Bailey (5-11, guard), Jonathan Kornberg (6-5, forward/post player) and Jack Lint (5-11, guard).
Other players are seniors Rhys Davis (6-0, forward), Tyler Gittins (6-4, forward/post player) and Adam Levine (6-1, forward) and sophomore Scott McKenzie (6-4, forward/post player).
Academy lost five 2012 graduates, including forward Zach Ratcliff, who led the team in scoring (13.6 points per game) and rebounding (7.6 per game). He was first-team all-league and second-team all-district.
Last season in the league, Academy and Newark Catholic finished ahead of Licking Valley (9-5), Granville (9-5), Heath (6-8), Bexley (4-10), Whitehall (2-12) and Lakewood (2-12).
"Newark Catholic should be a clear favorite, they bring them all back," Warstler said. "I don't know where we stand yet. I feel cautiously optimistic because we've scrimmaged well, but I also realize that scrimmages and games are completely different things."
Girls basketball team hoping to improve
The girls basketball team is looking to improve on an 8-13 overall record from a season ago, when the Vikings lost to Mount Gilead 50-44 in the first round of district tournament play.
Academy was 0-3 before playing Grandview on Dec. 4.
The Vikings opened with a 40-37 loss at home against Grove City Christian on Nov. 27. Academy lost to Ready 74-12 on Nov. 29 and Newark Catholic 87-36 in the MSL-Ohio opener Dec. 1.
Back are 5-5 junior guard Kat Weikert and her sister, 5-11 sophomore post player Natalie Weikert.
Other players who have varsity experience are 6-0 senior post player Deepa Manda and 5-9 senior forward/guard Abby Young.
Other players are junior Brianna Stahl (5-3, point guard), sophomore Kelly Brown (5-2, guard) and freshmen Brianna Abell (5-7, post player), Neve Adler (5-7, guard), Caroline Aronowitz (5-4, point guard), Jessica Hile (5-5, post player), Christina Lee (5-6, post player), Zaria McBride (6-0, post player) and Allegra Solomon (5-6, post player).
"It's a very different team from last year," said coach Heather Gepper, who is in her third season. "We're very young. We graduated five starters and six seniors. We're just very young and we're learning a lot right now."
Academy lost six 2012 graduates, including Erin Simmons, who led the team in scoring at 10.5 points per game and LaShaun Ransom, who averaged 9.6 points.
Simmons was first-team all-league and all-district, Ransom was first-team all-district and second-team all-league and 2012 graduate Dina Sinno was honorable mention all-league.
Last season in the league, the Vikings tied Bexley and Heath for fifth (4-10) behind Newark Catholic (13-1), Licking Valley (11-3), Whitehall (9-5) and Granville (9-5) and ahead of Lakewood (2-12).
"We're going to take our lumps in the MSL this year, but I have been pretty impressed with all the freshmen," Gepper said. "They're athletic kids, but they have a lot to learn."