The Thomas Worthington High School field hockey team capped a perfect season with a 1-0 win over Columbus Academy in the state championship game Nov. 4 at Upper Arlington.
The Cardinals finished 21-0 with their third consecutive state title and sixth overall.
"This one is the most special of the three because we finished unbeaten, we had a target on our backs and because the opponent is Academy, which is the top program in the state and coached by the top coach (Anne Horton) in the state who has (506) career victories," coach Terri Simonetti Frost said.
"They played us extremely tough and that's what we expected. We were fortunate to capitalize on one chance, and that's what it took."
Although Thomas had many more shots and scoring opportunities, the Vikings withstood all the challenges except for one, as freshman attacker Bella Avila stuffed in a deflected shot by senior attacker Maya McDaniel off a penalty corner with 15 minutes, 32 seconds left in the first half.
"I was right there and (Academy goalkeeper Alex Phelps) and (another defender) shifted on a pass and the ball came right to me," Avila said. "I can't believe this is really happening. I always dreamed of playing in the state championship (game), and that came true this year. But I never thought or dreamed about scoring the winning goal. It's just unbelievable."
With senior Paige Lampman and junior Izzy Flint-Gonzalez playing strong defense, junior goalie Isabelle Perese stopped four shots on goal.
While Thomas outscored its five postseason opponents 32-1, defense was its calling card all year. The Cardinals allowed only six goals on the season, as did Academy.
"We knew it would be a lower-scoring game like the first time we played them," Simonetti Frost said, referring to Thomas' 2-1 win over the Vikings on Sept. 9. "I have to credit all of our girls for shutting down Academy's top two players. We changed our defense a bit and, for the most part, it worked pretty well."
"Three (state titles) in a row is pretty special," Perese said. "They made us work for it. We had to stay focused until the final second came off the clock. You know the clock is getting close, but you just can never celebrate until it's really over, no matter how slow the clock seems to be moving."
The Cardinals beat Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame 7-1 in a state semifinal Nov. 3 at UA as junior attacker Sarah Charley scored three goals and senior midfielder Emily Huber scored two. Juniors midfielder Althea Chan and Rachel Rinaldi also scored.
Thomas was seeded first of 17 teams in the district tournament and beat 17th-seeded Lancaster 9-0 in the first round Oct. 16, eighth-seeded Olentangy 10-0 in a district semifinal Oct. 24 and fifth-seeded Watterson 5-0 in a district final Oct. 28.
The Cardinals went 7-0 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-West Division to finish ahead of Olentangy Liberty (6-1), UA (5-2), Olentangy (4-3), Dublin Jerome and Olentangy Orange (both 2-4-1), Dublin Coffman (1-6) and Dublin Scioto (0-7).
Thomas is losing eight seniors in Huber, Lampman, McDaniel, Marie Ashline (attacker), Alexa Coe (defensive specialist), Emma Johnson (attacker), Katherine Miller (goalie) and Camryn Patton (attacker).
Among the expected returnees are Avila, Charley, Flint-Gonzales, Perese, Rinaldi, juniors Sarah Corbin (attacker), Reilly Ford (defender), Julia Scharff (attacker/defender), Madison Simeone (defender) and Anneliese Sinclair (attacker), sophomore Anna Giametta (midfielder) and freshmen Mollie Estepp (midfielder/defender) and Shoshanah Holub (mid-fielder/attacker).
Boys runners place 11th at state meet
The boys cross country team totaled 258 points in the Division I state meet Nov. 4 at National Trail Raceway to place 11th of 20 teams, behind champion Hudson (73).
Seniors Arjun Jha and Andy Payne both earned all-Ohio honors by finishing among the top 20 runners.
Jha placed fifth (15 minutes, 32.7 seconds) of 183 runners and Payne was eighth (15:36.2).
"This is special," Jha said. "It was an improvement from last year (seventh), so I guess that's something to definitely be proud of. This year was a little frustrating. I was hoping to do a little bit better than I did, but when it comes down to it, it's a really special opportunity to be here at the state meet, competing with the best guys from Ohio, not only in the state, but in the country. To come here and be all-state again this year, it's special."
Also competing for Thomas were senior Isaac Wise (98th, 16:52.8), sophomore Zubin Jha (100th, 16:54.9), junior Ryan Gimeson (166th, 17:46.9), junior Morgan Chavez (177th, 18:17.1) and senior Noah Yake (179th, 18:23.6).
"We started the year ranked 30th in the state, even with Arjun and Andy being highly ranked," coach Bill Darling said. "Finishing 11th is the product of the rest of the team getting better and improving every week. All of the hard work by others drove the team to the second-best state finish in my seven years with the program, behind our fourth place last year.
"Obviously, having two guys scoring next to nothing sets the stage, but the improvement by the entire team was the key. It's very, very rare you get the caliber of runners Arjun and Andy are and we got them together at the same time. They're two of the best this program has ever had, and we had them together and they worked hard together and pushed each other."
The Cardinals qualified for state by finishing second (115) in the 16-team regional meet Oct. 28 at Pickerington North, behind Hilliard Davidson (59). The top five teams and top 20 runners advanced to state.
Arjun Jha placed second (15:39.08) and Payne was third (15:43.33) at regional.
Thomas placed second (87) in a 16-team district 3 meet Oct. 21 at Watkins Memorial, behind Olentangy Liberty (49), as Arjun Jha (14:59.94) and Payne (15:17.22) took the top two spots.
The Cardinals finished first (35) in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet Oct. 14 at Hilliard Darby, ahead of Jerome (61), Darby (81), Scioto (83), Kilbourne (108), Hilliard Bradley (143) and Delaware (224), as Arjun Jha (15:23.84) and Payne (15:41.67) took the top two spots and Thomas had four of the top-eight finishers.
The Cardinals will be losing four of their top eight runners to graduation and will have to change their strategy next season, according to Darling.
"We will be a pack team next year and there will be a lot of spots available for our young guys to compete for," Darling said. "It will have to be team racing next year, but I believe in our guys and some of our returnees. They're going to work hard."
Also competing this season but not in the state lineup was sophomore Jack Cain, who ran at regional.
Napoleon competes at state for girls team
Gia Napoleon represented the girls cross country team in the Division I state meet Nov. 4 at National Trail Raceway, placing 40th (18:55) of 173 runners.
The junior qualified for state by placing 16th (19:01.67) in the regional meet Oct. 28 at Pickerington North, where the top 20 runners advanced.
The Cardinals, who had no seniors in their postseason lineup, finished eighth (225) of 17 teams at regional, behind champion Granville (63). Orange (160) earned the fifth and final state berth.
Also competing for Thomas at regional were freshman Carina Napoleon (37th, 19:49.18), sophomore Lydia Miller (38th, 19:50.48), junior Tori Banks (66th, 20:32.19), freshman Morgan Edwards (96th, 21:13.98) and sophomores Cassidy Shaver (105th, 21:29.35) and Sydney Cropper (117th, 22:16.51).
Thomas finished second (76) in the district 2 meet Oct. 21 at Watkins Memorial, behind Granville (43), as Gia Napoleon (fourth, 18:38.71), Carina Napoleon (eighth, 19:00.46), Miller (16th, 19:33.28) and Banks (19th, 19:46.78) made all-district.
The Cardinals repeated as OCC-Cardinal champions, totaling 47 points in the league meet Oct. 14 to finish ahead of host Darby (74), Bradley (88), Jerome (94), Kilbourne (101), Scioto (110) and Delaware (158).
Gia Napoleon (third, 19:05.1), Carina Napoleon (fourth, 19:10.74) and Miller (fifth, 19:42.6) were first-team all-league, while Banks (eighth, 19:58.82) made second team.