With its ultimate goal out of reach, Upper Arlington High School girls water polo coach Dan Peterkoski took the reins off his team on the final day of the state tournament Oct. 26 at Mason.
After an 11-10 loss to Cincinnati Sycamore in a semifinal Oct. 25 ended their chance to win their fourth consecutive state championship, the Golden Bears put an exclamation point on their season by routing Napoleon 21-7 in the third-place game.
"Traditionally, I don't allow our scores to get up in that range," Peterkoski said. "But (after the loss to Sycamore), I looked at our eight seniors and made the decision to let them play all out. I couldn't take the ball out of their hands when this was the last time some of them might ever play water polo."
UA, which has won 14 state championships, finished 28-2. The loss to Sycamore was the Bears' only setback against an Ohio team. Their other loss came against West Lawn (Pa.) Wilson, 12-6 on Sept. 21 in the Beast of the East Invitational in Reading, Pa.
"It was tough for the girls. There was some disappointment and heartbreak," Peterkoski said. "But it's our job as coaches and adults to help them proceed through that and make the best out of the situation."
Mason defeated Sycamore 11-7 in the state final.
UA loses eight seniors in Julie Dierker, Mara Egeler, Jamie Krupp, Jenny Smith, Betsy Trace, Rachel Webber, Elizabeth Weldon and Meghan Wilson. Expected returnees who played key roles include juniors Gracie Long and Grace Van Fossen and sophomores Emma Griffith and Erin Sheehan.
According to Peterkoski, all-state honors have yet to be determined.
"We constantly tested ourselves. We played the best teams in Ohio all year," Peterkoski said. "We were balanced. If we were running on all cylinders, we felt like we could be the best team in the state again. Everyone was able to contribute."
Boys team settles for fifth at state
The boys team also fell short of defending its state championship, losing to St. Charles 16-11 in the first round Oct. 25 before defeating Mason 18-4 in the fifth-place game Oct. 26 to finish 16-11.
"That first game, we came up a little bit short. Our defense let us down in a few situations," coach Mike de Bear said. "We got caught chasing the game rather than dictating what we wanted to do. Even though we came up short, we told our guys that was a character game and we could judge ourselves on how we'd respond."
Senior Thomas Trace had six goals against Mason and senior Zach Newcome scored three. Senior Ryan Baas and junior Ian Watson both added two goals and freshman goalkeeper Alex Rabe had eight saves.
Trace, who was named to the all-state tournament team, finished the season with 100 goals and 32 assists and is second on UA's all-time scoring list with 255 goals.
"(Trace) was the focal point of our offense last year and this," de Bear said. "He had a different role last year, but still he was a force then and he's been a force this year. He was the guy other teams had to plan for. Next year, we'll have to find that guy."
Watson finished the season with 61 goals and 28 assists and Newcome had 27 goals and 28 assists.
UA loses three seniors in Baas, Newcome and Trace.
St. Charles won its third state title in four years, defeating Cincinnati St. Xavier 17-13 in the state final to reclaim the championship from UA.