The Pickerington High School North girls tennis team's season lasted about as long as it could last year, but the Panthers want it to go even longer.
Appearing in her second consecutive Division I state tournament, Cassie Alcala won a three-hour semifinal before losing to Rocky River Magnificat's Anna Roggenburk 6-0, 6-0 in the championship match.
Not only is Alcala, now a junior, eager to improve on that finish, but 16th-year coach Brian Hoff thinks his team has a chance to play the day after the individual state finals in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I state tournament.
"To qualify for that, we have to win the Central District. And to do that, we are going to have to beat a lot of very, very good teams," said Hoff, whose team opened Aug. 15 at home against Olentangy. "In my opinion, five of the top seven or eight teams in the state are in central Ohio. It won't be easy, but I know we are up to the challenge. We've been very close the past couple years."
North returns its entire lineup from a team that went 14-6 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division last season, falling one win short of repeating as league champion before enjoying the best individual season in program history.
Alcala again will play first singles, ahead of classmates Rhyan Cook and Kim Nguyen at second and third singles, respectively. Anna Stanley, the team's only senior, will play doubles along with juniors Sophia Anderson, Maggie Haas and Jessica Scruggs and sophomore Corrina Moesle.
Haas and Nguyen qualified for the district tournament last year in doubles.
"Doubles teams are still a work in progress," Hoff said. "The girls have been working extremely hard on their games since the end of last season. So many of the girls have improved dramatically. ...
"It was disappointing not winning (the league) last year, but we had a great postseason run (with) Maggie and Kim making districts in doubles and, of course, Cassie's run to the state final. Being state runner-up is an amazing accomplishment, but Cassie isn't satisfied with that. She is determined to take that last step to the top of the mountain. She's playing some really good tennis right now."
North begins league play Aug. 23 at home against Pickerington Central, which went 5-0 in the OCC-Ohio a year ago to win its ninth league title in 10 seasons.
The Panthers' non-league schedule includes a trip to Cincinnati to play Cincinnati Ursuline Academy on Aug. 24 and Cincinnati St. Ursula the next day, as well as a home tri-match Sept. 8 against both of last year's OTCA state champions in Mason (Division I) and Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown (Division II).
"If you want to be the best, you've got to play the best and ultimately beat the best," Hoff said. "That's our mission this season."
Freshman tops boys golf lineup
The boys golf team returns two seniors in Danny Corrigan and Danny Heitmeyer and junior Jake Chadwick from a team that fell just short of its 13th consecutive league championship, but freshman Carson Bellish found himself atop the Panthers' lineup to start the season.
Bellish and Corrigan each had rounds of 78 in the season-opening Thomas Worthington Preview on Aug. 4 at Delaware Golf Club, as North shot a 320 to place fourth of 15 teams, behind champion Wellington (297).
Two days later in the Polar Bear Invitational at Shady Hollow, Bellish earned medalist honors by shooting a 69.
"We have very high hopes for (Bellish)," fourth-year coach Steve Schill said. "He had a heck of a summer. He's mature with a high golf IQ and solid decision-making. That said, he's still a freshman and he's going to be playing a lot of courses he hasn't seen before. He's solid from tee to green and probably has picked up 50 yards on his drive in the past year. That gives him a lot more opportunities to go for birdies.
"The big thing I am preaching right now for everybody is consistency. That will be our challenge. If the early part of the season is any indication, we will have days that will be very good and some days that will be frustrating."
Also on Aug. 4, junior Tomasz Douangsy and sophomore Elijah Hale each shot an 84.
Chadwick did not compete because of a prior commitment.
"We might be rotating guys early to decide who will be in the top five," Schill said. "We haven't always had competition for spots like this in previous years. That can be a good thing."
North finds itself in third place halfway through the four-round OCC-Ohio tournament.
In the first round Aug. 7 at Darby Creek, North scored a 324 to finish third behind Gahanna (300) and Central (312) and ahead of Grove City (326), Lancaster (338) and Reynoldsburg (370).
Heitmeyer shot a 78, followed by Hale (80), Douangsy (82), Bellish (84) and Corrigan (93).
In the second round Aug. 13 at Darby Creek, the Panthers scored a 322 to finish third behind Gahanna (311) and Central (314) and ahead of Grove City (326), Lancaster (335) and Reynoldsburg (361).
North went 14-6 in the league last year, finishing second behind Gahanna (17-3).
"Starting off, we just want to be competitive everywhere we go. With our schedule, that in and of itself is asking a lot," Schill said. "(Winning the OCC-Ohio) will be a tall order. Gahanna has a lot of their guys back. I hope we are in contention. I'm excited for our potential."
Davis, Kane, Tasney leading girls golfers
Nathan Weibush has coached plenty of sports in and around North, but this season will present a different challenge as he takes over the girls golf team.
It also is the first time the Panthers are being led by anyone other than Kitty McGrievy.
Weibush, who teaches government, psychology, social studies and a sports history class at North, coached boys golf at Lakeview Junior High School last year.
He took over in March for McGrievy, who had coached the Panthers since the school opened in 2003. Weibush also has coached baseball and football at North and Lakeview over the past decade, and coached the Lakeview girls golf team in 2008 and 2009.
Seniors Caroline Kane and Zhanner Davis, junior Allyson Rosen and sophomore Cassie Tasney return for the Panthers, who opened Aug. 6 by finishing seventh (387) in the 10-team Lady Lion Invitational at Jefferson Country Club behind New Albany (295).
"We are very strong at the top," Weibush said.
"Cassie was injured during tryouts, but she knows there is a spot for her. We (did not) want to rush her back. I am happy with what I've seen so far from everybody. Everybody has been very competitive. Caroline was injured last year and her being back is good for us. She looks very comfortable. She's hitting her shots very well."
Rounding out the roster are sophomores Ella Bertke and Lydia Fish and freshman Kendall Burton.
"Two of those four (including Rosen), when Cassie comes back, will golf all of the OCC(-Ohio) matches," Weibush said.
"The younger girls have already shown a lot of improvement. We had tryouts on the OCC (tournament courses), Cooks Creek, Westchester and Mentel Memorial, and the girls got good looks at those courses. They have good chemistry. They're always helping each other. In golf, you're really competing mostly against yourself, and the girls want to help each other and make sure we're strong up and down the lineup from match to match."
North got off to a good start defending its OCC-Ohio championship, shooting a 342 to win the first round of the league tournament Aug. 8 at Cooks Creek ahead of Gahanna (344), Central (402), Grove City (407), Big Walnut (411) and Lancaster (596). Kane shot a 79, followed by Tasner (83), Davis (84), Rosen (96) and Fish (101).
The Panthers went 16-2 in the league last year to tie Gahanna for first place ahead of Grove City (9-9).
The second round was Aug. 15 at Mentel Memorial.
Aug. 4 -- Thomas Worthington Preview at Delaware Golf Club
Aug. 6 -- Polar Bear Invitational at Shady Hollow
Aug. 7 -- OCC-Ohio at Darby Creek
Aug. 9 -- New Albany Invitational at New Albany Links
Aug. 11 -- Fairfield Federal Invitational at Turnberry
Aug. 13 -- OCC-Ohio at Apple Valley
Aug. 14 -- Dublin Classic at Golf Club of Dublin
Aug. 18 -- Watkins Memorial Invitational at Cumberland Trail
Aug. 21 -- Thomas Worthington at Denison Golf Club
Aug. 23 -- Columbus Academy and Grove City at Cumberland Trail
Aug. 28 -- OCC-Ohio at Denison Golf Club
Sept. 1 -- Pinnacle Classic at Pinnacle
Sept. 4 -- Lancaster Invitational at Lancaster Country Club
Sept. 8 -- St. Charles Invitational at Brookside
Sept. 10 -- Gdovin Memorial Invitational at Zanesville Country Club
Sept. 12 -- OCC-Ohio at Turnberry
Sept. 22 -- Upper Arlington Masters Invitational at Scioto Country Club
Sept. 24 -- OCC Shootout at Moundbuilders
Sept. 27 -- Pickerington Cup at Pine Hill
Sept. 29 -- Pickerington Central Fall Invitational at Turnberry
Aug. 6 -- Lady Lion Invitational at Jefferson
Aug. 8 -- OCC-Ohio at Cooks Creek
Aug. 9 -- Teays Valley and Westerville Central at Turnberry
Aug. 10 -- Panther Invitational at Turnberry
Aug. 13 -- Upper Arlington and Watterson at Raymond Memorial
Aug. 15 -- OCC-Ohio at Mentel Memorial
Aug. 16 -- DeSales at Royal American
Aug. 25 -- Bear-Lion Open at Cooks Creek
Aug. 29 -- OCC-Ohio at Westchester
Aug. 30 -- Olentangy and Olentangy Liberty at Turnberry
Sept. 5 -- Big Walnut and Pickerington Central at Royal American
Sept. 6 -- Olentangy Liberty and Watterson at Airport
Sept. 8 -- Eagle-Panther Invitational at Cooks Creek
Sept. 12 -- OCC-Ohio at Royal American
Sept. 13 -- Pickerington Central at Turnberry
Sept. 17 -- Upper Arlington at Turnberry
Sept. 20 -- DeSales at NorthStar
Sept. 22 -- Marysville Invitational at Darby Creek
Sept. 24 -- Olentangy Liberty at Scioto Reserve
Sept. 26 -- Upper Arlington and Watterson at TBD
Oct. 6 -- Pickerington North Fall Classic at Cooks Creek
Aug. 15 -- vs. Olentangy
Aug. 20 -- at Chillicothe
Aug. 21 -- at Columbus Academy
*Aug. 23 -- vs. Pickerington Central
Aug. 24 -- at Cincinnati Ursuline Academy
Aug. 25 -- at Cincinnati St. Ursula
*Aug. 28 -- at Gahanna
Aug. 29 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
*Aug. 30 -- at Lancaster
*Sept. 4 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
*Sept. 6 -- at Grove City
Sept. 8 -- vs. Mason and Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown
Sept. 12 -- vs. Columbus School for Girls
Sept. 13 -- vs. Westerville Central
Sept. 18 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
Sept. 19 -- at Olentangy Orange
Sept. 20 -- Watterson at Park of Roses
Sept. 25 -- vs. Granville
Sept. 26 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
Sept. 27 -- at Dublin Jerome
Oct. 2 -- at New Albany
Below are the coming schedules for the North boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 17 -- At St. Charles
Aug. 17 -- At Marysville
Aug. 18 -- Marysville Spike-Off Invitational
Aug. 21 -- At Westland