The Upper Arlington High School boys water polo team rolled to its first state championship since 2009 and seventh overall.
The Golden Bears weren't threatened much during the state tournament last weekend at Mason, defeating Thomas Worthington 18-8 in a semifinal Oct. 26 before topping Cincinnati Sycamore 17-2 in the final Oct. 27.
UA's other state titles came in 2004, 2000, 1994, 1993 and 1992.
"This feels pretty good," said coach Jim Roberts, whose team finished third at state last year and in 2010. "The last two years, we've lost to the eventual champion (St. Charles) in the semifinals (14-13 in 2011 and 10-8 in 2010). We had eight seniors back this year who had significant playing time both years. This time we got on a roll and peaked at the right time."
Junior Thomas Trace led the Bears with eight goals against Thomas Worthington and six goals against Sycamore, which UA had defeated five times this season, including 12-2 in the South Regional championship Oct. 20.
Sycamore mustered just three shots on goal in the final, thanks in part to the defense of senior captains Max Jelen, John Leanza and Joey Long and goalkeeper Nick Sievert. UA led 16-0 after three quarters.
"Joey has an intensity defensively I've never seen before," Roberts said. "I'm not sure anyone can stop him."
The Bears finished 25-4 overall and were 12-0 in the South Region.
"I just saw there was a calm nature (and) never any pressure when they could have been rattled in close games," Roberts said. "It was a stoic calmness, and there were several times I saw that for entire games."
UA will lose eight seniors in Jelen, Leanza, Long, Sievert, Geoff Dickhaut, Miles Grilliot, Ian Reardon and Danny Sullivan. Expected returnees include Trace, juniors Ryan Baas, Travis Martin and Zach Newcome and sophomores Austin Gorski, Corey Miles and Ian Watson.
Girls team wins third title in a row
The girls team earned its third consecutive state championship last weekend at Mason, defeating Napoleon 15-5 in a state semifinal Oct. 26 and beating Sycamore 6-3 in the state final Oct. 27 to win the program's fourth title in five years and 13th overall.
"It's never old hat," said coach Dan Peterkoski, whose team finished 26-3 overall and 9-1 in the South Region. "It's always a challenge, and it's always special to help a new group of girls develop the skills necessary to maintain playing at the level we do."
Senior Betsy Trace scored five goals against Napoleon before an unexpected defensive struggle in the final. UA went 4-1 against Sycamore during the regular season, including a 14-1 win in the South Region final Oct. 20.
"We had a lot of opportunities (against Sycamore that) we didn't take advantage of and we had some good shots that didn't go in," Peterkoski said. "Sometimes that happens when you see a team often, and usually it benefits the team that's trying to overcome (previous defeats). They were ready and we were, too."
The Bears will lose three seniors in Trace, Emily Annen and Sarah Mamo. All three were starters along with juniors Jenny Smith, Shea Stiebler and Elizabeth Weldon and sophomore Grace Long. Stiebler was the goalie.
Expected returnees include juniors Julie Dierker, Mara Egeler, Jamie Krupp, Rachel Webber and Meghan Wilson, sophomores Alexandra Hedden, Emma Lammers and Grace Van Fossen and freshmen Sarah Dilz, Emma Griffith, Chloe Magyari and Erin Sheehan.
"This team achieved at a high rate for being so junior-dominated," Peterkoski said. "Most of these girls were on our junior varsity team last year. They played hard and well."