With a trio of seniors leading the way last fall, the Olentangy Liberty High School girls golf team put together the best season in program history.
The Patriots aren't planning to take a big step back despite those graduation losses, and their results from their opening tournament back up that expectation.
On Aug. 8 in the first round of the OCC-Buckeye Division tournament at Mentel Memorial, Liberty shot a 330 to place second behind two-time defending Division I state champion Orange (317).
The Patriots return three of their top six from last season, when they went 17-3 in the four-round league tournament to finish second behind Orange (19-1) and averaged a program-record 159.44 for nine holes.
"I'm very hopeful, but I'm also excited," first-year coach Shayla Glover said. "I think we'll be right in the thick of competing with some of the top schools. Central Ohio is the best in girls golf in the state. I have high expectations and we have a young group of girls that I think are going to do well."
Senior Kavya Manocha and junior Sarah Latzke are the top returnees.
Manocha shot an 84 and Latzke had an 89 in the district tournament last fall as Liberty finished fourth (315) to miss advancing to state by eight strokes.
Manocha shot a 76 in the first round of the league tournament while sophomore Gracie Baun, who was a junior varsity competitor last fall, shot an 80.
Also moving up from j.v. is sophomore Juliana Renda, while Taya Buxton is a freshman who made the team.
Others expected to see action include junior Sophie Dudon, who was among the team's top six players last season, sophomore Abigail Corbin and senior Bella Orofino.
Glover is a 2006 Dublin Scioto graduate who was the j.v. coach the past three seasons. She replaced Kaiya La Londe, who stepped down after five seasons.
"Kavya and Sarah are returning from varsity and both have improved," Glover said. "Sarah actually won a couple tournaments over the summer and has gone from the mid-80s last year to the low-80s. Taya was on the middle school team and was playing really well and has continued to improve upon her scores. She shot 78 on the first day of tryouts, which is really, really good for a freshman. Juliana and Gracie have gotten tremendously better from last year."
Girls tennis team again thinking big
The girls tennis team returns five of its top seven players, including two who ended their 2017 season with state medals.
Sophomores Maddie Atway and Dani Schoenly played first and second singles, respectively, throughout most of regular season but teamed up in doubles for the postseason and went on to earn the Division I state championship with a 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) victory over Cincinnati Ursuline Academy's Nina Dhaliwal and Gabrielle O'Connor.
Figuring out whether their players will play singles or doubles for the postseason won't be determined for several weeks, but the Patriots likely will begin their pursuit of another goal soon.
On a date to be determined by Sept. 7, Liberty will play Marysville or Mount Vernon in the second round of the Division I OTCA state team tournament.
Last season, the Patriots lost to Dublin Jerome 3-1 in a district final of the event.
"We probably want to get to the final four," third-year coach Will Thieman said. "Obviously we've been close the past couple years, and this year a lot of teams are capable of doing it. It's pretty cool that there are maybe four or five (central Ohio) teams capable of making the final four, and we're fortunate to be one of them."
Other returnees are seniors Lexie Brengartner, Anna Gardner and Ellie MacDowell.
Junior Ananya Dhati and sophomore Cathy Zhu also are expected to contribute.
MacDowell and Brengartner played doubles for much of last season but competed in singles during the postseason, with each losing in first-round district matches.
Gardner was the Patriots' other singles entrant in the postseason, falling in the first round at sectional.
Liberty's other doubles team, 2018 graduates Cellini Ko and Lexi Steer, lost in the first round at state.
The Patriots finished 15-5 overall and won the OCC-Buckeye at 5-0.
"It should be a lot of fun," Thieman said. "We've got a good group of girls that want to compete. It's good to have that. They play all year-round. We're playing a lot of good teams to get some experience."
Boys golf team to have younger look
The boys golf team will attempt to carry on what has become an almost annual state-tournament tradition with several new players in the fold.
Liberty, which was the Division I state runner-up last fall and has been to state four of the past five seasons, lost two players to graduation who now are playing collegiately in Trey Rath (Xavier) and Cole Corder (Wright State).
Despite those losses, the Patriots shot 295 to finish first in the first round of the OCC-Buckeye tournament comfortably over runner-up Orange (306) as well as Olentangy (307) on Aug. 7 at Turnberry.
Senior Josh Steyer had a 71 to share medalist honors and sophomore Grant Smeltzer shot 72.
Sophomore Andrew Blosser had the best scores in tryouts and shot 75 while playing in the No. 1 spot during the league opener.
Also on the team are sophomore Hunter Corbin and freshman Logan McCarrell.
In the second round Aug. 13 at Apple Valley, Liberty shot 302 to finish first.
"I had three seniors that kind of carried us along last year," 15th-year coach Ryan Snivley said. "(Blosser) was on our (j.v.) team last year and put in a ton of time at the range, and he's seeing the results pay off."
Steyer and Smeltzer are the only returnees from a team that went 20-0 to win the league title. Corder was the Player of the Year (72.0), Rath was runner-up (74.5) and Smeltzer was fourth (75.5) to also make first-team all-league. Steyer averaged 79.8 to make honorable mention all-league.
The Patriots also lost Jacob Hickman, who was second-team all-league (78.0), to graduation.
There are 19 players in the program, and just three strokes separated the top competitors on the varsity and j.v. teams.
"I'm pretty happy that we have a lot of depth," Snivley said. "Top to bottom we're going to have five scores that are in the mid-70s, so that's going to place us well in tournaments. I can guarantee that with the work ethic the boys have shown that we're going to continue to improve, which makes me excited for the season."
Aug. 6 -- Patriot Cup at Denison Golf Club
Aug. 7 -- OCC-Buckeye at Turnberry
Aug. 8 -- Westerville Central Invitational at Rattlesnake Ridge
Aug. 9 -- Worthington Christian Invitational at York
Aug. 11 -- Steve Youmans Classic at Oakhaven
Aug. 13 -- OCC-Buckeye at Apple Valley
Aug. 14 -- Dublin Invitational at Golf Club of Dublin
Aug. 20 -- Toledo St. Ursula Invitational at Inverness
Aug. 28 -- OCC-Buckeye at Denison Golf Club
Sept. 8 -- St. Charles Invitational at Brookside
Sept. 10 -- Gdovin Memorial Invitational at Zanesville Country Club
Sept. 12 -- OCC-Buckeye at Darby Creek
Sept. 15 -- Trojan Invitational at Findlay Country Club
Sept. 17 -- Delaware County Bank Cup at Royal American
Sept. 22 -- Upper Arlington Invitational at Scioto Country Club
Sept. 24 -- Nolan Belden Invitational at Brookside in Canton
Sept. 26 -- Dublin Coffman at Kinsale
Sept. 27 -- Olentangy at Oakhaven
Oct. 6 -- Wedgewood Showcase
Aug. 8 -- OCC-Buckeye at Mentel Memorial
Aug. 10 -- Panther Invitational at Turnberry
Aug. 15 -- OCC-Buckeye at Westchester
Aug. 20 -- Lexington Invitational at Westbrook
Aug. 21 -- Watterson at Scioto Reserve
Aug. 23 -- Gahanna at Scioto Reserve
Aug. 25 -- New Albany Invitational at Cooks Creek
Aug. 28 -- Olentangy and Pickerington North at Turnberry
Aug. 29 -- OCC-Buckeye at Royal American
Sept. 5 -- Gahanna and Lancaster at Jefferson
Sept. 6 -- Olentangy, Pickerington North and Watterson at Safari
Sept. 8 -- Eagle-Panther Invitational at Cooks Creek
Sept. 10 -- Upper Arlington at Raymond Memorial
Sept. 12 -- OCC-Buckeye at Cooks Creek
Sept. 13 -- Columbus School for Girls at Scioto Reserve
Sept. 15 -- Toledo St. Ursula Invitational at Highland Meadows
Sept. 18 -- Dublin Coffman at Marysville Golf Course
Sept. 19 -- Buckeye Valley, Lancaster and Olentangy at Scioto Reserve
Sept. 20 -- Columbus School for Girls at Blacklick Woods
Sept. 22 -- Marysville Invitational at Darby Creek
Sept. 24 -- Pickerington North at Scioto Reserve
Sept. 25 -- Marysville at Darby Creek
Oct. 6 -- Pickerington North Fall Classic at Cooks Creek
Aug. 15 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
Aug. 16 -- at Hilliard Davidson
Aug. 21 -- vs. Newark
*Aug. 23 -- vs Olentangy Orange
*Aug. 28 -- at Westerville South
*Aug. 30 -- vs. Westerville North
*Sept. 4 -- at Westerville Central
*Sept. 6 -- vs. Olentangy
Sept. 13 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley
Sept. 25 -- at Dublin Coffman
Sept. 26 -- at Columbus Academy
Oct. 1 -- at Columbus School for Girls
Below are the coming schedules for the Liberty field hockey, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 18 -- Home vs. Hilliard Lynx
Aug. 22 -- At Dublin Scioto
Aug. 21 -- At Upper Arlington
Aug. 17 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman
Aug. 21 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley
Aug. 21 -- At Marysville