Winless Orange making strides
The Olentangy Orange High School field hockey team has been outscored 61-15 while going 0-11-2 overall.
But even though the Pioneers are winless through 13 games, coach Erin Otten said they continue to improve and were competitive in each of their past five games.
In those five games, Orange was outscored 10-6 and went 0-3-2.
"We haven't won yet, so it's a struggle for our girls because they want their hard work to be reflected in their win-loss record," Otten said. "I've seen a lot of improvement in our stick skills and in the way the girls play together as a team. We've just been a goal or two short of getting some wins."
The Pioneers lost to Olentangy 4-2 on Sept. 17, Dublin Scioto 2-1 on Sept. 20 and Dublin Coffman 2-1 on Sept. 27. They tied Lancaster at 2 on Sept. 25 and played Columbus School for Girls to a scoreless tie Oct. 1.
Erica Heitmeyer and Emily Karl scored and Kim Agyekum had eight saves against Olentangy. Combs scored and Agyekum had five saves against Scioto.
Olivia Kamer and Heitmeyer scored and Agyekum had seven saves against Lancaster.
Hannah Kimball scored and Cierra Beaumier had five saves against Coffman, and Agyekum had eight saves against CSG.
"Erica Heitmeyer is a strong team captain with extraordinary stick skills who has done a beautiful job connecting the team," Otten said. "Taylor Collett is another captain who is real aggressive, and she stops so many balls on post shots. And the Lower twins (Brittany and Cailey) are good forwards who have a lot of natural talent."
The Pioneers play host to Hartley on Thursday, Oct. 11, in their regular-season finale and open the district tournament Wednesday, Oct. 17, at defending state champion Thomas Worthington.
Orange did not play Thomas during the regular season.
"We beat Hartley in a scrimmage before the start of the season, so we're hoping for another win over them on Thursday," Otten said. "The most important thing is the girls need to believe in themselves more. We've played our best field hockey against the top-tier teams on our schedule, and I believe we can beat any team we play in the tournament if we work hard and catch a few breaks."
Braves searching for consistent production
Through 11 games, Olentangy was 5-2 when it had scored at least one goal but was shut out en route to losing its other four games.
"We keep a lot of girls back because we play a lot of teams that have fast offensive players," coach Chelsea Huguenard said. "We're working on getting our midfielders and forwards up the field more quickly when we have the ball because that's been a struggle for us in some games. We're getting better at making that transition, but we still need to improve."
Senior midfielder Lauren Verhage and senior attack Payton Hagerdorn have been two of Olentangy's most consistent offensive players, according to Huguenard.
Sophomore midfielder Stephanie Jefferis scored during the Braves' 2-1 loss to Hartley on Oct. 1 to break their two-game scoring drought.
"Lauren has amazing stick skills and she gives everything she has on the field," Huguenard said. "Payton's a key player in our offense who gets things going when we need a spark.
"Our defense has played really well in most games and Madison Barnes has been a real solid goalie for us. Madison stopped a penalty stroke in our win against Orange at a key moment in the game."
The Braves close the regular season Saturday, Oct. 13, by playing host to Toledo Maumee Valley Country Day and Toledo Ottawa Hills.
Olentangy opens the district tournament Wednesday, Oct. 17, at Bexley. The Braves have yet to face the Lions this season.
"We've made a lot of improvements in just about every area since the start of the season, and based on those improvements, I think we're going to put up a good fight in the rest of our games, including in the tournament," Huguenard said. "We're solid defensively, so we're concentrating on the offensive side right now. The girls are coming together and starting to click more with their passing, and if we can start scoring more goals, we'll be in good shape in the tournament."
Patriots continue strong season
Liberty went 3-0 last week, beating Upper Arlington 2-0 on Oct. 1, Worthington Kilbourne 4-0 on Oct. 2 and Bexley 5-1 on Oct. 4.
Leah Zevchik scored two goals, Morgan Dye, Karri Stadulis and Dani Bursinger each scored one goal and Madelyn Passarella had five saves against Bexley.
"Bexley was a big win because they are always a competitive game for us," coach Marianne Flannery said. "This was a big win for our seeding in the tournament, and the girls are clicking on all cylinders going into district."
Liberty opens the district tournament Oct. 18 at home against CSG. The Patriots have yet to play the Unicorns this season.
"We're an extremely different team than we were when we lost to Columbus Academy (8-0 on Aug. 27) in our season opener," Flannery said. "We had a great win against Hudson (8-1 on Sept. 15), which is historically a strong program. And our other losses were close against good teams in Thomas Worthington (1-0 in overtime on Sept. 12) and Watterson (1-0 on Sept. 19). ... I'm confident that we can compete with anyone in the district tournament."
Through 13 games, Dye (15 goals, 16 assists), Stadulis (18 goals), Bursinger (6 goals, 6 assists), Gabby Perez (8 goals, 4 assists) and Zevchik (9 goals) led Liberty's offense.
According to Flannery, Emily Flanagan, Monique Vanderhulst and Sidney Uttam have anchored the Patriots' defense.
"Our biggest strength is we're a very unified team with no big egos from even our strongest players," Flannery said. "We're really solid across the board, and we're equally as strong offensively as we are defensively."