Considering she shot a 69 at Cooks Creek three days before the Division I district tournament was held on that course, Madison Spiess of the New Albany High School girls golf team felt no pressure as she sought to prolong her season.
"I felt like I had nothing to lose," said Spiess, a freshman.
Despite shooting a 38 on her front nine Oct. 10, Spiess tightened up her chipping and putting to shoot a 34 on the back to finish third and become the program's first qualifier to the state tournament, which will be Friday, Oct. 20, and Saturday, Oct. 21, at Ohio State's Gray Course.
"I love competing and practicing. This is what I've practiced for," said Spiess, whose older brother, junior Logan Spiess, tied for ninth in the boys state tournament last year. "I played more relaxed."
Co-medalists Ashley Au of Olentangy Orange and Kayla Davis of Gahanna both shot 71.
The top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state.
Defending state champion Orange (304) and Dublin Jerome (307), which is seeking its sixth state title in seven years, earned the team berths. New Albany was fifth (327) of nine teams.
Davis and Spiess were in the same group at district, and Spiess said the two fed off each other. Spiess birdied No. 3 and made a 30-foot putt on No. 17 to lend to her strong finish.
"It was mostly my putting. I made a lot of key putts coming in," Spiess said. "Kayla and I both birdied out and that was fun. It's so fun (to make state)."
Spiess, who has played in several regional and national tournaments the past few years, said playing on shorter courses has been her biggest adjustment to high school golf. She has been working mostly with wedge shots in recent weeks.
"She struggled going into the turn and had an early double (bogey) but stayed with her game and committed to her shots," coach Rich Ritter said. "She made two birdies in a row after that double and then finished with birdies on her 17th and 18th holes. We were just out there talking about not assuming anything. Just stay confident and aggressive and do everything you can to finish the round off solidly. She was very admirable in that."
Also scoring for New Albany were Morgan Pankow (77), Gwynnie Lee (82) and Abby Wilcox (96).
"The greens were playing long, which took some getting used to, so I left a lot of putts short," Pankow said. "(Ritter) kept telling us we were doing well and to keep our heads up. It gave us some confidence."
Girls runners, Breuer win league titles
The girls cross country team won its second consecutive OCC-Capital Division championship Oct. 14 at Lancaster, and Kane Breuer won an individual title to lead the boys team to second place.
The girls had 40 points, finishing ahead of Big Walnut (46), Canal Winchester (56), Newark (109) and Groveport (126). Scoring for New Albany were Alyssa Painter (second, 20 minutes, 36.7 seconds), Catherine Ryan (sixth, 21:30.37), Monica Vale (ninth, 21:56.2), Lexi Vale (10th, 22:03.98) and Kate Golian (13th, 22:30.76).
Breuer won the boys race in 17:23.32, and the Eagles (35) finished behind Newark (31) and ahead of Canal Winchester (79), Big Walnut (102) and Groveport (121).
Also scoring for the Eagles were Ethan McNichols (fourth, 17:41.2), Sidhart Suaravarapu (eighth, 18:05.21), Dylan McDevitt (10th, 18:26.08) and Victor Orsinelli (12th, 18:33.61).
Both teams will run in Division I district meets Saturday, Oct. 21, at Watkins Memorial.
The boys are in district 2, from which the top five teams and top 20 individuals advance to regional Oct. 28 at Pickerington North. The girls are in district 3, where the top six teams and top 24 individuals advance to regional.
Boys soccer team secures league title
Coming off its second consecutive OCC-Capital championship, the boys soccer team had 11 days to prepare for its Division I district tournament opener Saturday, Oct. 21, at home against 17th-seeded Delaware or 27th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne.
New Albany finished off an undefeated OCC-Capital season Oct. 10 with an 11-0 win over Franklin Heights to improve to 13-3 overall and 5-0 in the league.
Earlier last week, the Eagles' 3-2 loss at Granville on Aug. 22 was forfeited because the Blue Aces used an ineligible player, according to coach Johnny Ulry. That loss previously was the second of back-to-back setbacks to begin the season.
New Albany is seeded fifth of 47 teams in the tournament.
The second-round winner will play 12th-seeded Hilliard Davidson, 18th-seeded Gahanna or 22nd-seeded Reynoldsburg in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 25, on the better-seeded team's home field. That winner will advance to a district final Oct. 28.
New Albany is 3-0 this season against its potential second-round and district semifinal opponents, having defeated Davidson 2-1 on Sept. 7, Gahanna 3-1 on Sept. 21 and Kilbourne 1-0 on Oct. 7.
Girls soccer team preps for tourney
Although the girls soccer team has lost just one game, it is eager to begin the season anew in the Division I district tournament.
New Albany is 9-1-6 overall and finished OCC-Capital play at 3-0-2 after a 12-0 rout of Franklin Heights on Oct. 10. The Eagles, who placed second in the league behind Canal Winchester (4-0-1), ended the regular season Oct. 12 with a scoreless tie at Gahanna.
"All the ties we had felt like losses to some extent," coach Jared Dombrowski said. "In three of them, we were leading at some point and the other two were 0-0 games. One of them (against Canal Winchester on Oct. 3), we played down a (player) for 57 minutes (because of a red card) and still had the run of play. But overall, we're happy. We have a great group of girls and we'll be ready for the tournament."
Seeded 12th in the 42-team tournament, New Albany will play host to 13th-seeded Upper Arlington or 30th-seeded Kilbourne in the second round Thursday, Oct. 19.
The winner will play seventh-seeded Hilliard Darby or 40th-seeded Westland in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 24, on the better-seeded team's home field. That winner will advance to a district final Oct. 28.
Forward Lindsey Townsend, who missed a few games in September with an injury, scored three goals to lead New Albany past Franklin Heights.
Volleyball team begins tourney
The girls volleyball team finished the regular season with a 25-10, 25-11, 25-3 win over Franklin Heights in OCC-Capital play Oct. 10 before turning its attention to the Division I district tournament.
Seeded 18th of 50 teams, New Albany played host to 19th-seeded Lancaster or 26th-seeded Davidson in a second-round match Oct. 18.
The winner will play fourth-seeded Orange, 41st-seeded Westerville South or 45th-seeded Northland in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 24, at Franklin Heights. That winner will advance to a district final Oct. 28.
New Albany was 12-10 overall before Oct. 18 and finished 5-5 in the league.
Field hockey team opens postseason
Seeded 12th in the 17-team district tournament, the field hockey team visited eighth-seeded Olentangy for a second-round game Oct. 17.
New Albany finished the regular season at 6-9-1 overall and 3-3-1 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-East. The Eagles went 0-1-1 last week, tying Columbus School for Girls at 1 on Oct. 19 and losing to Granville 3-0 on Oct. 12.
The New Albany-Olentangy winner will visit top-seeded and defending state champion Thomas Worthington or 17th-seeded Lancaster for a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 24. That winner will advance to a district final Oct. 28.
The Eagles defeated Lancaster 5-0 on Sept. 23.
Doubles team falls short at district
For the first time since 2007, the girls tennis team's season ended in the Division I district tournament.
The doubles team of senior Makena Romagnano and junior Valentina DiLorenzo went 1-1 on Oct. 12 at Hilliard Bradley, losing to Olentangy Liberty's Cellini Ko and Lexi Steer 6-7 (5-7), 6-0, 6-2 in a state-qualifying match.
"You will play tough matches against great teams and not everybody gets out. We played a great team, went three sets and played well at times," coach Marc Thomas said. "Makena and Valentina competed exactly as I would have expected them to. They did more than enough to be recognized as two of the best players in the state. (A state berth) would have been nice, but I am proud of how they battled and fought."
The doubles team of seniors Elizabeth Hancock and Emma Waite went 0-1.
New Albany went 11-5 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Capital to win its 11th league championship in 12 years ahead of Big Walnut (4-1), Canal Winchester (3-2), Newark (2-3), Groveport (1-4) and Franklin Heights (0-5).
Other expected returnees include junior Alexandra Vitellas and sophomore Thalia Fuentes.
"I haven't seen a team improve like this from the beginning to end with this group," Thomas said. "They accepted some challenges early on and were better for it."
Boys golf season ends at district
Despite falling short of the Division I state tournament, the boys golf team still managed to win its seventh consecutive OCC-Capital championship with a lineup that by season's end featured two juniors and two sophomores in the top five.
New Albany shot a 333 and finished 10th of 12 teams at district Oct. 10 at Apple Valley behind champion Jerome (294). Liberty (307) earned the other team berth to state.
Senior Spencer Green shot an 81 to lead the Eagles, followed by juniors Griffin Green (82) and Logan Spiess (85) and sophomore Caleb Delaney (85). Sophomore Jack Curtis shot a 90.
"We've got an extremely young team," coach Andy Moore said. "We have two that have been (to district) before and really only one with Logan who's played with a lot of pressure, so we've got four with minimal experience. The experience is good for us."
New Albany went 20-0 in the four-round league tournament, finishing ahead of Big Walnut (16-4), Canal Winchester (12-8), Newark (8-12), Groveport (4-16) and Franklin Heights (0-20).
At sectional Oct. 3 at Clover Valley, Spiess shot a 74 to lead the Eagles to a team score of 319 and third place behind champion St. Charles (300).
"We're in a good place," Moore said. "To go from good to great takes an extraordinary effort."