The Upper Arlington High School boys soccer team entered the week one win shy of matching its victory total from last season and needed only three OCC-Central Division contests to equal its number of league wins from a year ago.
While first-year coach Mic Rogers is pleased with the Golden Bears' progress thus far, he believes they can be even better.
"We've had some good results against some good teams," said Rogers, whose team was 4-3-1 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Central before playing Hilliard Davidson on Sept. 17. "There's not one particular area of the team I can put my finger on. We've played well. I just want to see us more prepared and be more focused at times."
Through eight games, senior midfielder Juan Barros had a team-high four goals and senior forward Joey Jentgen had three. Four other players had at least one goal and, with sophomore Will Collis in goal, the Bears were allowing an average of 1.4 goals.
UA recorded shutouts against Pickerington North (3-0 on Aug. 20), Central Crossing (3-0 on Sept. 10) and Worthington Kilbourne (1-0 on Sept. 12) and tied Gahanna -- ranked seventh in the Division I state poll this week and perennially one of the top teams in the state -- at 2 on Aug. 22.
Last season, the Bears didn't get their fourth win until their 13th game en route to finishing 5-8-4 overall and 2-4-1 in the OCC-Central.
"When you have a clean sheet (defensively), your chances of winning are obviously far greater," Rogers said. "We can be even better if we eliminate some simple mental mistakes. When we can move the ball and get through the midfield, I feel pretty confident with our forwards up top."
The Bears' play in the midfield has been led by Barros, seniors Seamus Moore and Will Ortquist and junior Austin Russell, and Rogers is optimistic that Collis, who has been relieved in goal by senior Sean Garrett at times, will continue to improve behind them.
"He's still young and inexperienced, but he has a lot of good tools," Rogers said of Collis. "He's still learning the nuances of the game. He's going to be a competitive keeper. He already is."
Girls golf coach seeing progress
A first-place finish in the Bexley Invitational and a second-place finish in the fourth and final round of the OCC-Ohio tournament within a span of four days has girls golf coach Kristi Ghidotti as optimistic as she's been all season.
Senior Leah Mills shot a personal-best 76 in the fourth round of the league tournament Sept. 10 at Mentel Memorial to lead UA (361), which finished behind Pickerington North (331). The Bears finished third in the final league standings at 18-10, behind North (28-0) and Thomas Worthington (20-8) and ahead of Canal Winchester (6-12), Davidson (15-13), Gahanna (11-17), Lancaster (3-25) and Hilliard Darby (1-27).
On Sept. 7, UA won the Bexley Invitational with a 360, edging runner-up Dublin Jerome (363).
"In a year where we're supposed to be rebuilding, third-place (in the OCC-Ohio) isn't bad at all," Ghidotti said. "Leah's really started to come around. She has a lot more confidence in her game and she's ready to take a shot at state as an individual. I'm really happy with how she's been approaching her game lately."
Sophomore Kelli Kahle also has turned in some solid rounds, including a 41 in a 177-215 win over Lancaster in a nine-hole dual match Sept. 11 at The Links at Groveport to earn medalist honors.
Kahle has been the Bears' No. 2 golfer of late, followed by a group including freshmen Sophia Hemleben and Ally Rardon and sophomores Ailsa Heckscher, Maddie Steward and Alex Ventresca.
Boys golf team turns in solid week
Perhaps the best week of the season for the boys golf team culminated in a second-place finish in the fourth and final round of the OCC-Central tournament.
UA carded a 304 on Sept. 16 at Turnberry to finish behind Dublin Coffman (302) and well ahead of third-place Davidson (322). Seth Brenneman shot a 70 to lead the Bears. Also competing were Justin Wick (73), Michael Watkins (79), Austin Serif (82) and Jacob Glaser (83).
UA finished second in the final OCC-Central standings at 23-5, behind Coffman (28-0) and ahead of Olentangy Liberty (19-9), Marysville (15-13), Davidson (13-15), Thomas Worthington (10-18), Central Crossing (4-24) and Westland (0-28).
The Bears' performance in the final round of the league tournament came two days after they shot a 303 to win the 12-team Findlay Invitational at Findlay Country Club, finishing six strokes ahead of runner-up and two-time defending Division I state champion Jerome (309).
Brenneman and Wick each shot a 73 to tie for second, one stroke behind the medalist, Findlay's Spencer Shoemaker.
On Sept. 9 in the Wooster Generals Invitational at Wooster Country Club, UA placed fourth (301) behind champion Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit (296).
"To be fourth out of 28 teams (at Wooster) is pretty good," coach Ron Mautz said. "At Findlay, we played well and we played smart. That course is 6,800 yards with tight fairways and small greens that are very fast. We managed the course very well."
UA is seeded fifth in the district in Division I and will compete in the sectional Oct. 1 at Granville Golf Course. Among the other 12 teams competing at the site are second-seeded Jerome and sixth-seeded St. Charles.