A year after the boys and girls water polo teams at Worthington Kilbourne High School were both able to earn state titles, the two teams from Thomas Worthington both came up a game short of reaching the state final.

A year after the boys and girls water polo teams at Worthington Kilbourne High School were both able to earn state titles, the two teams from Thomas Worthington both came up a game short of reaching the state final.

At the state tournament last Friday and last Saturday at Mason, the Thomas girls went 1-1 to take third place and the boys dropped two close games and had to settle for fourth.

The girls had designs on a state title and held a three-goal lead in the third quarter of their opening game against Cincinnati Sycamore last Friday, but the tide turned quickly once Lauren Porteus and Becca Hammond were disqualified after they each picked up a third major foul. Sycamore went on to win 8-7 in triple overtime.

"It was an incredible game, but pretty much we missed out on the final because we lost those two players," coach Kimi Segarra said. "That was a big hit for the team, when we lost two of our strongest players."

The Cardinals went on to beat Napoleon 12-11 in the consolation last Saturday.

Thomas finished 19-7-2, and Segarra expects the team will be better in 2009. The Cardinals lose three seniors, including their two starting goalies, Miranda Scholl and Olivia Noble, as well as Grace Shell.

Porteus and Hammond, both three-year varsity players, are expected to lead next year's team, along with freshman Katie Allison.

The Cardinals also expect to return sophomores Amanda Hitzemann, Stacy Carson, Sadie Zufall and freshmen Annie Blackman, Ashley Parks and Claudia Smith.

Boys coach John Wolf said his team had higher expectations after winning the North regional tournament Oct. 18, but he couldn't fault the effort of the players.

"It is a disappointment for us, especially for the two seniors that were on the team, but that's just the way it played out," Wolf said. "It's high school sports."

The Cardinals lost their opener to Upper Arlington 11-9 last Friday and fell to Toledo St. Francis 16-13 in the consolation round last Saturday. Against UA, which ended up second, the Cardinals rallied from an early deficit to tighten the game up by the fourth quarter, but the Bears put the game away late.

In the consolation, the Cardinals ran up against a particularly motivated St. Francis team.

"They were loaded for bear," Wolf said. "They wanted to beat us after we beat them in the regional championship. They played well, they played hard, they played really good defense and they worked well and got the shots when they needed them on offense."

The Cardinals, who finished 21-13, will lose only two seniors, but Ford Hannum and Dean Zettler were two-year starters and played key roles in the Cardinals' success this fall.

Next season, Thomas should have a good shot at winning a state title for the first time since earning two in a row in 2002 and 2003. The Cardinals expect to return most of the team, including junior two-year starters Walid Choueiki and Trevor Johnson.

Sophomore Salim Choueiki is expected to return as the starting goalie, and the Cardinals also expect to return sophomores Sam Reeder, Phil Mueller and junior Kyle Blocher, all two-year varsity players.

Also on the roster were juniors Alex Eaton and Karam Sheban, sophomores Joey Banks, Brennan Kline, Trevor Marburger and Caleb Williams and freshmen George Doyle and Adam Wolf.

•The Kilbourne boys and girls teams wound up missing the state tournament, but Segarra and Wolf are confident both young teams will be set for better seasons next fall.

The Kilbourne girls had only one player, senior Kylee Grody, with significant experience, and the majority of the team was new to the sport entirely.

Kilbourne finished 7-19 and missed the state tournament for the first time since 2002, but Segarra believes that over the next two seasons, the Wolves should expect to return to a role as a state contender.

"The last two games they played in the regional were incredibly good," Segarra said. "Next year, they're going to be much better because we're going to coach up the new players. If they can improve the swimming, that will be a big thing."

In addition to Grody, the Wolves will lose senior Paulene Lochtefeld, who started at the holeman position.

Among the expected returnees are juniors Anna Ray and Katlin Elkins (goalie), sophomores Erin Cipicchio, Jazmin Soto and Alexis Williams and freshmen McKenna Grody, Autumn Snellgrove, Sarah Lucco and Rosalyn Chen.

The boys team also was young, with only four players returning from last year.

Wolf said he had no complaints about the way Kilbourne played, considering its lack of experience.

"These boys did better than anyone expected them to do," Wolf said. "They were in the running the whole way to get (to the state)."

The team was led by its three seniors, Ethan Rau, Adam Morrisey and Adam Gunter, all of whom played a significant role on the 2007 state championship team.

The Wolves expect to return junior Evan Alexander, the only other player with two years of varsity experience, as well juniors Price Norman, Colin Remick and Tyler Wallin, sophomores Conner Smith, Jacob Wood and Alex Wylly and freshmen Keeler Callahan and Jared Grubaugh.