The Pickerington High School North girls tennis team is finding out not all historic seasons are created equal.
In 2016, the Panthers celebrated their first league championship and advanced a player to the Division I state tournament for the first time.
This year, that same player, sophomore Cassie Alcala, finished second at state to highlight a year in which North fell one win shy of its second consecutive OCC-Ohio Division title.
"I'd love to put them both together next year," said coach Brian Hoff, who has led the team since its inaugural season in 2003. "That's the plan, just keep grinding away."
Alcala did exactly that at state, cruising through her first two matches Oct. 20 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason before surviving a grueling three-hour semifinal the next morning against Mason's Ananya Aggarawal 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. Despite a 95-minute break before the final against Rocky River Magnificat's Anna Roggenburk, Alcala admitted she had little left in the tank during a 6-0, 6-0 loss.
"I was just happy to be on the court in the final and win that semifinal match. That was huge," Alcala said. "You just have to go in there and play your best and expect that they will play their best and think you will pull through. (Hoff) said just have fun the whole time, not be negative and think about everything positive."
Alcala did not drop a set Oct. 20, beating Medina Highland's Emily Hadler 6-0, 6-1 in the first round and Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame's Kelli Niehaus 7-5, 6-3 in a second-round match.
"(The final) was a perfect storm. Roggenburk played nearly flawless, nearly perfect tennis," Hoff said. "That and the fact that Cassie had a three-hour (semifinal) match didn't help things. She was tired and couldn't get to some balls in time, but give Roggenburk credit. She doesn't have a weakness. She has tons of power on both sides. She has a huge serve and she runs down everything."
North went 14-6 overall and 4-1 in the league, finishing second behind Pickerington Central (5-0) and ahead of Gahanna (2-3), Grove City (2-3), Lancaster (2-3) and Reynoldsburg (0-5).
Alcala finished second in a sectional Oct. 6 and 7 at Reynoldsburg, losing to Centennial's Zoey Weil 6-2, 6-1 in the final.
In the district tournament that concluded Oct. 14 at Upper Arlington, Alcala defeated Weil 4-6, 6-1, retired in the final. Weil went on to finish third at state.
North's entire roster is expected to return, including sophomores Maggie Haas and Kim Nguyen, who qualified for district as a doubles team. Others expected back include junior Anna Stanley, sophomores Sophia Anderson and Rhyan Cook and freshman Corrina Moesle.
Boys runners win district title
The boys cross country team placed three runners in the top six in the Division I, district 2 meet Oct. 21 at Watkins Memorial, leading North to a first-place finish (56 points) ahead of runner-up Central (67) as 16 teams scored.
Ashwin Briggs placed third in 15 minutes, 38.88 seconds, just ahead of Matt Duvall (fourth, 15:41.14) and Harper Moore (sixth, 15:50.86). Also scoring for North were Jake Prestileo (18th, 16:35.05) and Spencer Moledor (25th, 16:56.93).
The top five teams and top 20 individuals advanced to regional Saturday, Oct. 28, at North.
The girls team fell one spot short of a return to regional, as it finished sixth (178) in district 1 behind champion Olentangy Liberty (42) as 11 teams scored.
Freshmen took the top three spots for the Panthers, as Emily Harness finished 26th (20:23.9), Annabel Malone was 34th (21:05.88) and Elizabeth Martin was 37th (21:34.89).
Also scoring for the Panthers were sophomores Allie Westall (40th, 21:57.38) and Brianna Bowden (43rd, 22:04.4).
At regional, the top five teams and top 20 individuals advance to state Nov. 4 at National Trail Raceway.
Boys soccer team preps for Braves
Will Harr's penalty kick late in the second half gave the boys soccer team a 3-2 home win over 20th-seeded UA in the second round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 21.
Duvall Brannon and Jonathan Cunningham also scored for ninth-seeded North, which improved to 12-3-2 and visited eighth-seeded Olentangy in a district semifinal Oct. 25.
The semifinal winner will play third-seeded Dublin Jerome or 16th-seeded Hilliard Bradley in a district final Saturday, Oct. 28, at a neutral site to be determined. The district champion plays Canal Winchester, Liberty, Olentangy Orange or Westerville South in a regional semifinal Wednesday, Nov. 1, at a neutral site. The regional final is Nov. 4.
North defeated Canal Winchester 4-1 on Oct. 12.
The Panthers are seeking their first district championship. They have been district runners-up five times, including last year when they lost to New Albany 3-0.
Girls soccer team reaches district semi
The girls soccer team scored early and often in a 7-0 rout of 34th-seeded Teays Valley in the second round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 19 at home.
Claire Combs, Camryn Dees, Alicia Donley, Lauren Dragich, Brandi Filippi, Makenzie Kelly and Leigha Zunich each scored for the Panthers, who improved to 15-1-1 and played host to 20th-seeded Dublin Scioto in a district semifinal Oct. 24.
The semifinal winner will play 10th-seeded Canal Winchester or 11th-seeded Grove City in a district final Saturday, Oct. 28, at a neutral site to be determined. The district champion plays Jerome, Marysville, Olentangy or Westerville North in a regional semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 31, at a neutral site. The regional final is Nov. 4.
North defeated Olentangy 3-2 on Aug. 31, beat Grove City 5-1 on Oct. 10 and lost to Jerome 3-1 on Oct. 12.
Volleyball team advances to semi
The girls volleyball team took on 11th-seeded Hartley in a Division I district semifinal Oct. 24 at Franklin Heights looking for its first district final appearance since 2012.
Fifth-seeded North improved to 19-4 by routing 39th-seeded Licking Heights 25-4, 25-16, 25-17 in a second-round match Oct. 18 at home.
The semifinal winner will play fourth-seeded Orange or 19th-seeded Lancaster in a district final Saturday, Oct. 28, at Franklin Heights. The district champion advances to a regional semifinal Nov. 2.
The Panthers swept two OCC-Ohio matches from Lancaster, winning 21-25, 22-25, 25-11, 25-8, 15-9 on Sept. 12 and 25-23, 25-14, 25-21 on Oct. 3.