Depth and work ethic are two reasons New Albany High School girls cross country coach Herb Gregory is optimistic that his team can repeat as OCC-Capital Division champions and qualify for the Division I regional meet for the first time since 2013.

Gregory just wants to make sure the Eagles bring the same intensity on a weekly basis.

"We knew it was coming but this summer, training-wise, was better than it's been," said Gregory, who is in his fifth season. "Workout days are usually good but the easy days, in the past, would be too easy. They figured out easy doesn't mean (doing) the 'old-man shuffle,' taking it too slow. They know it's a good pace and we need to get better on those days."

Senior Alyssa Painter returns to lead the Eagles after finishing 75th at regional last year. She began the season as New Albany's top runner, placing ninth (20 minutes, 53 seconds) in the New Albany Classic on Aug. 21 to lead the Eagles to second (91 points) of 13 teams behind Fairfield Union (52).

Also scoring were senior Catherine Ryan (14th, 21:54), junior Monica Vale (19th, 22:18), sophomore Meredith Given (24th, 22:35) and senior Taylor Given (25th, 22:41).

"Even before that, I was excited about what we can do. This is a nice group," Gregory said. "Alyssa is in front and then we have a group of 10 or 11 girls that give us as much depth as we've had.

"There is a lot of competition for those varsity spots at the end of the year. Let's make sure to compete throughout the year."

Other runners vying for top spots include seniors Simmi Diwanji, Kate Golian and Loren Klein, juniors Alyssa Kneedler, Lindsey Neff and Maya Patel and sophomore Emily Flaherty.

New Albany scored 40 points in last year's league meet to edge runner-up Canal Winchester (47), then placed ninth at district to fall short of a regional berth.

The boys team also has seen competition for varsity spots early this season, although most of its runners are younger.

Kane Breuer, the only senior among the top 10 to start the season, finished fifth (17:50) in the New Albany Classic to lead the Eagles to 81 points and second place of 14 teams behind Bexley (62).

A slew of freshmen are expected to contribute, including Aditya Akula, Dylan McDevitt, Ethan McNichols, Victor Orsinelli, Parker Smith and Colin Swincicki. McNichols holds the New Albany Middle School program record of 10:59, set last year.

Also scoring Aug. 21 were McNichols (12th, 18:25), Orsinelli (18th, 18:43), Swincicki (20th, 18:45) and sophomore Eric Von Zastrow (26th, 18:59).

Breuer missed the cross country and track and field seasons last year with stress fractures in both of his legs.

"It's good to see him running again. He's our leader," second-year coach John Galbreath said. "The younger kids will transition well; it just takes some time. Those freshmen put the time in this summer and they will continue to get better. They will understand the approach for longer races as compared to middle school."

Other varsity runners include juniors Mitchell Briggs and Max Rycus and sophomore Pedro Faerman.

The boys finished third (68) in the league last year behind Newark (25). New Albany is seeking its first OCC-Capital championship since 2014.

"We don't have that low, low scorer yet," Galbreath said. "We have the potential to get there."

Football team
prepares for Hornets

The football team visits Licking Heights on Friday, Sept. 8, for a rematch of its first win from a year ago.

New Albany also entered the week hoping it would be in a better situation than a year ago, when the win over the Hornets was its only victory in the season's first four weeks. The Eagles were 1-0 before losing to Hilliard Bradley 42-6 on Sept. 1.

Licking Heights is 1-1 after losing to Chillicothe 28-7 on Sept. 1.

The Hornets, who went 8-3 last year and lost to Franklin Heights 40-32 in the first round of the Division II, Region 7 playoffs, opened with a 52-21 win over Westland on Aug. 25. Quarterback Jacob Righter completed 13 of 18 passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns, and six running backs combined to rush for 225 yards.

Cornerback Sharif Calhoun added a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown.

"Our schedule doesn't get any easier," New Albany coach Pat Samanich said before the Bradley game. "We just have to find a way. We have guys going both ways and we have to ... give guys breaks when we can."

The Eagles defeated the Hornets 24-23 in Week 3 last year. New Albany had a 10-point third-quarter lead whittled to one in the final two minutes left, but a blocked extra point sealed the win.

Field hockey team
has youth, new coach

The field hockey team returns three starters in juniors Sunnie Fireman (midfielder) and Caroline Ryan (defender) and sophomore Brooke Mason (midfielder) and will have a few younger players in key positions for first-year coach Marissa Weldon.

The season got off to a rough start, as New Albany did not score a goal in its first three games and was 0-3 overall before playing Upper Arlington on Sept. 6. It also was 0-1 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-East.

The Eagles have only five seniors in Sami Bell (forward), Avery Bilow (forward), Caitlyn Conley (midfielder), Mia Lacommare (forward/midfielder) and Katie Thompson (defender). They did not return either of their top two scorers in 2017 graduate Julianne Kalec and senior forward Emily Cook, both of whom scored six goals.

According to Weldon, Cook did not come out this season.

"We have had to rely on younger players and/or first-time starters to step into key positions," Weldon said. "Our team worked very hard during preseason to improve their fitness and stick skills, and both teams (varsity and junior varsity) entered the season in good shape. ...

"The team came up with three goals for this season -- (to) improve our record from last season, improve team culture and communication and give 100 percent effort in practices and games."

New Albany went 11-6 overall last year and 4-3 in the league to finish fourth behind champion Columbus Academy (7-0).

Weldon replaced Nikki Wimsatt, who resigned in June after going 31-20-2 in three seasons.

Weldon, who coached the New Albany Middle School team from 2013-15, was a member of the Kingston Wyoming Seminary team that won the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state championship in 2001 and was state runner-up the next year.

Freshman Bella Thompson has been the starting goalkeeper.

Rounding out the roster are juniors Amanda Boals (defender/midfielder), Chloe Clapham (defender), Lauren Sokol (forward), Marie Tawfik (goalie) and Katie Vatke (forward/midfielder) and sophomores Isabelle Irion (forward), Emma Peterson (defender) and Elan Watson (forward).

New Albany opened with a 3-0 loss to Worthington Kilbourne on Aug. 23, followed by losses to Olentangy Liberty (7-0 on Aug. 26) and Dublin Jerome (1-0 on Aug. 30).

Spiess continues surge
for girls golf squad

Freshman Madison Spiess' strong season has helped the girls golf team climb the OCC-Central standings.

Spiess shot a 71 in the third round of the league tournament Aug. 29 at Mentel Memorial, leading New Albany to third place (335) behind Upper Arlington (308) and Dublin Coffman (316) and ahead of Hilliard Davidson (351), Canal Winchester (372) and Marysville (375).

Also scoring for the Eagles were Morgan Pankow (74), Gwynnie Lee (86) and Abby Wilcox (104).

Spiess also shot a 69 in the second round Aug. 15 at Westchester.

The Eagles were sixth in the league after one round and tied for fourth with Davidson after two.

Entering the final round Tuesday, Sept. 12, at Royal American, New Albany is third (6-9) behind UA (15-0) and Coffman (12-3) and ahead of Canal Winchester and Davidson (both 5-10) and Marysville (2-13).

Boys golf team
remains atop league

The boys golf team closed in on its seventh consecutive OCC-Capital championship Aug. 30, shooting a 313 in the third round of the league tournament at Turnberry.

Logan Spiess shot a 77, followed by Griffin Green (78), Spencer Green (78) and Caleb Delaney (80) as New Albany finished ahead of Big Walnut (323), Canal Winchester (358) and Newark (428). Franklin Heights and Groveport did not record team scores.

The Eagles are 15-0 in the OCC-Capital entering the fourth and final round of the league tournament Wednesday, Sept. 13, at Apple Valley, ahead of Big Walnut (12-3), Canal Winchester (9-6), Newark (6-9), Groveport (2-13) and Franklin Heights (1-14).

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

CROSS COUNTRY

Aug. 21 -- New Albany Classic

Aug. 26 -- Boys: Run for a Dream Invitational at Columbus State-Delaware Campus; Girls: Panther Classic at Pickerington North

Sept. 2 -- Granville Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion

Sept. 9 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial

Sept. 16 -- Galion Festival at Amann's Reservoir Park

Sept. 23 -- Bob Reall Invitational at Lancaster

Sept. 30 -- Buck Creek Invitational at Buck Creek State Park

Oct. 7 -- Hilliard Darby Dash

Oct. 14 -- OCC-Capital meet at Lancaster

FIELD HOCKEY

*Aug. 23 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne

Aug. 26 -- at Olentangy Liberty

Aug. 30 -- at Dublin Jerome

Sept. 6 -- vs. Upper Arlington

*Sept. 14 -- at Bexley

Sept. 16 -- at Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame

Sept. 18 -- at Dublin Scioto

*Sept. 19 -- at Hartley

*Sept. 25 -- vs. Lancaster

Sept. 27 -- vs. Olentangy

*Oct. 2 -- vs. Watterson

*Oct. 5 -- vs. Columbus Academy

Oct. 7 -- vs. Kettering Fairmont

*Oct. 9 -- at Columbus School for Girls

*Oct. 12 -- vs. Granville

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the New Albany boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 9 -- St. Charles Invitational at Brookside

Sept. 13 -- OCC-Capital at Apple Valley

GIRLS GOLF

Sept. 7 -- Westerville Central at Royal American

Sept. 12 -- OCC-Central at Royal American

BOYS SOCCER

Sept. 7 -- At Hilliard Davidson

*Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Newark

GIRLS SOCCER

Sept. 7 -- Home vs. Olentangy

*Sept. 12 -- At Newark

GIRLS TENNIS

*Sept. 7 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights

Sept. 11 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman

*Sept. 12 -- At Big Walnut in makeup from Aug. 29

Sept. 13 -- At Davidson

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Groveport

*League contest