The Watterson High School boys volleyball team appeared poised to win its first state championship after winning two of the first three games against Kettering Alter in the Division II state final.
The Eagles even took a 7-3 lead in the fourth game of the match May 25 at Hamilton.
However, the momentum swung in Alter's favor after senior outside hitter Luke Andracki and senior libero Parker Costello collided while trying for a dig in the back row and struck their heads on the court.
Andracki and Costello eventually were given medical clearance to re-enter the match, but Watterson lost the game and went on to lose the match 20-25, 25-21, 18-25, 25-17, 15-7 to finish 19-8 overall.
The Eagles' only other appearance in a state final came in 2002.
"We got rattled in the fourth game and we couldn't shake it off in the fourth or fifth game," coach Anthony Randolph said. "Parker came up huge for us in the state tournament, and when he got injured, it spooked our guys and really affected their confidence and play.
"I still believe we were the better team and I don't think the best team won, but that's life and we just have to move on."
The Eagles defeated Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit 25-15, 23-25, 25-17, 32-34, 15-11 in a state semifinal May 24.
"We didn't play our best (match). but it does show us that we can compete at a high level even when all of the pieces aren't there," Randolph said. "I told my guys the whole year that there would be times where we would face adversity. Not playing your best (match) in the final four and pushing to win ... isn't an easy task. They're a bunch of fighters and they never quit.
"(Senior outside hitter) Zackary Storc and (senior setter Matthew Randolph) had awesome matches (at state) and our senior middle hitters (Matt Hughes and Adam Schnitkey) both played really well."
Seeded sixth in the East Region tournament, Watterson upset three opponents en route to winning its fifth regional title and advancing to state. The Eagles defeated third-seeded Worthington Kilbourne 26-28, 25-6, 25-17, 25-14 in the regional final May 16 and top-seeded Mount Vernon 22-25, 22-25, 25-22, 25-17, 16-14 in a regional semifinal May 13 after beating second-seeded DeSales 25-14, 20-25, 15-25, 25-22, 15-12 in the first round May 9.
The Eagles also won regional championships in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002.
Watterson went 3-1 in the CCL to tie DeSales for first, ahead of St. Charles (0-4). The Eagles split their league matches with the Stallions, winning 22-25, 24-26, 29-27, 25-23, 15-13 on April 1 and losing 25-13, 25-20, 25-14 on April 10.
"We had a great season overall," coach Randolph said. "We went undefeated (9-0) at home and we won the CCL and our region. We weren't supposed to win any tournament (matches), but we knew we were the best team in our region and we played with a chip on our shoulders."
The Eagles loses seven seniors who started or saw significant playing time in Andracki, Costello, Hughes, Randolph, Schnitkey, Storc and defensive specialist Danny Lucia.
Randolph had 958 assists, 229 kills, 221 digs, 148 blocks and 93 aces and was named first-team all-state and all-region. Storc had 389 kills, 313 digs, 76 blocks and 23 aces and was second-team all-state and first-team all-region.
Schnitkey was second-team all-region and Hughes was honorable mention all-region.
Expected to return are juniors Chuck Eberhart (middle hitter) and Matt Shauefale (defensive specialist) and sophomores Dylan Egle (opposite hitter) and Anthony Valentino (outside hitter).
Egle was a regular starter.
"I couldn't have asked for a better group of guys to coach in my first year here," coach Randolph said. "Our seniors were great leaders and they took us to the state final. But we had some other guys gain some valuable experience, so I think we'll still do some great things next year."
Lombardi returning to state track meet
Dominic Lombardi of the boys track and field team will attempt to defend his Division II state title in the 300-meter hurdles when he competes in the state meet Friday, June 6, and Saturday, June 7, at Ohio State.
The senior is the top seed at state after winning the event in a program-record 37.99 seconds in the regional meet held May 29 and 31 at Lexington.
Lombardi also is returning to state in the 110 hurdles. He is seeded fifth in the event after finishing second (14.71) at regional. He set the program record in the event (14.44) in the Larkin/Crosten Invitational on May 9 at Upper Arlington.
Last year at state, Lombardi won the 300 hurdles (38.13) and placed seventh in the 110 hurdles (14.8).
"Hopefully, Dominic will continue to improve as he first set the school record (in the 300 hurdles) in last year's state meet and would like to do it again this year," coach Matt McGowan said.
Also qualifying for state was the 400 relay of Brad Kanney, Ryan Urquhart, Cody Calhoun and Lombardi. The Eagles are the top seed after winning at regional in a program-record 42.71.
The same four athletes finished 10th (43.94) in the event at state last year.
"We worked on strength running earlier in the year and didn't start working on handoffs until late April," McGowan said. "I think it helped that they were in shape before we did handoffs. The same team has not lost a race this year and our main goal is to get the baton to the finish line at the state and see where we finish."
Also competing at regional were Nick Bailey in the 1,600 (eighth, 4:36.44), Max McClelland in the 1,600 (10th, 4:39.85) and 3,200 (did not finish), the 800 relay of Kanney, Urquhart, Calhoun and Sam Maglicic (10th, 1:32.15) and Urquhart in the 200 (11th, 23.46).
The top four finishers in each regional event advanced to state.
Watterson scored 29 points at regional to finish fifth behind champion Pemberville Eastwood (61) as 46 teams scored.
In the district 2 meet that concluded May 24 at Heath, Lombardi won the 300 hurdles (38.62) and placed second in the 110 hurdles (14.62), the 400 relay finished first (program-record 42.92), McClelland was second in the 1,600 (4:38.97) and fourth in the 3,200 (10:36.02), Haley was third in the 3,200 (10:30.76) and fourth in the 1,600 (4:41.16), Urquhart was third in the 200 (23.13) and the 800 relay finished third (1:31.46).
The Eagles placed third (82) at district behind Caledonia River Valley (130) and Eastmoor Academy (115) as 14 teams scored.
Season ends for girls track team
No members of the girls track and field team qualified for the Division I state meet.
Competing at regional held May 28 and 30 at Pickerington North were the 3,200 relay of junior Amy Griffith, junior Jessica Passwater, freshman Sam Mikula and sophomore Grace Thomas (seventh, 9:39.16), senior Dominique Garrett in the discus (eighth, 111 feet, 10 inches) and the 1,600 relay of sophomore Meghan Connors, freshman Juliana Rotolo, freshman J'Niah Johnston-Reynolds and sophomore Caroline Sugar (ninth, 4:07.59).
Watterson tied for 36th (3) at regional behind champion Pickerington Central (75) as 41 teams scored.
In the district 3 meet that concluded May 24 at Hilliard Darby, Garrett was runner-up in the discus (112-5), the 1,600 relay placed third (4:06.66) and the 3,200 relay finished fourth (9:40.91).
The Eagles finished eighth (35) at district behind champion Hilliard Davidson (129) as 16 teams scored.
Watterson scored 138 points in the CCL meet to place second behind Columbus School for Girls (145) and ahead of Hartley (94), DeSales (90) and Ready (22).
Winning league titles were Passwater in the 3,200 (12:18.9), Garrett in the discus (117-5), junior Marissa Wierzbicki in the shot put (35-5) and the 800 relay of Rotolo, senior Hanna Merklin, Johnston-Reynolds and freshman Michelle Lehmann (1:48.9).
Doubles team ends season at district
Seniors Stev Gregory and Michael Guza of the boys tennis team lost to Columbus Academy's Ryan Jung and Shrikar Kundur 6-2, 6-1 in doubles in the first round of the Division II district tournament held May 23 and 24 at Academy.
The top two finishers in singles and doubles advanced to state, which was held May 30 and 31 at Ohio State.
Gregory and Guza went 3-1 and placed third in the sectional that concluded May 18 at CSG, as the top four placers in singles and doubles advanced to district.
Going 1-1 at sectional were senior Michael O'Brien and sophomores Samwise Parkinson and Tommy Scherer in singles and the doubles team of senior Jae-Suk Bae and sophomore Ryan Mar.
Watterson finished 3-14 overall and went 3-1 in the CCL to place second behind St. Charles (4-0) and ahead of DeSales (2-2), Ready (1-3) and Hartley (0-4).
Baseball team falls in district final
The baseball team lost to top-seeded Bloom-Carroll 7-2 in a Division II district final May 23 at Beavers Field in Lancaster to finish 18-7.
Watterson managed only three hits, including two by Avery Janning, off of Bulldogs pitcher Sam Bordner.
Boys lacrosse team ousted by Stallions
The fourth-seeded boys lacrosse team lost to top-seeded DeSales 7-6 in a Division II Central/Northwest Region semifinal May 28 to finish 9-8.
The Eagles defeated fifth-seeded Granville 8-4 in the first round May 23, behind three goals by midfielder Pat Pirrmann and two by attacker Hunter Spencer.