Stretches such as the one it endured over the past few weeks have been rare in recent years for the Thomas Worthington High School field hockey team.

Stretches such as the one it endured over the past few weeks have been rare in recent years for the Thomas Worthington High School field hockey team.

After beating Shaker Heights 3-1 and Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown 2-1 on Sept. 22 and defeating Dublin Coffman 4-1 two days later, the Cardinals went 0-2-1 over their next three games before beating Hudson 4-3 on Oct. 6 and playing Columbus Academy on Oct. 9.

With her team coming off a state runner-up finish in 2010 and a state championship a year ago, coach Terri Simonetti Frost still believes the talent is in place for Thomas to put things together for the postseason.

The Cardinals lost to Granville 1-0 on Sept. 27, tied Bexley at 2 on Oct. 1 and fell to Watterson 1-0 on Oct. 3.

"I thought we were going to have a letdown after playing Shaker Heights and Hathaway Brown because we played so well that weekend," Simonetti Frost said. "Granville had one shot in the cage and we got outhustled and weren't aggressive enough. They wanted it more than we did.

"As a unit we're plugging away and trying to just get better as a group. I truly believe the only team that is going to beat us is ourselves."

Thomas opens the district tournament by playing host to Olentangy Orange on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

Defense has been a strong suit again this season for the Cardinals despite some of the team's recent struggles.

After giving up just seven goals in 2010, Thomas allowed 55 shots on goal during a 20-0-1 season last fall.

Through 12 games this season, the Cardinals had given up 40 shots on goal. Seniors Tonycia Melfe and Anna Schomaker and junior Olivia Smith have led the defense.

Junior midfielder Nina Devine missed the season's first month with an injury but returned for the games against Shaker Heights and Hathaway Brown.

Senior attacker Katie Holman and senior midfielder Sophia Tikson have been other key players.

Thomas had eight penalty corners compared to just two for Watterson in their matchup.

"(Watterson is) very strong this year and we just broke down in the last half," said Tikson, who has verbally committed to Appalachian State. "Our defense is phenomenal this year and our offense and midfield play is getting there. If we didn't have our defense, we'd probably be struggling more than we have been.

"We're going to have to work on our corners and our shooting on goal because you can't win a game if you can't score. If the team comes together, we have a chance again to go far, but we need to put the pieces together."

Wins coming more regularly for Wolves

After going 0-16-1 in 2010 and 3-14 a year ago, Kilbourne was 6-8-1 before closing the regular season Oct. 10 against Coffman.

The biggest difference from the past two seasons and this one, according to coach Michele Hazzard, is the Wolves' improved offense.

The Wolves' 1-0 victory over New Albany on Oct. 4 gave them three wins in five games.

"I've been very happy with their efforts this year," said Hazzard, whose team opens district tournament play Tuesday, Oct. 16, at Dublin Jerome.

"They've played really hard every game and we're scoring in more games than last year. We've really been in every game. Last year in real close games we wouldn't be able to make anything happen."

The Wolves have nine seniors, including six who have been key players since they were freshmen in Emily Cantrell, Valerie Erlenbusch, Molly Fish, Abi Hubacher, Allie Riebel and Shelby Taylor.

Hubacher, Riebel and junior Addy Boyles have comprised a defensive unit the Wolves have leaned on.

Sophomore forward Amy Kruzan and junior midfielder Lauren Hedges each had three goals before Oct. 8.

Junior Cassie Frontz scored the only goal in the victory over New Albany.

"A lot of the girls started working on their stick work in the offseason and our stick work is definitely better," Hazzard said.

"We've also gotten a little better on defense. We've instituted a new conditioning program that has helped.

"We call Allie, Abi and Addy the three musketeers back on defense. They're really strong back there, with Allie strong in the middle. They've perfected their spots."