Although it entered the week two wins away from its fourth consecutive Division I state championship and ninth overall, the Upper Arlington High School girls lacrosse team saw no reason to take a collective deep breath.
"We're very excited, (but) we're always nervous," attacker Brooke Smith said. "There's a lot on the line. All we have to do is keep working hard and pushing through."
The Golden Bears improved to 22-0 with a 15-8 win over third-seeded Thomas Worthington in the Division I, Region 3 final May 24 at Fortress Obetz, but the victory was something of a rarity in that the game was decided by single digits. Before playing Cincinnati Sycamore in a state semifinal May 30 at Dayton Oakwood, UA had played only six games decided by fewer than 11 goals this season.
One of the teams that stayed relatively close with the Bears could be their opponent in the state final at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 2, at Ohio Wesleyan. The UA-Sycamore winner will play Hudson or New Albany in the final.
The Bears defeated New Albany 12-5 on May 2 but have not played Hudson this year.
Brooke Smith had seven goals and Megan Kozar scored four against Thomas in a game top-seeded UA led 6-4 at halftime. Smith, Lauren Farber and Brenna Smith scored during an 87-second span early in the second half to fuel a 7-0 run that pushed the Bears' lead to 13-4 with 15 minutes, 8 seconds remaining.
"Thomas Worthington had a good game plan going into the game and made it tough on us in the first half, but we regrouped and cooled off in the locker room at halftime and came out more composed," coach Wendy Pinta said. "Ellena Schildmeyer had a terrific second half and allowed us to keep on the attack throughout. We withstood (Thomas) in the first half and then played a very strong and smart second half."
Tori Banks and Mollie Estepp both had two goals for Thomas, which finished 16-5-1. Brooke Smith said slowing down Banks topped the agenda for UA's defense in the days leading up to the game.
"We were watching for her while we prepared (last) week and we used a backer to stop her and put some pressure on her to make some stops," Brooke Smith said.
With the victory over Thomas, UA lengthened its winning streak against in-state competition to 74 games dating to the start of the 2015 season, when this year's seniors were freshmen.
Entering the week, the Bears had not lost to an in-state team since May 22, 2014, when a 10-9, double-overtime loss to Mason in a South/Central Region final ended UA's bid to defend its 2013 state championship.
Track athletes prep for state meet
A few droughts for the track and field program will end at the Division I state meet Friday, June 1, and Saturday, June 2, at Ohio State.
UA, which had not had a state qualifier since 2015, will be represented by girls distance runner Heidi Heuerman in the 3,200 meters and boys pole vaulter Garegin Soghomonyan.
Soghomonyan is the first member of the boys team to make state since 2010, when both the 3,200 relay and Joe Cordle in the 110 hurdles placed 14th.
In the regional meet held May 23 and 25 at Pickerington North, Soghomonyan finished third by clearing 14 feet, 4 inches, a height that is tied for 10th-best among the 16 state qualifiers.
Heuerman finished fifth in the 3,200 (11:03.63), one spot shy of automatically advancing to state, but she earned one of two at-large berths in the event based on regional times statewide. Her time is 11th-best among the 18 state qualifiers.
The boys team scored 11 points at regional to tie Mount Vernon for 17th behind champion Pickerington Central (97) as 41 teams scored. The girls finished 16th (12) behind champion Gahanna (84) as 32 teams scored.
Also competing at regional for the boys team but failing to advance were Avery Heath in the 100 (sixth, 11.12) and 200 (seventh, 22.63), Sean McRae in the shot put (10th, 48-8), Christopher Schweisthal in the 100 (12th, 11.25) and John Castetter in the shot put (14th, 45-7).
Falling short of state on the girls side were Adrienne Wachtman in the discus (fifth, 117-7) and high jump (13th, 5-0), Emma Zid in the 200 (fifth, 25.95) and Kaila Borgards in the shot put (14th, 33-8).
Rowers thrive at SRAA Nationals
The rowing teams had an historically successful weekend in the Scholastic Rowing Association of America Nationals that concluded May 26 in Camden, New Jersey, placing three boats in the top six and advancing all seven to at least the semifinal round.
The boys varsity 8 placed an all-time best third (4:20.6) with R.C. Brandes, Philip Chalmers, John Duhigg, Thomas Herzog, Cam Hutchinson, Peter Johanni, Dylan Reed, Drew Weisberg and coxswain Clara Fix, the boys' second varsity 8 finished fourth (4:33.43) with Matthew Giammar, Daniel Ibba, Sangyoon Lee, Jack Levering, Austin Martin, Blake Skidmore, Tyler Wulf, Gaven Zou and coxswain Aurora Scherl, and the girls freshman 8 was sixth (5:33.15) with Grace Chang, Aiana DeVilbiss, Lindsay Holman, Melanie Kase, Katelyn Meats, Noah Mizer, Riley Moran, Josephine Stewart and coxswain Caitlin Curran.
Advancing to the semifinals were the girls varsity 8, lightweight varsity 4, junior varsity 8 and freshman 8.
The boys varsity 8's season will conclude at the 2018 Youth National Championships, which will be held June 8-10 in Gold River, California.
Tennis season ends at state tourney
Despite being represented in the Division I state tournament for the 60th consecutive season, the boys tennis team did not get the ending it wanted.
The doubles team of senior Josh Cole and sophomore Will Reynolds went 1-1, defeating Hunting Valley University School's Charlie Joranko and Chas Norman 6-4, 6-4 in the first round May 25 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason before losing to Mason's Shashank Reddy and Aneesh Zutshi 6-0, 6-3 in a second-round match later that day.
"(Cole) is a state champion (in doubles in 2017), so it's tough to go out like that. We didn't play as well as we would have liked," coach Will Thieman said. "It's not where we wanted to end up, but I think everybody worked hard and that's all you can ask for."
UA is projected to return five of its top seven players, a group rounded out by juniors Nick Gruss and Paige Kompa and sophomores Emerson Dean and Nathan Yu.
The Bears finished 11-4 overall and 4-0 in the OCC-Central Division, winning their 36th consecutive league championship by finishing ahead of Dublin Coffman (3-1), Hilliard Davidson (2-2), Marysville (1-3) and Central Crossing (0-4).
In the home sectional that concluded May 12, Cole and Reynolds finished first in doubles, Kompa and Yu were second in doubles and senior Elliot Jones was fourth in singles, as the top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district.
In the district tournament that concluded May 19 at Olympic Indoor Tennis Club, Cole and Reynolds went 3-1 and finished third as the top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to state, while Jones went 2-1 and Kompa and Yu went 1-1.
UA fell short of the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I state tournament, losing to New Albany 3-1 in a district final May 21 at home.
Boys lacrosse team falls short of state
One of the boys lacrosse team's four one-goal wins during the regular season came against Worthington Kilbourne, 6-5 on April 14, and the second-seeded Wolves repaid the top-seeded Bears with an 8-7 win in the Division I, Region 3 final May 25 at Fortress Obetz.
Harry Baker scored to tie the game at 7 with 6:13 remaining, but Kilbourne sophomore Will Alban scored the game-winning goal with 4:27 left. UA could not convert any of its chances the rest of the way.
"They took advantage of one of our turnovers and we had two or three chances in the final minutes and didn't take advantage of them," coach Kyle Olson said. "It was a good game from two great teams and we came up short and you have tip your cap to Kilbourne."
Baker and Charlie Little each scored two goals for UA, which finished 19-3.
The Bears advanced to the regional final with a 9-8, double-overtime win over fifth-seeded Davidson in a semifinal May 22 at home. Nik Schickram had three goals and Ben Tjaden scored two, including the game-winner.
Underclassmen guided baseball team
Despite losing two of its best players to injury by mid-April, both of whom will play in college, the baseball team still managed to get within one win of its first Division I district championship since 2010.
Ten players batted at least .311, led by junior pitcher and outfielder Ben Krimm's .386 average, team-high five home runs and 32 hits. UA had a .322 batting average while going 21-8 overall and 10-5 in the OCC-Central.
"At one point, we were 5-4 and really trying to develop an identity," coach Tom Marker said. "We had a few good team meetings and a few discussions where egos were checked, coaches included, and we worked to determine where to go from there. Guys needed to step up, coaches had to be more diligent in their daily approach and I feel like that happened. From that point, we went 16-4 and had a lot of guys step up and deliver."
UA won 10 of its final 12 games. Seeded fifth, the Bears opened the 48-team Division I district tournament by defeating 30th-seeded Dublin Scioto 5-4 in nine innings in a second-round game May 9 and edged 20th-seeded Gahanna 8-7 in a district semifinal May 16 before losing to eighth-seeded Lancaster 8-5 in a district final May 17.
Senior infielder and pitcher Mason Ward batted .371 with a team-best 33 hits, ahead of junior infielder and pitcher Dilz (.364, 32 hits) and senior outfielder Brandon Horsley (.338, 22 hits). Horsley will play at Ashland University.
Junior Ethan Hammerberg (INF/P) batted .317 with four home runs.
Senior Henry Ledman, who did not play in 2017, stepped in at catcher after junior and Wright State commit Sammy Sass suffered a season-ending broken left thumb April 9. Senior Dakota DeStefano (INF/P), a Capital recruit, also missed most of the season because of injury.
Senior Kyle Hench led the pitching staff with a 5-1 record, 2.67 ERA, 26 strikeouts and 11 walks in 39 1/3 innings. Junior Charlie Fleming was 4-1 with a 5.58 ERA, 31 strikeouts and 12 walks in 37 2/3 innings.
UA finished second in the OCC-Central, behind Davidson (13-2) and ahead of Marysville (9-6), Coffman (8-7), Central Crossing (5-10) and Westland (0-15).
Dilz was named first-team all-league and all-district, Horsley was second-team all-league and first-team all-district and Ward was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Hench was first-team all-league, Krimm and junior Andrew Whetsell (INF/P) were second-team all-league, Hammerberg was special mention all-league and sophomore Jacob Leve (INF) was honorable mention all-league.