The Upper Arlington High School girls volleyball team entered the week with a winning record, but coach Chris Van Arsdale regarded that as icing on the cake rather than the highlight of the season to date.
"The thing we've really emphasized all year is just getting better every single match," Van Arsdale said. "We have faced some tough competition, like Dublin Coffman (on Sept. 19) and Olentangy Liberty (on Sept. 21). Every single match is an opportunity to get better, and hopefully that will give us a chance to finish out this season strong."
The Golden Bears were 9-7 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Central Crossing on Sept. 26.
UA's only loss in the first round of league play was in the final match of that stretch, 25-15, 25-11, 25-6 to the 10-time defending league and district champion Shamrocks.
UA also fell to former league rival Liberty 25-15, 25-12, 25-20 on Sept. 21.
The Bears have had no shortage of competitive matches. Of the 24 games they had won before Sept. 26, only three had been by more than 11 points.
"We've had a lot of good, competitive matches and we want those. It's a great way for our players to grow," Van Arsdale said. "We had to outlast Westerville South (28-30, 25-17, 25-14, 18-25, 15-12 on Aug. 31) and some other good, athletic teams."
While Van Arsdale credited the senior leadership of defensive specialist/libero Kate Gomez, middle hitter/setter Morgan Harrison and right-side hitter/setter Emma Van Arsdale, he also lauded the growth of juniors Piper Crotty (outside hitter) and Elizabeth McKenna (outside hitter/opposite-side hitter).
"It's taken a lot of work to replace the talent we lost last year. We've had to fill some roles and figure things out," coach Van Arsdale said. "I am not sure we've found a groove yet, but we're getting better. (Sophomore) Sammy Ansel has been great at libero; she hasn't dropped many balls shot at her. Liz and Piper are becoming forces to be reckoned with. Piper's a returning letterwinner, so she's seen a lot, and Liz has been great for us."
Field hockey coach
Field hockey coach Sara Greaves said confidence and an increased emphasis on offense have helped the Bears find the cage more often in recent weeks after a slow start.
UA put up 17 goals in consecutive wins over Olentangy (5-2 on Sept. 11) and Dublin Scioto (12-0 on Sept. 14), and Greaves is staying the course despite consecutive one-goal games last week, a 2-1 overtime loss to Watterson on Sept. 18 and a 1-all tie against Worthington Kilbourne the next day.
"The team has started holding each other accountable on the field. We also have been doing a lot of drills with a disproportionate amount of offense compared to defense to help build confidence in goal scoring," Greaves said. "When looking at all of our games compared to last year, we are making real progress against some of the top teams in the (Central Ohio Field Hockey League). Last year, we lost to Liberty 4-1 (and) this year we lost 2-1 in a tight game (Aug. 29). Similarly, we lost to Watterson 3-0 both times we played them last year. This year, they beat us 2-1 after time had expired, so that game was incredibly close as well."
UA was 5-3-1 overall and 2-1 in the COFHL-West before playing Olentangy Orange on Sept. 27.
Mary Jeffers led UA with seven goals through nine games. Sophie Croci had six, Hannah Sharp had five goals and Abby Dietrich three.
Greaves also complimented her defense, which is led by Grace Golembiewski, Sarah Murray and Chloe Ruscilli. Before Sept. 27, UA had allowed more than two goals only once, in a 5-0 loss to Columbus Academy on Aug. 22.
"All of our defenders have been strong. Grace, Sarah, and Chloe work great together," Greaves said. "They are good at transferring the ball in the backfield, which helps to set up a stronger attack. Olivia is great at marking, so we have been using that skill when the other team has a cherry-picker."
Golf teams prepare
The postseason begins Tuesday, Oct. 3, for the boys and girls golf teams, as they will compete in Division I sectionals.
The boys will play in a sectional at Clover Valley, where the top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 10 at Apple Valley.
The girls are headed to a sectional at Westchester, hoping to launch a postseason run that will culminate in their second consecutive state berth. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 10 at Cooks Creek.
The girls finished fourth at state last year.
UA seeking new
The gymnastics team will have a new coach this coming season after the recent resignation of Erin May.
May, who coached the Bears for one season and is a second-grade teacher at Tremont Elementary School, said she is devoting more time to a personal business making handmade items to be sold at festivals.
Many of the Bears' top competitors are expected back, including Megan Crouse, Rachael Feinberg, Caroline Pirwitz and Zoe Rigsby. UA was 6-1 with 28 points in the OCC-Central last year to finish second to Marysville both in the standings and at the league tournament.
Applicants should send a resume to athletics director Tony Pusateri at tpusateri @uaschools.org.
Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis, girls volleyball and boys water polo teams:
Sept. 30 -- Midwest Meet of Champions at Hilliard Darby
Sept. 30 -- At Cincinnati Ursuline Academy
*Oct. 2 -- At Dublin Jerome
Sept. 30 -- Dublin Jerome Honorary Invitational at Tartan Fields
Oct. 3 -- Division I sectional at Clover Valley
Sept. 30 -- Canal Winchester Invitational at Westchester
Oct. 3 -- Division I sectional at Westchester
Sept. 30 -- Home vs. Westerville North
Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne
Sept. 30 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley
*Oct. 3 -- At Marysville
Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Columbus Academy
*Sept. 28 -- At Hilliard Davidson. The Golden Bears defeated the Wildcats 25-16, 25-20, 25-19 on Sept. 7.
*Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Westland. The Golden Bears defeated the Cougars 25-16, 25-12, 25-22 on Sept. 12.
BOYS WATER POLO
Sept. 30 -- Upper Arlington Invitational