With five of his 15 players competing at the varsity level for the first time, Wellington School girls soccer coach Steven Reymann appreciates what senior goalkeeper Gabriella Smith brings to the team.
In games in which the opponent has dominated ball possession and tested the Jaguars' defense for long periods of time, Smith has made a number of difficult saves to keep her team competitive.
Last week, she had 17 saves in a 2-0 loss to Grandview on Sept. 10 and eight saves in a 4-2 loss to Central Crossing on Sept. 12.
"Gab's leadership in the back has been outstanding," said Reymann, whose team was 1-5 before playing London on Sept. 17. "She does an excellent job of being in the right place to make saves and she's a vocal leader who helps our defenders get into the right formation when they are out of position.
"Gab has kept us in games when our defense has been seriously challenged, and some of the goals she had let in were on shots that no goalie could've stopped anyway."
Smith enjoys the challenge of trying to fend off multiple shots per game and is serving as a mentor to her backup, freshman Cassie Robbins, who figures to be the Jaguars' starting goalie next year.
"I've been a goalie since I started playing in kindergarten and I love the pressure of being the last line of defense," Smith said. "My sophomore and junior years were rebuilding seasons and we've started rough this season, but we're having a lot of fun and we hope we can still reach our team goal of winning at least half our games.
"I'm doing my best to give us a chance to win, and I'm trying to train (Robbins) so she can lead the team to an even better season next year."
Unlike many high school soccer players, Smith isn't chasing a college scholarship in the sport.
Smith dreams about becoming one of the top chefs in the country and has been accepted to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., which according to its website was referred to as the "Harvard" of cooking schools by the late Julia Child.
"I love soccer and I'm going to miss it when I'm done playing, but I'm more passionate about making food than anything else," Smith said. "I've always baked for my family and friends since I was little."
Smith began helping her mother in the kitchen as a young child and became so good at baking that she started her own out-of-home bakery business, Four Leaf Bakery, at age 15. Her business offers cakes, cupcakes and cookies for weddings, bridal showers and baby showers.
Smith became a cook at Rotolo's Italian Pizzeria in Worthington in 2011 before being hired as a line cook at Cameron's American Bistro in Worthington in 2012. Last spring, she was hired as a cook at M, another Cameron Mitchell restaurant located in downtown Columbus.
"I've come up with a plan for my career," she said. "I want to be a chef by the time I'm 25, to be an executive chef by the age of 30 and I want to own my own restaurant by the time I'm 35."
In addition to playing soccer and working three nights a week, Smith serves as senior class president and is a member of the school's robotics club.
"I definitely have a very busy schedule right now," she said. "But I have a lot of fun with everything."
While a career in the food industry appears to be in her future, Smith is savoring her final season of high school soccer.
"I've been the starting goalie for our varsity team for four years and I'm having more fun as a senior than I've ever had before," she said. "The CIA only has a men's soccer team, but I may try out for it because I enjoy the game so much. Even if I can't play for my college team, I'm going to find a way to keep playing because soccer is an important part of my life."
Tennis team looking to win home tourney
The girls tennis team will play host to Hartley, Upper Arlington B and Watterson B in the Wellington Cup on Saturday, Sept. 21, with each squad playing the other three on all five courts.
The Jaguars are familiar with all three opponents, as they beat Hartley 5-0 on Sept. 12, lost to Watterson B 3-2 on Aug. 28 and played UA B on Sept. 18.
"I'm hoping we can take the Wellington Cup back home and I think we can do it if we play to our potential," coach Maria Zitelman said.
Wellington was 4-6 before playing Centennial on Sept. 17.
The Jaguars went 3-0 last week, defeating DeSales 3-2 on Sept. 9, Village Academy 5-0 in an Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division II tournament match Sept. 10 and Hartley.
Aashika Katapadi went 3-0 in those matches at first singles. Also going 3-0 were Nia Gill (second singles/third singles) and Casey Hansen (first doubles/second singles).
"It was nice to win a 3-2 match against DeSales after losing three matches by that score earlier in the season," Zitelman said.
Boys soccer team keeps winning
The boys soccer team was 6-1 before playing Ready on Sept. 17.
Wellington beat Tree of Life 6-3 on Sept. 12, marking the fourth time this season that the Jaguars have scored four or more goals.
Defender Connor Weber and midfielders Bakari Brown, Roth Dehlendorf, Elliott Fite, Teddy Knowles and Max Muir each scored a goal against the Trojans and Brown, Fite and Muir each added an assist. Alex Tannous and Ben Smith split time in goal, with each making four saves.