Having coached the Upper Arlington High School girls water polo team for 13 seasons, Dan Peterkoski closely watches action across the entire state.

Barely two weeks into this season, Peterkoski made a prediction that ended up coming true, although he would like to have been wrong.

"Napoleon has set the bar early," Peterkoski said in late August, adding that he felt UA was close behind the Wildcats. "This could be an interesting state tournament this year."

The Golden Bears again contended for the state championship, but ultimately fell short in a tournament in which every team finished exactly where it was seeded.

Seeded second of 11 teams, UA lost to top-seeded Napoleon 10-9 in the championship game Oct. 21 at Cincinnati Princeton.

Senior Kendra Sheehan had four goals and classmate Dakota Elliott scored three to lead the Bears, who finished 19-9 and had been seeking their fourth consecutive state championship, seventh in eight years and 17th overall.

Senior Hannah Caldwell and junior Grace McCarty each scored one goal.

UA, which trailed 7-3 halfway through the third quarter but pulled into a tie late in that period, got possession with 9.1 seconds left but could not get off a final shot.

"They continued to fight to the end, and we had that opportunity at the end to tie it up and force overtime and it didn't go our way," Peterkoski said. "(Napoleon is) physical in a good way. They play a good, physical game. They don't go away throughout the course of a game. A lot of years, we've had the ability to overpower teams in the second half from a conditioning standpoint. Napoleon is at a level where that's not going to happen."

Napoleon won its first state championship since 1999 and fifth overall. The Wildcats had been state runners-up four times since then.

"It's been a progression. ... All the planets aligned and we came out on top," Wildcats coach Mike Nye said. "I have to credit Paul Splitt (from USA Water Polo) for introducing better techniques and skills and a lot of things that have helped us fine-tune the game and bring a lot more awareness. It's really helped the program."

UA opened the tournament with a 10-6 win over the seventh-seeded Columbus Hawks club team in the second round Oct. 20, and advanced to the final with a 13-12 overtime win over the Cincinnati-based Mavericks club team in a semifinal earlier Oct. 21.

Among other expected returnees is sophomore goalkeeper Adrienne Wachtman.

"Their confidence and their grit grew all year," Peterkoski said. "Sometimes it's best just to put your head down and grind. This group, over the course of the season, learned to benefit from that."

The boys team will compete in its state tournament Friday, Oct. 27, and Saturday, Oct. 28, at Mason and Princeton.

Seeded third of 12 teams, the Bears have a first-round bye and will play sixth-seeded Cincinnati St. Xavier or 11th-seeded Napoleon in a second-round game Oct. 27. The finals are Oct. 28.

All teams are guaranteed at least two games.

The Bears are 4-1 this season against St. Xavier but have not played Napoleon.

UA, which is 17-8, is seeking its first state championship since 2012.

Boys, girls runners advance to regional

The boys and girls cross country teams will compete in the Division I regional meet Saturday, Oct. 28, at Pickerington North.

The boys finished fourth (111 points) in district 1 on Oct. 21 at Watkins Memorial behind champion Hilliard Davidson (45) as 16 teams scored. Scoring for UA were Jack Amling (10th, 16 minutes, 30.4 seconds), Thomas Richter (12th, 16:32.11), Daniel Owens (20th, 16:49.63), Cole Smith (33rd, 17:12.15) and Will Reynolds (36th, 17:20).

The girls were fourth (99) in district 1 behind champion Olentangy Liberty (42) as 11 teams scored. Heidi Heuerman was fourth (18:39.45), followed by Emma Switzer (18th, 19:36.51), Mallory Sharp (24th, 20:14.23), Sofia Sivilotti (25th, 20:23.15) and Elizabeth Clingan (28th, 20:38.45).

The top five teams and top 20 individuals in both races advanced to regional.

At regional, the top five teams and top 20 individuals advance to state Nov. 4 at National Trail Raceway.

Shroyer goal lifts field hockey team

Amanda Shroyer's goal in the second overtime Oct. 17 gave the seventh-seeded field hockey team a 1-0 win over ninth-seeded Olentangy Orange in the second round of the district tournament at home.

Goalkeeper Faith Seely's five saves made the shutout stand as UA improved to 9-4-3 and advanced into a district semifinal Oct. 24 at second-seeded Columbus Academy.

The semifinal winner will play fourth-seeded Liberty or sixth-seeded Worthington Kilbourne in a district final Saturday, Oct. 28, at Liberty. The district champion advances to a state semifinal Nov. 3 at UA.

UA lost to Liberty 2-1 on Aug. 29 and tied Kilbourne at 1 on Sept. 19.

Girls soccer team falls to Eagles

The girls soccer team fell behind by three goals in the first half of its Division I district tournament second-round game Oct. 19 against 12th-seeded New Albany and lost 3-1 at Westerville South.

Senior forward Molly Morgan scored the last of her 13 goals this season on a penalty kick with about six minutes left as the 13th-seeded Bears finished 8-5-4 overall.

"(New Albany was) the aggressors in the first half with the (pace of) play and we didn't respond early enough," coach Chris Merrick said. "We settled in a little bit down two goals and that goal before the half (the Eagles' Sophie Matt scored with a minute to play) took the wind out of our sails, for sure. We knew it'd be a good possession game by both teams and a good, physical team."

UA began the tournament with a 4-0 win over 30th-seeded Kilbourne in the first round Oct. 16 at home.

Morgan, who also had seven assists, and senior defender Abby Wild were named first-team all-league. Senior defender Ava D'Herete was second-team all-league, sophomore goalie Carolyn Stehle made special mention all-league and senior forward Hannah Dible was honorable mention all-league.

The Bears went 2-1-2 in the OCC-Central Division to finish fourth, behind Dublin Coffman (3-0-2), Davidson (3-1-1) and Marysville (2-0-3) and ahead of Central Crossing (1-4) and Westland (0-5).

Stehle is among five starters expected to return, along with junior Sarah Poling (forward) and sophomores Sydney Lape (defender/forward), Katerina Regules (defender) and Grace Wild (defender).

"It's been a great season, a fun season," Merrick said. "We definitely improved on last year's record (4-9-4). That was a big goal. We wanted to do well in the tournament, too, and we just didn't put a full game together (Oct. 19)."

Tennis team looks to future

Neither of the girls tennis team's doubles pairings placed in the Division I state tournament that concluded Oct. 21 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, but the Bears see a bright future considering that all four of their state qualifiers are expected to return.

Junior Evelyn Holman and sophomore Wendy Shi went 1-1 at state, losing to Westlake's Demi Jhaveri and Ashley Michelich 7-5, 6-3 in the second round. Freshmen Ella Hazelbaker and Noah Mizer lost to Massillon Jackson's Megan Reese and Emily Thomas 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the first round.

Holman and Shi opened with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Toledo Notre Dame Academy's Gracie Bennett and Maddie Humbles.

"I'm proud of both (doubles) teams," coach Shaun Stamps said. "Everyone is going to be nervous and we're just trying to control some of those nerves. What I'm telling them is that I'm just happy with how they competed and that we're looking forward to next year. It should be a great season for us."

Despite the losses, Holman also was optimistic about what she saw this season.

"It's amazing," Holman said. "(Hazelbaker and Mizer) haven't done this before. They are learning how everything works as they play and as they're winning. But it's an amazing experience, especially when it's your first time because you really appreciate it, being among the top 16 teams in the state. It shows that our team has young players and we are still strong."

UA went 9-2 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Central to win the championship, ahead of Coffman (4-1), Marysville (3-2), Davidson (2-3), Central Crossing (1-4) and Westland (0-5).

In the Bears' home sectional that concluded Oct. 7, Holman and Shi defeated Hazelbaker and Mizer 6-4, 6-4, retired in the third-place match and senior Masha Manilchuk finished fourth in singles.

In the district tournament that concluded Oct. 14 at home, Hazelbaker and Mizer placed second in doubles and Holman and Shi finished fourth.

Boys soccer team falls to Panthers

The boys soccer team scored twice in the second half to pull into a tie with host and ninth-seeded Pickerington North in a Division I district tournament second-round game Oct. 21, but the Panthers' Will Harr scored on a late penalty kick to give the Panthers a 3-2 win over the 20th-seeded Bears.

Ryan Burke and Adam Wade scored for UA, which finished 6-8-2, and goalie Pete Edwards made five saves.

The Bears opened the tournament with a 1-0 win over 29th-seeded Westland in the first round Oct. 18 at home. Burke scored and Edwards made one save.

Volleyball team wraps up season

The girls volleyball team split two Division I district tournament matches at home last week to finish at 13-11.

The 17th-seeded Bears defeated 22nd-seeded Hilliard Bradley 26-24, 25-23, 24-26, 25-14 in the first round Oct. 17 before losing to 23rd-seeded Westerville Central 27-25, 25-19, 19-25, 28-26 in the second round Oct. 19.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave