Alex Cash and Jane Haffer of the New Albany High School girls tennis team waited about two hours Oct. 11 to play their state-qualifying match in the Division I district tournament at Hilliard Davidson.
The Eagles' duo felt as if it took nearly that long to close out Olentangy Orange's Jessica Phelps and Madison Wolfe.
Cash, a freshman, and Haffer, a junior, cruised past Watterson's Mollie Godbout and Sophia Wible 6-0, 6-0 in the first round before gutting out a come-from-behind 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) win over Phelps and Wolfe to earn the first state berth for either player.
The state tournament takes place Friday, Oct. 18, at Ohio State and Saturday, Oct. 19, at Davidson. In case of bad weather, it will be played at Elysium Tennis Center near Plain City.
Haffer played singles during the regular season, while Cash alternated between singles and doubles. Coach Marc Thomas paired them before sectional and they haven't missed a beat, going 6-2 with a sectional championship and placing fourth at district.
"Jane and Alex both are great players," Thomas said. "They've played singles a lot this season and we've worked very hard in the last couple weeks to mesh them together, and they're playing well."
Cash and Haffer, who lost to Pickerington Central's Isis Thomas and Kyah Thomas 6-0, 1-6, 6-4 in a semifinal and Upper Arlington's Audrey Berger and Kyra Jung 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the third-place match, believe they complement each other both in style of play and personality.
"Alex is steady and really kind of nonchalant on the court. Very chill. I bring the, um, fire," Haffer said, laughing, acknowledging a sometimes-fiery temperament during play.
"We've practiced together a lot and we don't get mad at each other," Cash said. "We've learned not to let it get to us if either one of us misses a shot."
Cash and Haffer hope to follow in the footsteps of 2013 graduate Cristina DiLorenzo and junior Francesca DiLorenzo, who won the Division I doubles championship last year. Cristina DiLorenzo now plays for Xavier.
"(Cash and Haffer) have been in big matches and have seen matches at state, so (this weekend) won't be totally new to them," Thomas said. "I will say the state tournament is a little different. It's special, and now that they've qualified I think maybe some of the pressure is off. Now they can go in and just concentrate on playing their best."
No other Eagles advanced from district.
The other doubles team of senior Alyssa Seneviratne and junior Sydney Setnar went 1-1, losing 6-4, 6-0 to Berger and Jung in a state-qualifying match.
In singles, senior Carol Vitellas lost to Watterson's Courtney Brown 7-5, 6-4 in the first round. Freshman Taylor Selby was 0-1, falling to Dublin Jerome's Eleanor Bullock 6-1, 6-0.
Cross country teams sweep league titles
The boys and girls cross country teams dominated their respective OCC-Capital Division meets Oct. 12 at Pickerington Central, with both claiming the individual and team championships.
The boys took the top three spots and scored 27 points to ease past Olentangy (48), Orange (68), Worthington Kilbourne (123), Mount Vernon (141), Delaware (150), Big Walnut (197) and Franklin Heights (227). Junior Dennis Maloney was first in 16 minutes, 34.64 seconds, followed by juniors Zack Buck (second, 16:41.62), Ben Iten (third, 16:46.51), Alex Quillin (ninth, 17:07.39) and Brian Krugh (12th, 17:20.24), senior Chris Ryan (15th, 17:34.1) and junior Jack Flaherty (33rd, 18:36.58).
Senior Eliza Matt was first (19:38.27) in the girls race as the Eagles scored 29 points to finish ahead of Kilbourne (38), Olentangy (62), Delaware (113), Orange (144), Big Walnut (173) and Mount Vernon (189). Matt was followed by sophomore Charlotte Matt (third, 20:22.39), senior Catherine Ralston (fifth, 20:46.39), freshman Jessica Zaper (eighth, 21:19.71), senior Lexi Simpson (12th, 21:33.96), freshman Danelle Calero (26th, 22:31.22) and sophomore Anna Weibel (27th, 22:34.95).
The boys will compete in the Division I, district 1 meet Saturday, Oct. 19, at Watkins Memorial. The top five teams and top 20 individuals advance to the regional meet Oct. 26 at Pickerington North.
The girls will race in Division I, district 3, from which the top six teams and top 24 individuals advance to regional.
Health helping girls soccer team succeed
According to girls soccer coach Chad Schuler, it's no coincidence that the Eagles won five of seven games to end the regular season after their full lineup returned.
"We're fully healthy now, and we have the results to show for it," said Schuler, whose team was 8-8 overall before playing host to 31st-seeded Newark in a Division I district tournament first-round game Oct. 15. "We're not moving girls around and because of that they've started to figure each other out a lot more. They're enjoying the game, too. That's something we've emphasized."
That strong finish powered New Albany to a 4-2 record in the OCC-Capital, tied for second with Kilbourne behind undefeated champion Orange.
Junior midfielder Megan Glass had a team-high 10 goals during the regular season, followed by senior forward Vanessa Eastwood's eight. Glass had three in a 5-3 win at Kilbourne on Oct. 1.
"Our girls did a fantastic job that night. Two of Kilbourne's goals came off throw-ins," Schuler said. "After the first half of the season, we didn't have a ton of pressure on us. Any pressure came from the girls themselves, which was cool for me to see. They have high expectations."
If the 16th-seeded Eagles defeated Newark, they will visit 13th-seeded Westerville South for a second-round game Saturday, Oct. 19. That winner will play sixth-seeded Watterson or 17th-seeded Upper Arlington at the higher seed's home field in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 22, with the semifinal winner advancing to a district final Oct. 26 at Gahanna.
New Albany lost to South 3-2 on Aug. 22.
Boys soccer team wins league title
Senior forward Alex Zbinovec's goal in the 19th minute was all the boys soccer team needed in a 1-0 win at Mount Vernon on Oct. 8 that earned the Eagles their first OCC-Capital championship.
Zbinovec scored off a throw-in and senior goalkeeper Anthony Flowers made one save as the Eagles completed a 6-0-1 league season, finishing ahead of Kilbourne (5-0-2), Orange (5-1-1), Olentangy (4-3), Big Walnut (3-4), Delaware (2-5), Mount Vernon (1-6) and Franklin Heights (0-7).
The Eagles, who are 12-1-3 overall, earned the fifth seed in the Division I district tournament. They took a first-round bye and will play host to 42nd-seeded Licking Heights in a second-round game Saturday, Oct. 19. The winner will play sixth-seeded Davidson, 28th-seeded Reynoldsburg or 34th-seeded Briggs in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the higher-seeded team, with that winner advancing to a district final Oct. 26 at Westerville South.
Field hockey team opens tourney on road
After a 5-8-1 regular season, the field hockey team visited Watterson in the first round of the district tournament Oct. 15.
The winner will visit Dublin Coffman for a second-round game Thursday, Oct. 17, with that winner playing Bexley or Upper Arlington in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 22. The semifinal winner will advance to a district final Oct. 26 at Dublin Jerome.
New Albany lost to Bexley 3-0 on Sept. 18 and Coffman 3-1 on Sept. 7.
Volleyball team starts tournament
The girls volleyball team was seeded 10th in the Division I district tournament and, with a first-round win, would have played two home matches this week.
New Albany, which was 16-6 overall, played host to 26th-seeded Westerville South in the first round Oct. 14, with the winner facing 13th-seeded Big Walnut on Oct. 16.
The second-round winner will play fourth-seeded Grove City, 31st-seeded Westland or 36th-seeded Upper Arlington in a district semifinal Oct. 24 at Bloom-Carroll.