Despite having to overcome some hurdles along the way, the Olentangy Liberty High School boys golf team did enough to punch its ticket to state for the fourth time in five seasons.
The Patriots shot a 307 on Oct. 10 in the 12-team district tournament at Apple Valley to earn a runner-up finish behind Dublin Jerome (294) and advance to state Friday, Oct. 20, and Saturday, Oct. 21, at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
The depth throughout the Patriots' lineup helped it edge Thomas Worthington (311) and St. Charles (312) for the final state berth.
"You could tell there were nerves everywhere," coach Ryan Snivley said. "I thought hole No. 5 was going to tear us apart."
Trey Rath led the way with a 71 that tied him for first with Central Crossing's Caleb Davern, and Rath beat Davern in a one-hole tiebreaker to earn medalist honors.
Jacob Hickman tied for eighth (75), followed by Grant Smeltzer (80) and Cole Corder (81). Josh Steyer shot a 77 but got disqualified because he signed an incorrect scorecard.
Rath and Hickman have the most returning experience at the state level.
Rath was the only freshman at state in 2014 when Liberty took sixth. In 2015, Rath tied for seventh overall while Hickman had the team's fourth-best score as the Patriots again were sixth.
Last season, Liberty settled for fourth at district and Rath lost a four-way playoff to determine the second individual state qualifier.
"I made a birdie on No. 3 (in this year's district tournament) and was steady from there," Rath said. "I knew some things were going right when I chipped in for eagle on No. 4.
"I knew we could (advance to state), but with only two qualifiers, you never know. Any team can go low on any day. We're definitely one of the top three teams in the state, and if everyone gets their game going, we should have a chance to win."
Two doubles teams make state in tennis
A pair of doubles teams will travel to Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason for the Division I state girls tennis tournament Friday, Oct. 20, and Saturday, Oct. 21.
Freshmen Maddie Atway and Dani Schoenly beat Upper Arlington's Ella Hazelbaker and Noah Mizer 6-0, 6-2 on Oct. 14 at UA for the district championship.
"I'm really excited to be with Maddie, another freshman, and also with Cellini (Ko) and Lexi (Steer), both seniors," Schoenly said. "It's nice to play with them."
Steer and Ko lost to Hazelbaker and Mizer 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 in a district semifinal but defeated UA's Evelyn Holman and Wendy Shi 6-0, 6-3 to finish third.
"We're excited," Steer said. "We haven't been playing well the last couple weeks, so it's good to play like we can."
In the district tournament Oct. 12 at Hilliard Bradley, juniors Elizabeth MacDowell and Lexie Brengartner each lost first-round singles matches.
On Oct. 10, the Patriots lost to Jerome 3-1 in a district final of the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team tournament. Steer beat Jiaqi Liu 6-1, 6-2 at third singles and Schoenly was leading Arya Dudipala 6-4, 5-2 at second singles when Jerome wrapped up the victory.
Cross country teams sweep league titles
The boys and girls cross country teams enter their respective Division I district meets Saturday, Oct. 21, at Watkins Memorial coming off OCC-Buckeye Division titles.
The boys are in district 3, from which the top six teams and top 24 individuals advance to the regional Oct. 28 at Pickerington North. The girls are in district 1, from which the top five teams and top 20 individuals advance.
On Oct. 14 in the league meet at Hilliard Darby, Gracie Sprankle won the girls race in 17 minutes, 53.95 seconds as the Patriots scored 36 points to take first. She was followed by Emma Bower (second, 18:24.69), Linnea Kunesh (eighth, 19:31.25), Audrey Piero (10th, 19:42.91), Lauren Woodruff (15th, 20:25.86), Addison French (16th, 20:34.62) and Emma Shear (18th, 20:48.15).
"I'm pretty happy," Sprankle said. "I thought we did pretty well as a team. We're feeling pretty confident heading into district."
The boys scored 31 points to win the OCC-Buckeye title. Nick Irelan finished third (16:48.54) to lead the way, followed by Joseph Johnson III (fourth, 16:51.78), Nicholas Anderson (fifth, 16:53.32), Logan Boone (ninth, 17:09.23), Bradley Raymond (10th, 17:11.81), Jack Humenay (11th, 17:17.26) and Adam Clark (12th, 17:20.43).
"We had a tough week of practice because we've got three more weeks left," coach Jared Mills said. "Our identity is not with any individual, but it's with the whole team."
Boys soccer team set for tournament
The No. 1-ranked and top-seeded boys soccer team opens the Division I district tournament Saturday, Oct. 21, at home against 32nd-seeded Central Crossing or 40th-seeded Whetstone in a second-round game.
The winner plays 19th-seeded Orange, 35th-seeded Dublin Scioto or 47th-seeded Newark in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 25, at the home of the better seed. The district final is Oct. 28.
Liberty closed the regular season Oct. 14 with a 2-1 win over Dublin Coffman, which is the second seed for the district tournament.
The Patriots are 12-1-2 overall and went 4-0-1 to win the OCC-Buckeye.
"Our portion of the OCC was actually pretty strong and deep," coach Marc D'Auteuil said. "To win it outright was certainly the first of our goals."
D'Auteuil called the game against Coffman a "barometer" for gauging his team heading into the tournament. Colin McCort and Ashvin Rajmahon each scored for the Patriots.
Volleyball team shares league title
The second-seeded girls volleyball team enters the Division I district tournament having won 15 consecutive matches and after winning a share of the OCC-Buckeye title with Orange at 9-1.
Liberty lost to the Pioneers 25-15, 25-19, 25-22 on Sept. 5, but avenged the setback with an 18-25, 25-21, 20-25, 25-16 15-11 win Sept. 26. The Patriots defeated Olentangy 25-14, 20-25, 21-25, 25-20, 15-5 on Oct. 10 in their league final.
Liberty is 21-1 overall.
"Overall it's been good, probably with just the chemistry of the team in general," coach Jen Chapman said. "They get along well, the seniors are leading well and we've got some kids back from last year that have some experience."
Liberty opens the postseason Thursday, Oct. 19, at home against 36th-seeded Mount Vernon or 47th-seeded Westland, with the winner playing 13th-seeded Delaware, 20th-seeded Watkins Memorial or 30th-seeded Westerville North in a district semifinal Oct. 26 at Whitehall.
Field hockey team begins tourney play
The fourth-seeded field hockey team opened the district tournament Oct. 18 at home against 16th-seeded Scioto in a second-round game.
The winner plays sixth-seeded Worthington Kilbourne, 10th-seeded Bexley or 11th-seeded Jerome in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 24. The district final is Oct. 28 at Liberty.
The Patriots beat Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame 5-0 on Oct. 13 to close the regular season at 13-3.
Girls soccer team begins postseason
The eighth-seeded girls soccer team enters the Division I district tournament having won five of its last six games.
On Thursday, Oct. 19, the Patriots play host to 39th-seeded Franklin Heights in the second round, with the winner to play fifth-seeded Bradley, 26th-seeded Thomas or 33rd-seeded Hamilton Township in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the home of the better seed. The district final is Oct. 28.
Madison Rapier had two goals and Abby Townsend scored one as the Patriots beat Watterson 3-0 on Oct. 12 to improve to 8-5-3.
Girls golf season ends at district
On Oct. 10 in the nine-team Division I district tournament at Cooks Creek, the girls golf team shot 315 to place fourth and fall short in its bid to make state as Orange (304) and Jerome (307) advanced and Upper Arlington (311) was third.
It was the final prep match for seniors Priyasha Kota (75), Makenna Brown (77) and Sidney Kadlic (79). Kota tied for 10th but finished three strokes from advancing individually.
Also competing were junior Kavya Manocha (84) and sophomore Sarah Latzke (89).
"We came up a little bit short," coach Kaiya La Londe said. "It's the best season that Liberty's ever had. We broke our low team average for nine holes at 159.44 by over 17 shots and Priyasha finished second in school history with an average of 38.05. Sidney was fourth in school history in average (at 38.68)."
It was the program's fifth season under La Londe, who isn't planning to return next season.
The Patriots went 17-3 in the OCC-Buckeye to finish behind Orange (19-1) and ahead of Westerville Central (12-8), Olentangy (8-12), Westerville North (4-16) and Westerville South (0-20).
Kota averaged 74.8 and Manocha averaged 79 to earn first-team all-league honors, while Brown (81) and Latzke (85) made the second team.
Kadlic averaged 76.7 but played in only three of the league's four rounds.
Liberty shot 327 on Oct. 3 to finish second behind Orange (298) in a 10-team sectional at Royal American.
Also eligible to return are freshmen Sophie Dudon and Juliana Renda.