When the Watterson High School field hockey team has been in need of leadership this season, senior Francesca Passen has tried to live out a phrase she heard several years ago from her mother.
"If you're not going to lead, then who is?'" Passen recalls her mother, Patti, saying. "She was really big about being a leader every single day and not a follower. You're a member of a team and the team does not work on its own. It's not one person. It's everyone working together and that's how you thrive."
Patti Passen passed away from a blood disorder at age 51 on Feb. 11, 2014, but not before leaving a legacy that touched her daughter as well as the Watterson community.
Francesca is the youngest of Patti and Ron Passen's four children to go to Watterson. Her siblings are 2013 graduate Eddie Passen, 2010 graduate Nina Passen and 2008 graduate John Passen.
At Watterson, John played football and boys lacrosse, Eddie played boys lacrosse and Nina played for the 2009 field hockey team that won the state championship.
Their grandfather, Paul Pardi, was the public-address announcer for Watterson games for more than 50 years.
Patti Passen often stood on the sidelines taking pictures and cheering, and was involved in volunteering duties with all of her children's athletic activities.
Francesca Passen was 14 when her mother died.
"My mom was a huge influence on Watterson sports," she said. "I know a lot of people who know more about her because they knew her before I was born, and I can see a lot of things she did. There's a big statue for her (with her name engraved on a plaque at school) that I can see every day when I walk into school."
Passen played one game on junior varsity as a freshman before becoming a starter on varsity. Since then, she rarely has left the field.
The Dublin resident is a center midfielder for the Eagles, who were 8-7 overall and 5-2 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-East Division after beating Worthington Kilbourne 3-2 in overtime Oct. 4 and before playing Thomas Worthington on Oct. 9.
Through 15 games, Passen had four goals and six assists for a team that had scored 34 goals. She sees her biggest role as being a distributor for a lineup that also includes senior right winger Avery Dixon and junior defender Bella Pardi, who is her cousin.
After the Eagles had 11 seniors a year ago who were key players, Passen and seniors Caroline Golonka (goalkeeper) and Emily Harbrecht (right midfielder) were the only returning starters.
Coach Janet Baird has been impressed with the player and leader Passen has become.
"When she came to Watterson, she had just lost her mother and it was pretty traumatic," Baird said. "Mrs. Passen was someone that everybody knew, and watching Fran go through it, she's definitely had the road of all roads. It doesn't get any tougher, but she's an unbelievable leader."
Passen is considering playing field hockey in college and studying business. Although she's not made her college decision, she is interested in Saint Louis University, which is in an area where she has extended family.
Passen said her father has been a "big influence" on her success in field hockey. She started playing the sport at the club level in eighth grade.
"One of the first things I can remember is my dad and I went to an indoor tournament for field hockey (after Patti's passing) and there was all the support from my club team," Passen said. "To be playing the sport again, it definitely reminds me of her just because of how much she supported it and how much she advocated for it.
"I've been on varsity since I was a freshman, and even last year I wasn't a senior, but (Baird) still expected me to be a leader on the field and off the field. Leadership is definitely a big thing."
Football team set
for St. Charles
The football team plays Friday, Oct. 13, at St. Charles in a matchup of programs that have struggled this season.
The Eagles fell to 1-6 overall with a 42-0 loss to Hilliard Bradley on Oct. 6 and are 0-1 in the CCL. The Cardinals improved to 1-6 overall with a 45-13 win over Mansfield Madison on Oct. 6 and are 0-1 in the CCL.
St. Charles beat Washington Court House 34-12 on Sept. 22 but had to forfeit the victory for using an ineligible player. The Cardinals lost close games against Independence (24-23 on Sept. 8) and New Philadelphia (29-28 on Sept. 15).
Hartley, which beat the Eagles 34-0 on Sept. 29, is now in the same division of the CCL as DeSales, St. Charles and Watterson.
"That's how it should be," coach Brian Kennedy said. "It just makes the CCL better, a true champion with the four of us playing one another."
Girls tennis team
competes at sectional
Senior Claire Ghidotti of the girls tennis team qualified for her fourth consecutive district tournament by placing fourth in a Division I sectional Oct. 6 and 7 at Reynoldsburg.
Ghidotti was the fourth seed in singles and lost to Centennial's Zoey Weil 6-1, 6-2 in a semifinal. She then lost to Olentangy's Kathleen Jones 6-1, 6-2 in the third-place match.
Also competing in singles for the Eagles were junior Paige Parker, who lost in the first round, and senior Jenna Mar, who lost in the second round.
In doubles, sophomores Layne Geswein and Margaret Baur lost in the second round and junior Sam Vogel and sophomore Abbey Giesler lost in the first round.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district Thursday, Oct. 12, at Hilliard Bradley and Saturday, Oct. 14, at Upper Arlington.
At district, the top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to state Oct. 20 and 21 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Girls golfers reach
With two scores in the 80s, the girls golf team earned the third and final Division I district-qualifying berth from the Royal American sectional Oct. 3.
The Eagles competed Oct. 10 in the district tournament at Cooks Creek.
At the 10-team sectional, Watterson shot a 365 to finish behind Olentangy Orange (298) and Olentangy Liberty (327).
The top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams at district advanced to the state tournament Oct. 20 and 21 at Ohio State's Gray Course.
At sectional, junior Lizzy Steffensmeier led the Eagles with an 80, followed by senior Erin Korn (88), junior Ava Gray (98), senior Shelby Six (99) and sophomore Sammy Politz (104). Steffensmeier was seventh overall.
Boys golf season
ends at sectional
The boys golf team came up two places and nine strokes short of advancing to the Division I district tournament.
In a 12-team sectional Oct. 3 at Clover Valley, the Eagles shot a 337 to finish sixth as the top four teams moved on.
Sophomore Ryan Newcomb shot an 81, but the final individual district qualifier was Big Walnut's Kenny Schneider, who shot an 80 and then won a one-hole playoff against two other golfers.
Newcomb tied for 15th overall. He was followed by sophomore Fred Gilbert (83), senior Bobby Reis (84), sophomore Patrick Sellers (89) and senior Jack Eddingfield (94).
The only other senior was Jack Geswein.
Others eligible to return include junior Chris Finissi and sophomore Michael Reis.
"I'm really looking forward to next year," coach Olin Melaragno said. "In addition to three returning starters, we'll have contributions from juniors-to-be Spencer Ball and Michael Reis, sophomores-to-be Johnny Clark and Dylan Nowinski and seniors-to-be Jack Brinkman and Chris Finissi. ... With such a young class, the future looks bright."
The Eagles tied Hartley for second in the CCL at 3-3, behind St. Charles (6-0) and ahead of DeSales (0-6).
Their season-best score for 18 holes was a 322. Bobby Reis led the team with a nine-hole average of 40.
Below are the coming schedules for the Watterson cross country, field hockey, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 14 -- CCL meet at Otterbein
Oct. 19 -- Home vs. 13th-seeded Columbus School for Girls in second round of district tournament. Watterson is the fifth seed.
Oct. 14 -- Home vs. Lancaster
Oct. 17 -- Home vs. 22nd-seeded Eastmoor Academy in first round of Division II district tournament. Winner plays 10th-seeded Independence or 17th-seeded Hartley on Oct. 21 in second round. Watterson is the sixth seed.
Oct. 12 -- At Olentangy Liberty
Oct. 14 -- Home vs. Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit
Oct. 16 -- Home vs. 37th-seeded Licking Heights in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays 22nd-seeded Westerville South on Oct. 19 at site of better-seeded team in second round.
Oct. 19 -- Home vs. 29th-seeded Reynoldsburg or 31st-seeded Eastmoor Academy in second round of Division I district tournament. Watterson is the 10th seed.