As first-year Thomas Worthington High School girls water polo coach Lauren Wallace glanced across the pool during her team's first home game Aug. 28 at Worthington Pool, she saw a familiar face.

As first-year Thomas Worthington High School girls water polo coach Lauren Wallace glanced across the pool during her team's first home game Aug. 28 at Worthington Pool, she saw a familiar face.

The Cardinals were playing defending state champion Upper Arlington, which is coached by Dan Peterkoski. Wallace, 23, is a 2008 UA graduate who competed on the water polo and swimming and diving teams under Peterkoski.

"It's kind of intimidating looking across the pool and seeing him," Wallace said. "He's a great coach. Sometimes you get sucked back into it. Why am I not on the bench? Why am I across the pool on the Worthington team? Being at Worthington is a whole new thing, too."

During Wallace's senior season in 2007, the Golden Bears lost to Worthington Kilbourne 11-10 in double overtime in the state final.

"I'm excited," Peterkoski said of Wallace's new position. "Now we have some younger kids coming in and taking over. As coaches like myself start to get a little more seasoned, we need some of the young blood to come back and keep the programs running. …We talked a little bit. I told her the door is always open. I'll help her anyway I can."

Wallace, who also coaches the Kilbourne girls team, graduated from Miami University in 2012 after competing for four seasons on the RedHawks swimming and diving team. She was an assistant coach for the Mason girls water polo team last season and was hired during the offseason to replace Kimi Segarra, who had coached the Cardinals and Wolves the past five seasons.

Thomas lost to UA 11-5 and is 3-5 heading into the Milford Invitational on Friday, Sept. 6, and Saturday, Sept. 7.

Against the Bears, senior Abby Shell had four goals, sophomore Olivia Love scored one and junior goalkeeper Melissa Matthews had 12 saves.

Last season, Shell led the Cardinals with 71 goals in 31 games and was named to the North Region all-tournament team.

Other returnees are seniors Cassandra Laios and Elizabeth Schonhiutt, juniors Aidan Hartsell, Myah McClure and Abby Wiet and sophomore Courtney Russell.

Also on the team are juniors Erin Lavender and Devon Zurovchak, sophomores Emily Boll, Rina Laios, Dana Revis-Nixon and Malesha Sabir and freshmen Ashley Boylan, Abby Hartsell and Elena Kay Herren.

The Cardinals went 3-1 in the Napoleon Invitational on Aug. 16 and 17 and went 0-3 in the UA Invitational on Aug. 23 and 24.

"I like what I see so far," Wallace said. "They're doing a really good job with conditioning and we're definitely at that kind of stage of getting back to shape from the summer. The girls are working really hard."

Last season, Thomas lost to Cincinnati Sycamore 6-4 in a state semifinal before losing to Napoleon 11-8 in the consolation game to finish 19-12. UA won its third consecutive state title last year, beating Sycamore 6-3 in the final.

Six teams will qualify for the state tournament this season, with three teams advancing from both the North and South regions. Previously, two teams from each region qualified.

Kilbourne girls looking to improve

The Kilbourne girls team returns seven players from a year ago when it finished 8-20 in senior Lindsay Fisher, juniors Emily Bowen (goalie), Adele Buchbinder and Courtney Fisher and sophomores Amelia Johnson, Jamie Stegmayer and Katie Wood.

Courtney Fisher made the all-North Region tournament team last year.

Rounding out the team are junior Marlee Pavlechko, sophomore Emma Catalogna and freshmen Madeline Case, Martina Cuneo, Ellie Darby and Betsey Fisher.

Kilbourne is 3-4 heading into the Milford Invitational. The Wolves went 1-3 in the Napoleon Invitational and 2-1 at the UA Invitational.

"We have five first-year players out of (13) and a lot of the starters are sophomores, so (Kilbourne is) a very young team," Wallace said. "They have development to do, but the fact that they're a young team is a good thing because they're learning really quick and, being in pressure situations, they're being relied on at a young age. When they get to their junior and senior years, they're going to be a team to watch."

Thomas boys beat defending champs

The Thomas boys team is 7-2 heading into the Ohio Cup on Saturday, Sept. 7, and Sunday, Sept. 8, at Worthington Pool.

The Cardinals defeated defending state champion UA 10-8 on Aug. 28, as senior Corey Lawell had four goals, senior Michael Wolf and junior Brady Roesch each scored two and junior Tommy Kessler scored one.

"It's nice to beat Upper Arlington at their place," coach John Wolf said. "It's an excellent start to the season for the boys. It gets them going well, but we still have a lot of work to do."

Also on the team are seniors Matt Jones, James Miller and Matthew Reed, juniors Brendon Armitage (goalie), Tyler Girard, Luke Porteus and Thomas Stimpert and Grant Smith (goalie), sophomores Ian Banks, Aaron Brown, Will Ford, Corey Hannigan, Cameron Harper and Stuart Mueller and freshmen Daniel Maxwell and Reid Wollett.

The Cardinals went 4-0 in the Napoleon Invitational and went 2-2 in the Ann Arbor (Mich.) Early Bird Invitational on Aug. 23 and 24.

"Unfortunately, it all comes down to what happens in October and (what team is) on then," coach Wolf said. "We've started off strong like this before and ended up in the second, third, fourth slots at the end of the season. While we put some stock into what's going on right now and where we sit, it can change in a heartbeat. It is high school sports."

Last season, the Cardinals finished fourth in the state tournament, losing to UA 18-8 in a semifinal and falling to Toledo St. Francis 10-9 in the consolation game to finish 29-9-1.

"I'm very optimistic for this team," coach Wolf said. "I sincerely believe that the state title is up for grabs. Anybody can take it. We hope we can slide Thomas and Kilbourne into the state tournament."

Kilbourne boys seem to be 'on track'

The Kilbourne boys team was 3-5 before competing against St. Charles on Sept. 4.

The Wolves, who finished 4-27-1 last season, went 2-2 in the Napoleon Invitational and 1-3 in the Early Bird Invitational.

The roster is comprised of seniors Dillon Castelli, Jonathan Haddad, Riku Kaida, Mason Schaaf and Ben Wallin, juniors Nick Catanzarite (goalie), Grayton Giesman and Michael Mousou and sophomore Andrew Cook, Chase Fickell, Connor Jordan, Gerik Melvin (goalie) and Gilberto Soto and freshmen Henry O'Harra and Mike Weirick.

"Kilbourne has come a very long way," coach Wolf said. "They have some strong kids. They are playing really well, but they have some work to do. They seem to be on track and moving in the right direction."