For a defensive front that has recorded more than a dozen shutouts this season, allowing a goal gets personal for the Big Walnut High School girls soccer team.
The second-seeded Golden Eagles posted their 13th shutout of the season with a 3-0 victory over seventh-seeded Hartley in a Division II district semifinal Oct. 24 at home.
Big Walnut was 13-2-4 before playing top-seeded Granville in the district final Oct. 28 at Westerville North. The Golden Eagles had outscored their opponents 78-11 through 19 games.
"We have a ton of experience back (on defense)," said coach Drew Pitzer, whose team won a district championship last season before losing to Kettering Alter 2-0 in a regional semifinal. "They've won a district title, they've lost a district title, they've been in the big games and they've played the tough Division I schedules for three or four years now. ... The moment is never really too big for them."
Sweeper Rylee Bussen, a three-year starter, has been the leader of the Golden Eagles' defense, which includes defenders Morgan Bodker, Erin Boehm and Mya Rasar and goalkeeper Payton Carter.
Hartley, which the Golden Eagles defeated 3-0 in last season's district final, held Big Walnut scoreless in the first half.
"(Hartley) put a big emphasis on defending," Pitzer said. "They really packed it in and didn't allow us a lot of clean looks, but we were able to break them down in the second half and had the wind."
The district champion plays Chillicothe, Chillicothe Unioto, Fairfield Union or Jackson in a regional semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 31, at Bloom-Carroll. That winner faces Zanesville, Lisbon Beaver, New Concord John Glenn or New Philadelphia in the regional final Saturday, Nov. 4, at a site to be determined.
The regional champion advances to a state semifinal Nov. 7.
Big Walnut reached a district semifinal by beating fifth-seeded Buckeye Valley 6-1 in a second-round game Oct. 19 and 16th-seeded Whitehall 18-0 in the first round Oct. 16.
Alexis Schone scored three goals against Buckeye Valley and two against Whitehall.
Emma Padgett had a team-high 15 goals through 19 games.
Football team clinches share of OCC title
The football team closed the regular season Oct. 27 with a 38-6 loss at home against Canal Winchester after earning at least a share of its first OCC-Capital Division championship since 2011 with a 14-13 victory over Groveport on Oct. 20.
Big Walnut was 4-5 overall and 4-0 in the OCC-Capital before playing Canal Winchester. A win over the Indians would have given the Golden Eagles, who opened the season with five consecutive losses, the outright league title.
"It's a testament to our guys' guts to stick through it when things were tough," coach Joe Weaver said. "They held true and worked hard for it and the championship is rewarding for them."
Fullback Nathan Lawyer and quarterback Tyler Ronk each had a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter as the Golden Eagles edged host Groveport, which fell to 0-9 overall and 0-4 in the league. The Cruisers led 7-0 at halftime.
"Road games in the OCC are tough, and it doesn't matter who you're playing, regardless of a team's record," Weaver said. "I'm really proud of my guys."
Entering Week 10, Big Walnut was 14th in the Division II, Region 7 computer ratings. The top eight teams make the playoffs, which start Friday, Nov. 3.
Girls runners compete at regional
The girls cross country team competed in the Division I regional meet Oct. 28 at Pickerington North.
Big Walnut totaled 195 points in the 18-team district 3 meet Oct. 21 at Watkins Memorial to earn the sixth and final regional-qualifying spot, behind champion Hilliard Davidson (25). Canal Winchester (214) was seventh.
Colbi Borland led the Golden Eagles, placing ninth of 125 runners in 19 minutes, 4.68 seconds. Also scoring were Leksi Murnieks (34th, 20:31.41), Hannah Wilson (38th, 20:42.23), Chloe McKenzie (54th, 21:17.51) and Ruthann Armbrust (60th, 21:23.39).
The boys team finished 13th (378) in the 17-team district 2 meet, behind champion Pickerington North (56). Granville (141) placed fifth to earn the final regional berth.
Jacob Hutchinson finished 55th (17:42.72) of 119 runners to lead the Golden Eagles. The top 20 runners advanced to regional.
Also scoring were Jacob Krous (65th, 17:53.11), Kaleb Disbennett (82nd, 18:21.11), Will Hefner (86th, 18:26.06) and Austin Stewart (90th, 18:41.06).
At regional, the top five teams and top 20 runners advance to the state meet Nov. 4 at National Trail Raceway.
Girls volleyball team reaches district semi
The girls volleyball team was 20-4 before playing sixth-seeded Licking Valley in a Division II district semifinal Oct. 26 at Licking Heights.
The second-seeded Golden Eagles opened the postseason with a 25-5, 25-7, 25-8 victory over 20th-seeded Beechcroft in a second-round match Oct. 18 at home.
The semifinal winner played fourth-seeded London or seventh-seeded Buckeye Valley in a district final Oct. 28 at Licking Heights.
The district champion plays Carrollton or Dover in a regional semifinal Thursday, Nov. 2, at Zanesville. That winner faces Sparta Highland, Granville, East Liverpool or New Philadelphia in the regional final Saturday, Nov. 4, at Zanesville.
The regional champion advances to a state semifinal Nov. 10 at Wright State University.
Season ends for boys soccer team
The 24th-seeded boys soccer team's seven-game winning streak and its season ended with a 1-0 overtime loss at 10th-seeded Hilliard Darby in the second round of the Division I tournament Oct. 21.
Darby's Josh Govine headed in the lone goal off a corner kick with 11:25 remaining in overtime.
The Golden Eagles, who had a first-round bye, finished 9-8 overall.
"Our goalkeeper (Michael Kline) came out to get (the ball) and realized he wasn't going to get it," first-year coach Adam Gatton said. "At that point, he tried to back track, but it was too late. It went right over the top of his head. It was unlucky."
Big Walnut started 2-7 under Gatton before putting together the winning streak that began with a 4-1 victory over Logan on Sept. 21.
The Golden Eagles went 3-2 in the OCC-Capital to place third, behind New Albany (5-0) and Canal Winchester (3-1-1) and ahead of Franklin Heights (2-3), Groveport (1-3-1) and Newark (0-5).
"It took us the first half of the year to figure out who we were, with some of the guys finding their niche and figuring out their particular roles," Gatton said. "Heading into the tournament, guys really became comfortable with their roles and what they meant to this team."
Big Walnut is losing eight seniors in Kline, Dustin Cheadle (outside back), Chase Geddis (center midfielder), Niklas Iezzi (center back), Sam Mason (center midfielder), Jon Mickley (center back), Michael Reardon (forward) and Chris Zaragoza (forward).
Mickley had a team-high seven goals and Reardon scored five.
Gatton expects juniors Hunter Blair (forward), Anthony Cunningham (center midfielder) and Jared Flowers (forward) and sophomore Landon Ruthkowski (center back) to be among the top contributors next season.