Since making its first state appearance in 2000, the Worthington Christian High School boys soccer team has advanced to that level in all but two seasons, including the last eight.
Winning its latest Division III regional championship, however, wasn't something that came with ease, according to senior Sam Condon.
For Condon, a forward who recently named the district Player of the Year, this year's tournament run was about building team chemistry.
"I think we have a lot of different characters, so at the beginning of the season we had to put some personalities together," he said. "We've been able to put it all together. This is my fourth time at state, so I did it for all of my high school years."
The Warriors were 15-3-2 before playing Cincinnati Summit Country Day in a state semifinal Nov. 6 at Bellbrook, with the winner facing Gates Mills Hawken or Mansfield Christian in the state final at noon Saturday, Nov. 9, at Crew Stadium.
Entering the state tournament, Hawken had a 13-7-1 record, Mansfield Christian was 20-1 and Summit Country Day was 15-2-4.
Worthington Christian, which won state titles in 2006, '09 and '11, lost to Summit Country Day 3-0 in a state semifinal last season but tied the Silver Knights at 2 on Aug. 24.
The Warriors defeated Hawken 2-0 in the 2011 state final and Summit Country Day beat Hawken 2-0 in last year's title game.
Worthington Christian advanced to state by beating Berlin Hiland 2-0 in a regional final Nov. 2 at Zanesville, as Condon scored both goals and junior goalkeeper Jake Kress made four saves.
Coach Dan Roads was impressed with the performance of his defensive corps, which consists of seniors Mark Parsell, Jay Trainer and Isaac Sayre and junior Ryan Dickinson, against Hiland, which finished 14-4-3.
"We controlled the center of the field better than we have the last couple games," Roads said. "We've got three seniors in the back and one junior, and those guys stepped up."
The Warriors defeated Columbus Academy 3-1 in a regional semifinal Oct. 30 at Dublin Jerome, avenging a 2-0 loss to the Vikings on Sept. 28 and giving Roads his 100th career victory.
Senior midfielder Mason Highman scored on a free kick with 15 minutes, 13 seconds left to give Worthington Christian a 2-1 lead and Condon scored on a free kick with 4:36 to go to seal the win.
Junior forward J.J. Phillips, who assisted on Condon's first goal in the regional final, scored the Warriors' first goal in the regional semifinal.
"It was really big for our team putting in a goal after a long, long drought," said Phillips, whose goal against Academy came with 20:59 left. "We knew we could win the game. We put a couple more people in the back to defend. To do it with this group of guys is amazing."
"We've been practicing tirelessly on free kicks," Highman said. "We had a great game plan coming in."
Volleyball team finished strong
The girls volleyball team lost its first four matches, including two in five games, but won seven of its next eight matches and went on to finish third in the MSL-Ohio Division in its inaugural season in the league.
Seeded third, Worthington Christian reached a Division IV district final before losing to second-seeded Shekinah Christian 25-10, 25-17, 16-25, 25-16 on Oct. 26 at Big Walnut to finish 17-9 overall.
"We lost our first four (matches), but they were all good losses," coach Matt Liston said. "We had two good win streaks and we watched ourselves just get better and better."
Worthington Christian finished 9-5 in the MSL-Ohio, behind West Jefferson (14-0) and London (11-3) and ahead of Columbus Academy (8-6), Bexley (6-8), Grandview (5-9), Madison Plains (3-11) and Whitehall (0-14).
The Warriors beat 17th-seeded Grove City Christian 25-5, 25-17, 25-11 in the first round of the district tournament Oct. 15, 18th-seeded Morral Ridgedale 25-21, 25-12, 25-22 in the second round Oct. 17 and sixth-seeded Harvest Prep 21-25, 27-25, 25-21, 25-12 in a semifinal Oct. 24 before falling to Shekinah Christian.
Worthington Christian loses six seniors, including setter Ali Spayde (first-team all-district and all-league), right-side hitter Janelle Wilcox (second-team all-district and all-league) and outside hitter Maggie Cunningham.
Among those expected to return are junior outside hitter Lauren Osborn and freshmen Hannah Cook (middle hitter), Sarah Foor (outside hitter), Grace Fraker (libero/back row specialist) and Emma Rider (middle hitter).
Rider was honorable mention all-district and all-league.
"We had a really solid freshman class," Liston said. "All four of them just did a phenomenal job this year."