When she reminisced about what helped her team reach the state final for the fifth time, Thomas Worthington High School field hockey coach Terri Simonetti Frost thought about how far the Cardinals had come throughout the season.
Then she remembered what occurred even before that.
"Since August, or actually even since June, this team has just been a team that when it plays together, they've been unstoppable," Simonetti Frost said. "They just feed off one another."
For all but one game, no opponent had a complete answer regarding how to stop the Cardinals.
On Nov. 2 at Upper Arlington, Thomas created the majority of the opportunities throughout the second half and into overtime but ended up on the short end of a 1-0 loss to Columbus Academy, which won its second consecutive state title.
The Cardinals finished 19-1-1, which included a 1-all tie with Academy on Sept. 19 and a 3-1 victory over the Vikings on Oct. 12.
Thomas was the top seed for the district tournament and Academy was second.
"I'm proud of our team," senior attacker Maddie Goelz said. "We're a family, we love each other and we worked so hard to get here. Unfortunately (the state title) didn't happen."
With 3 minutes, 33 seconds left in regulation, an offense that came in averaging 4.8 goals finally appeared to deliver.
Junior attacker Christina Mertz took a penalty corner and passed it to Goelz. She then fired it back toward Mertz and the ball went through the defense and into the goal.
The ball appeared to glance off Mertz's stick and was ruled a goal by one official. Another official overruled the call, however, and said the ball didn't hit Mertz's stick and had been fired outside the circle by Goelz.
Academy's Brie Stahl scored with 4:40 left in overtime to give her team its 10th state title and a final record of 18-2-1.
Thomas has made seven appearances in the state tournament in Simonetti Frost's 15 seasons, including a 1-0 loss to Cincinnati St. Ursula Academy in the 2010 state final and beating Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown 1-0 in overtime for the 2011 title.
"It was a great season and this was a great team," Simonetti Frost said. "My seniors have been to state three out of their four years."
The Cardinals went 7-0 to win the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-West Division ahead of Olentangy Liberty (5-1-1), Dublin Coffman (5-2), UA (4-2-1), Dublin Jerome (3-4), Olentangy (2-5), Olentangy Orange (1-6) and Dublin Scioto (0-7).
Thomas beat 17th-seeded Scioto 12-1 on Oct. 15, 12th-seeded Granville 9-0 on Oct. 22 and fourth-seeded Liberty 4-2 on Oct. 26 to win a district title.
On Nov. 1 at UA, the Cardinals defeated Shaker Heights 2-1 in a state semifinal as sophomore midfielders Hana Sinno and Taylor Insley scored.
Leading the senior class were Devan Chakroff (attacker), Nina Devine (midfielder), Olivia Smith (defender) and Goelz.
Other key players eligible to return include juniors Ellen Westfall (goalkeeper) and Christina Mertz (attacker) and sophomore Ellie Potts (attacker).
"We're all such good friends, and it's exciting to play with your best friends on the field," Smith said.
Kilbourne takes another step forward
Led by three seniors who had been key players since they were freshmen, Kilbourne continued moving forward this fall.
The Wolves, who went 0-16-1 in 2010 but improved to 3-14 in 2011 and 7-9-1 a year ago, finished 8-8-1 and won their first district game since 2008.
"I was real happy about (the tournament win)," coach Michele Hazzard said. "I thought we did much better this year and were more competitive. I appreciated our girls' efforts."
Senior goalie Kate Thompson recorded 35 saves Oct. 22 in a 5-0 loss to Academy in a district semifinal. The ninth-seeded Wolves opened the tournament by edging 10th-seeded Hartley 1-0 on Oct. 16.
Seniors Addy Boyles (defender), Lauren Hedges (midfielder) and Thompson were key contributors for four seasons.
Sophomores Brittany Ayers (attacker), Amy Kruzan (attacker), Abby Piecenski (midfielder) and Leah Wesner (attacker) and freshman Carolyn Haase (midfielder) are among those eligible to return.
The Wolves finished fourth (4-4) in the COFHL-East behind Academy (8-0), Bexley (7-1) and Watterson (6-2) and ahead of Hartley (3-4-1), New Albany (3-5), CSG (2-5-1), Granville (2-6) and Lancaster (0-8).
"We had a lot of sophomores on the team who played a lot," Hazzard said. "Amy Kruzan, Brittany Ayers, Leah Wesner and Abby Piecenski all are going to come back. They improved greatly from their freshman to sophomore years."