What happened to the Big Walnut High School girls soccer team in the closing minute of a 1-0 loss to Canal Winchester on Sept. 12 in its OCC-Capital Division opener seemed to sum up its recent offensive struggles.
The Golden Eagles had two point-blank shots, but both failed to reach the back of the net.
"The offense is sputtering right now, and we're trying to figure it out," coach Drew Pitzer said. "In basketball, shooters go through slumps. Right now, our scorers are going through a slump. You see it every season. You see it with every team. No matter how good you are, you fall into some tough times with scoring goals."
The Golden Eagles were 3-2-2 overall before playing Bexley on Sept. 14 and hadn't scored in their previous three games. After beating Westerville Central 4-3 on Sept. 5, they played Hilliard Darby (Sept. 6) and Thomas Worthington (Sept. 9) to scoreless ties before being shut out by Canal Winchester.
Through seven games, Big Walnut had scored 10 goals, half of which came in a 5-0 win over Teays Valley in the season opener Aug. 18.
"We're generating opportunities, but we just aren't finishing," Pitzer said. "I think against Thomas Worthington we had 20 shots on goal."
Forward Emma Padgett, who led the Golden Eagles with 10 goals last season, and forward Alexi Schone each had three goals through seven games. Midfielder/defender Kaitlin Meade and midfielders McKenzie Lusenhop, Grace Bodiker, Adelee Gartner and Avery Schone are other players on the attack.
While the offense has struggled, the defense had produced four shutouts through seven games.
Defender Riley Bussen has been "bailing us out and making up for mistakes further up the field," Pitzer said.
Pitzer also has been impressed by freshman Morgan Bodiker, who "reads the game very well, knows where to be in position and has saved a couple balls on the (goal) line this year."
Big Walnut, which last won the OCC-Capital championship in 2008, expected to be among the league title contenders this season. While Pitzer knows it's difficult to play from behind, he expects his team to play well down the stretch.
A year ago, Big Walnut went 1-4-3 in September before winning six of its final seven games.
"I really think with the team we have, we can compete on this level," Pitzer said. "We will pull our socks up a little tighter and go at it again."
Boys soccer team
out to slow start
Boys soccer coach Adam Gatton doesn't want his team to be measured by its 2-6 record, as four of its losses were by one goal.
"We played some great opponents, and we're right in every game and fighting until the very end," said Gatton, whose team lost its OCC-Capital opener 3-1 to Canal Winchester on Sept. 12. "For some reason, we can't get the lead in any of these games, and our guys are always playing from behind."
To shake things up, Gatton has deployed different formations and lineup combinations.
Entering an OCC-Capital game at home against New Albany on Tuesday, Sept. 19, outside back Jason Ryan and forward Hunter Blair each had two goals to lead the Golden Eagles.
Big Walnut had to replace two of its top scorers from a year ago in Tim Rumas, who did not return for his senior season, and 2017 graduate Carson Dearth. Last season, Rumas had 11 goals and Dearth scored five.
"We've really gone to a more direct style of play as opposed to possession," Gatton said.
According to Gatton, goalkeeper Michael Kline has been solid, and defenders Niklas Iezzi and John Mickley have been strong in front of Kline.
Football team looking
to slow South's Gill
The football team will travel to Westerville South on Friday, Sept. 22, for its final non-league game.
Big Walnut earned its first victory of the season against the Wildcats a year ago, but South is a very different team this season.
After missing most of last season with a broken leg, standout running back Jaelen Gill is back leading the Wildcats' offense. The Ohio State commit had 1,820 all-purpose yards and scored 22 touchdowns in 2015. He flashed his versatility in a 23-18 loss to Darby on Sept. 8, catching six passes for 126 yards and a touchdown while being held to 22 yards rushing and a touchdown on 13 carries.
South, which is 2-2 after defeating Upper Arlington 26-0 on Sept. 15, lost to Big Walnut 24-17 last season.
"A win against South would do a lot for us heading into conference play," said senior running back and linebacker Abe Myers, whose team opens OCC-Capital play Sept. 29 at Newark.
Big Walnut is 0-4 after losing to host Olentangy Orange 35-10 on Sept. 15.
Myers had nearly 400 yards rushing through three games. He rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries in a 51-21 loss to Dublin Scioto on Sept. 7.
His 5-yard touchdown run in the first quarter cut the Golden Eagles' deficit to 14-7, and his 15-yard touchdown run in the second quarter pulled Big Walnut to within 30-14 heading into halftime.
Scioto took a 14-0 lead when Demaine Barnett returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Big Walnut also was penalized 15 times, including four personal fouls.
"We really need to clean up turnovers and penalties," Myers said. "That's been killing us. I don't know that any team has really beaten us this year. I think we've just beaten ourselves."
While Big Walnut's defense likely will focus on containing Gill, quarterback Max Barber is another offensive threat for South. The Wildcats' defense is led by end Antonio Smith, a Bowling Green commit.
Girls volleyball team
After starting 1-2, the girls volleyball team won five consecutive matches to improve to 6-2 overall before playing Franklin Heights in an OCC-Capital contest Sept. 14.
The Golden Eagles were 3-0 in the league before playing the Falcons, with victories over Newark (25-19, 25-21, 25-21 on Sept. 12), New Albany (25-15, 25-15, 24-26, 25-10 on Sept. 6) and Canal Winchester (25-18, 25-20, 25-23 on Sept. 5).
Through eight matches, Kelsie Imertreijs was leading Big Walnut with 88 kills, followed by Emma Urhammer and Machaela Padraza with 59 apiece. Sammi Bickley was the top server (98.4 percent).
Boys golfers finish
second in league
The boys golf team shot a 337 in the fourth and final round of the OCC-Capital tournament Sept. 13 at Apple Valley to place second, behind New Albany (306) and ahead of third-place Canal Winchester (364).
Michael Ford carded a 78 to lead the Golden Eagles, followed by both Zack Herbert and Michael Ruark with an 83.
Big Walnut finished second in the final OCC-Capital standings at 16-4, behind New Albany (20-0) and ahead of Canal Winchester (12-8), Newark (8-12), Groveport (4-16) and Franklin Heights (0-20).
Ford led the Golden Eagles with a 74.75 league average, followed by Herbert (81.0), Ruark (82.0) and Kenny Schneider (88.75).
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 23 -- Bob Reall Invitational at Lancaster
Sept. 18 -- Delaware County Cup at Bent Tree
Sept. 20 -- Olentangy Orange at Royal American
Sept. 23 -- Pickerington Central Invitational at Turnberry
Sept. 19 -- Worthington Kilbourne at Tartan Fields
Sept. 20 -- Dublin Scioto at Bent Tree
*Sept. 19 -- Home vs. New Albany
Sept. 21 -- Home vs. Logan
*Sept. 19 -- At New Albany
Sept. 21 -- At Worthington Kilbourne
Sept. 18 -- At Westerville South
Sept. 19 -- Home vs. Marysville
Sept. 21 -- At Hilliard Darby
*Sept. 20 -- Home vs. Groveport
Sept. 21 -- Home vs. DeSales