The Thomas Worthington High School field hockey team found itself in familiar territory when it played Watterson on Oct. 27 at Dublin Jerome.
It was the Cardinals' eighth consecutive appearance in a district final, including their fifth matchup against the Eagles.
Throw in the fact that Thomas coach Terri Simonetti Frost calls Watterson coach Janet Baird her "best friend," and emotions always run high when the teams match up late in the postseason.
The defending state champion Cardinals needed overtime to beat Watterson 1-0 each of the past two seasons and they also beat the Eagles 1-0 in 2008, but Watterson got the better of them this time, winning 1-0.
The Eagles, who also beat Thomas 1-0 in a district final in 2006, advanced to play Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown in a state semifinal Friday, Nov. 2, at Upper Arlington. The other semifinal features Columbus Academy and Cincinnati Ursuline, with the state final being played Saturday, Nov. 3, at UA.
"It was a tough game, hard fought, and Watterson was the better team that day," said Simonetti Frost, whose team defeated Hathaway Brown 1-0 in overtime in the state final last year. "Unfortunately, we did not execute on our corners and had our opportunities to put the ball in the cage and didn't.
"I knew that Watterson would come out fast and aggressive because we had knocked them out the past two years. I knew we needed to play our 'A' game both offensively and defensively or we would not be victorious."
Thomas finished 13-2-3 overall. Seeded third, the Cardinals began the postseason with an 11-0 win over Olentangy Orange on Oct. 17 and defeated fifth-seeded Bexley 3-0 on Oct. 24 before falling to second-seeded Watterson.
After winning nine of their first 10 games, the Cardinals lost to Granville 1-0 on Sept. 27. They then lost to Watterson 1-0 on Oct. 3 and went 1-2-2 in their final five games of the regular season.
Thomas finished fourth in the 18-team Central Ohio Field Hockey League at 7-2-2, behind Academy (10-0-1), Watterson (10-1) and Olentangy Liberty (8-3).
Senior forward Katie Holman was the Cardinals' leading scorer with 12 goals and eight assists and sophomore forward Christina Mertz had seven goals and six assists. Senior defender Anna Schomaker led in defensive interceptions with 133, as the Cardinals allowed just 59 shots and 57 corners.
Thomas loses fives seniors in Holman, Schomaker, Tonycia Melfe (forward), Veronica Nunez (midfielder) and Sophie Tikson (midfielder).
Among the players expected to return are Mertz and juniors Devan Chakroff (forward), Nina Devine (midfielder), Maddie Goelz (forward), Olivia Smith (midfielder/defender) and Ellen Westfall (goalkeeper).
Over the last four seasons, Thomas has a 66-9-5 record, with only two home losses.
"I'm proud of my girls for fighting throughout the entire season, especially with all the injuries we (sustained)," Simonetti Frost said. "I commend the players who stepped up and played when I needed them to play. I'm sad for the seniors who will be leaving next year and won't play for Thomas Worthington or me again. They're a great group of ladies who had a phenomenal run the past four years."
Kilbourne doubles last year's win total
Kilbourne took another step forward this season under fourth-year coach Michele Hazzard.
After going 0-16-1 in 2010, the Wolves improved to 3-14 overall and 2-9 in the COFHL last season and made a marked improvement this fall, finishing 7-9-1 overall and 6-5 in the league to place eighth.
Seeded 10th, Kilbourne lost to eighth-seeded Dublin Jerome 1-0 in its district tournament opener Oct. 16.
"We made great strides this year," Hazzard said. "I believe we made them throughout the season. We were in a lot of games. Once we started watching film on our games, that had a big impact on us playing harder. I think they came to the realization that if they played hard they could win more games. Now we're in that middle spot where we're learning how to do what we need to do. Hopefully, we can move up to the next tier next year."
The Wolves lose nine seniors, including Emily Cantrell (midfielder), Molly Fish (midfielder/defender), Allie Riebel (defender) and Shelby Taylor (forward), each of whom was a key player the last four seasons. Senior Abi Hubacher (defender) was a key player the last three seasons.
Expected to be among the key returnees are juniors Addy Boyles (defender), Gabrielle Dendinger (midfielder), Lauren Hedges (midfielder) and Kate Thompson (goalie) and sophomore Amy Kruzan (forward).
Also eligible to return are juniors Cassie Frontz (midfielder/forward), Katie McAllister (midfielder/defender) and Lindsey Whittemore (forward) and freshmen Abby Piecenski (midfielder) and Leah Wesner (forward).
"Lauren Hedges has been a leader and helps us to have a very strong midfield," Hazzard said. "I look for her to step into a greater role next year."