Two things quickly became apparent to the Upper Arlington High School boys water polo team early this season.

"We're fast at getting down the pool, but we do have a lot of trouble with awareness," senior Gavin Voss said. "We can swim with anybody, but we've struggled at covering people, and that's not about speed. It's more about reaction and overall experience, and we're very inexperienced."

Voss and junior Alec Caswell are the only returning starters from last year's team that went 26-6 and defeated Cincinnati Sycamore 19-3 in the fifth-place game of the state tournament.

Voss had 48 goals and Caswell scored 40 through this season's first 17 games, and UA was 12-5 before playing St. Charles on Sept. 13.

"We have a high ceiling," first-year coach J.J. Spangler said. "I like how our guys have responded. They have communicated well. We've been drilling them with a lot of fast drills that increases attention and how they have to read plays. We're working on whatever kind of reaction plays we can work on."

The Bears are tasked with replacing two key 2017 graduates in Drew Wilson, whose 147 goals last year set the program's single-season scoring record, and goalkeeper Alex Rabe, who stopped 312 of 462 shots (67.5 percent) last season.

Voss had 34 goals and 36 assists last year. Caswell added 29 and senior Ted Dimitrov 11.

"We spent the first couple of weeks just getting to know each other and learning the game. We've worked a lot on skills," Dimitrov said. "We have to focus more with the younger guys because their focus is more short-term. They might not be as serious about the sport quite yet. We will focus on making sure we are cohesive as a team."

UA opened with four wins in the Napoleon Sprint-Off Classic that concluded Aug. 12, beating Sylvania 17-3, Cincinnati St. Xavier 12-2, Toledo St. Francis 8-4 and Milford 12-2.

The Bears went 2-2 in the Early Bird Invitational in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that concluded Aug. 19, defeating Worthington Kilbourne 19-4 and Dexter, Michigan, 8-5 and losing to Rockford, Michigan, 10-1 and St. Charles 15-11.

UA defeated Mason 9-4 and lost to Cincinnati Sycamore 8-7 and St. Xavier 9-4 in the Mason Invitational on Aug. 26, then defeated Worthington Kilbourne 10-4 on Sept. 6.

In the Ohio Cup at Thomas Worthington, UA went 4-1 with wins over St. Xavier's B team (16-4 on Sept. 9), Milford (18-3 on Sept. 9), Mason (10-5 on Sept. 10) and Birmingham, Michigan, (10-7 on Sept. 10) and a loss to Thomas (12-6 on Sept. 9).

Junior Ben Staton succeeded Rabe in goal.

"Ben's been one of our biggest surprises," Voss said. "He's kept us in some games."

Spangler took over head coaching duties from Mike de Bear, who also is UA's boys swimming coach.

Rounding out the roster are seniors Will Dierker, Ted McHugh and Tommy Weimer, juniors Will Geletka, Josh Gorski, Luke Landis, Reed Ray and Daniel Seely, sophomores Hunter Dean, Jake Meyer, Jimmy Ravine, Brandon Vanderhorst, Antonio Ventresca and Brody Widman and freshmen Andy Armstrong, Jimmy Colombo, Hayden Jay, Sulekh Mitra, Will Loughitano, Thomas Ray and Avery Voss.

Girls water polo team
shaking off slow start

The three-time defending state champion girls water polo team hopes to continue its recent upward trend during the Ohio Cup on Saturday, Sept. 16, and Sunday, Sept. 17, at Thomas Worthington.

UA got off to an unusually slow start, going 2-2 at the Napoleon Sprint-Off Classic and losing one match in its own tournament the next week to exceed their total number of losses from the previous two seasons combined.

The Bears finished 27-1-1 last year, defeating Napoleon 11-3 in state final.

Although 13th-year coach Dan Peterkoski figured his team might take some time to find its footing after losing leading scorer Katie Trace (81 goals) and goalie Julie Trace, among others, to graduation, he thinks maturation might be a season-long process.

UA defeated Kilbourne 15-4 on Sept. 6 to improve to 8-3.

"I was blessed for several years in that practices were more about refining and conditioning as opposed to true teaching (of) basic skills of the game," Peterkoski said. "This year, we have a lot to learn. If the girls can have a very quick learning curve, I think they have the ability to be very successful. They need to learn fast, though."

At Napoleon, UA defeated the Mavericks, a Cincinnati-based club team, 12-4 and Mason 8-7 before losing to Cincinnati Sycamore 8-7 and Napoleon 11-4. Those were the Bears' first losses to an in-state opponent since Oct. 26, 2013, when they fell to Sycamore 11-10 in the state tournament.

In the Upper Arlington Invitational that concluded Aug. 19, the Bears beat Sycamore 6-5 and the Mavericks 7-5 and lost to Napoleon 11-6.

At the Milford Invitational on Sept. 2, UA defeated Sycamore 9-4 and Mason 18-3.

"We're a swimming-based team and we thrive on speed," said senior Kendra Sheehan, who had 79 goals last year.

"It was kind of a surprise to lose some early games after we've been winning for so long. It's definitely some motivation to increasing our endurance and improving ball-handling skills so we can compete."

Sophomore Cat Fernandez and freshman Carley Hart have split time in goal, although junior Adrienne Wachtman -- who joined the team after the season began -- also hopes to earn time in net.

"(Goalie) is the same as every other spot in the pool in that we have a lot of learning to do," Peterkoski said. "There's not a position in the pool that is solidified."

Rounding out the roster are seniors Brianna Barrett, Hannah Caldwell, Abby Dunasky, Dakota Elliott, Sydney Rehl and Emily Sexton, juniors Grace McCarty and Emily Reardon, sophomores Leah Burton, Abby Hendershot, Grace Houser, Katie McKenzie and Erin Reardon and freshmen Caroline Colombo, Sophia Elliott, Addie Jay and Lilly Swanson.

Girls tennis team
wins league title

Whether a 5-0 win over Dublin Coffman on Sept. 7 begins a new streak of league championships for the girls tennis team remains to be seen, but for the first time since 2014, the Bears finished their OCC-Central season in first place.

UA defeated the Shamrocks 4-1 to not only remain undefeated, but polish off a dominant run through the league. Each of the Bears' other four OCC-Central wins, against Central Crossing on Aug. 24, Hilliard Davidson on Aug. 29, Westland on Aug. 31 and Marysville on Sept. 5, were by 5-0 scores.

The Bears, who are 7-0 overall entering a Thursday, Sept. 14, home match against Centennial, won 26 consecutive league titles from 1989-2014. They finished third in the OCC-Central behind Liberty and Coffman in 2015 and second to the Shamrocks last year.

While freshman Ella Hazelbaker has anchored the lineup at first singles, coach Shaun Stamps has moved virtually every other player to several spots.

Evelyn Holman, Sarah Marti, Noah Mizer, Paige Plagenz, Wendy Shi, Emma Wang all have played at least one match at singles, while Lily Goldberg, Holman, Tatum Jentgen, Angela Li, Masha Manilchuk, Marti, Mizer and Isabella Triplett have seen time at doubles.

Mizer and Wang are freshmen.

Girls golf team
welcomes new coach

On the cusp of winning its second consecutive league championship, the girls golf team found itself with a new coach.

Former boys coach Steve Gdovin recently took over for 10th-year coach Kristi Ghidotti.

Athletics director Tony Pusateri confirmed Sept. 8 that Ghidotti resigned two weeks ago, although he did not elaborate on the circumstances.

Gdovin coached the boys team the past two seasons but stepped down last November to spend more time with his family. Doug Smith now coaches the boys squad.

"My wife and daughters (Lucy, 6, and Molly, 2) said it was A-OK for me to come back and take over," Gdovin said.

"I wouldn't have done it without their blessing. The part of the season with the most difficult time crunch is over and I figured it would work out. I'm getting to see the (UA) girls on the course and assess exactly where we are. We definitely have some talent."

Despite having no seniors on the roster, UA was 15-0 in the OCC-Central entering the fourth and final round of the league tournament Sept. 12 at Royal American. Coffman was second at 12-3.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

BOYS WATER POLO

Aug. 11-12 -- Napoleon Sprint-Off Classic

Aug. 18-19 -- Early Bird Invitational at Ann Arbor (Mich.) Huron

Aug. 26 -- Mason Invitational

Sept. 6 -- at Worthington Kilbourne

Sept. 9-10 -- Ohio Cup at Thomas Worthington

Sept. 13 -- at St. Charles

Sept. 22-23 -- Cincinnati Princeton Tournament

Sept. 30 -- Upper Arlington Invitational

Oct. 7-8 -- Milford Invitational

Oct. 13-14 -- Ann Arbor (Mich.) Pioneer Tournament

GIRLS WATER POLO

Aug. 11-12 -- Napoleon Sprint-Off Classic

Aug. 18-19 -- Upper Arlington Invitational

Sept. 1-2 -- Milford Invitational

Sept. 6 -- at Worthington Kilbourne

Sept. 16-17 -- Ohio Cup at Thomas Worthington

Sept. 22-23 -- Beast of the East in Reading, Pa.

Oct. 6-7 -- Milford Invitational

Oct. 11 -- vs. Thomas Worthington

Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Sept. 16 -- Boys: Otterbein Invitational; Girls: Trinity-Valkyrie Invitational in Louisville, Ky.

FIELD HOCKEY

*Sept. 14 -- At Dublin Scioto

Sept. 18 -- Home vs. Watterson

Sept. 19 -- At Worthington Kilbourne

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 18 -- Lion-Cardinal Classic at Quail Hollow

GIRLS GOLF

Sept. 14 -- Dublin Coffman and Olentangy Liberty at Scioto Reserve

Sept. 18 -- Olentangy Orange and Pickerington North at Raymond Memorial

Sept. 20 -- Canal Winchester and Gahanna at Westchester

BOYS SOCCER

Sept. 14 -- Home vs. Marysville

*Sept. 19 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson

GIRLS SOCCER

Sept. 14 -- At Reynoldsburg

*Sept. 19 -- At Hilliard Davidson

GIRLS TENNIS

Sept. 14 -- Home vs. Centennial

Sept. 16 -- Lexington Invitational

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Sept. 14 -- Home vs. Marysville

Sept. 16 -- At Dublin Scioto with Sparta Highland

*Sept. 19 -- At Dublin Coffman

*League contest