New Albany High School girls soccer coach Jared Dombrowski hopes his team returns enough pieces to reclaim the OCC-Capital Division championship after coming up short of a repeat last year despite not losing a league game.
The Eagles return seven starters, including their leading scorer in senior midfielder Lydia Cornelius and goalkeeper in sophomore Jordan Conley from a team that went 10-2-6 overall and 3-0-2 in the league.
"Losing who we lost, that's tough to replace," Dombrowski said, referring to forwards Mia Thatcher and Lindsey Townsend -- who scored 10 and nine goals, respectively -- as well as forward Sophie Matt and defenders Maria Miller and Ellen Weikert. "But we have a lot of experience coming back, too, and this team has a tremendous work ethic. I'm seeing that growth coming along, especially from some younger girls we're going to depend on. The big question now is exactly how everything fits together once the season gets rolling."
Miller is playing at Wittenberg and Thatcher now plays at St. Bonaventure. Townsend is playing at Ohio University and Weikert is at the University of St. Francis.
Cornelius scored 17 goals last season, and the defense returns two starters in senior Erin Carson and junior Scarlett Tischer from a unit that allowed just 16 goals. Conley was in goal for the majority of the Eagles' 10 shutouts.
The Eagles' other returning starters are senior Dulcie Heyes (midfielder) and sophomores Kelis Brown (midfielder) and Morgan Wiest (forward).
New Albany was 2-0-1 before playing Gahanna on Aug. 28.
The Eagles' only losses last year were to Hilliard Darby, which went on to win a Division I district title, and Olentangy, which was a district runner-up.
New Albany got a valuable addition in sophomore forward Brooklyn Harris, who played for the Cincinnati Development Academy as a freshman. She had a team-high five goals through three games, and Cornelius had three.
"(Harris) has been to training camps with the national team. She's gained a lot of valuable experience," said Dombrowski, who is in his second season. "It's crazy what she can do with the ball. Academy style and high school style are different animals, though. High school is much more possession-based. She'll get used to it."
New Albany opened with a 3-0 league win over visiting Big Walnut on Aug. 17. The Eagles tied Westerville North at 4 on Aug. 21 and defeated Olentangy Berlin 3-0 on Aug. 23.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Kennedy Gabor (defender) and Ariel Hess (midfielder), juniors Rachel Blais (forward), Bailey Burdick (midfielder), Gabby Gabor (forward) and Hallee Limes (midfielder), sophomores Harper Anderson (goalie), Madison Cofer (defender), Avery Lowden (defender) and Lily Sayre (defender/forward) and freshmen Faith Grisdale (midfielder) and Kate Partridge (defender).
The Eagles finished second in the OCC-Capital last year behind Canal Winchester (4-0-1), which it played to a scoreless tie.
Boys soccer team tries for another title
Although the boys soccer team returns eight starters, coach Johnny Ulry was hesitant to pinpoint what the team's strengths might be as the Eagles pursue their third consecutive OCC-Capital championship.
"It is still too early to know what our strengths are as a team yet because we are still looking for our identity with a lot of new guys," said Ulry, who is in his fourth season. "Sure we are returning a lot of starters, but we have a great supporting cast this year. Our depth is going to be something we rely on this year and this is probably our deepest team we have had since I have been here."
New Albany was 3-0 before playing Gahanna on Aug. 28, its first road game of the season after three in a row at home, and had outscored its opponents 12-2.
Seven of those returning starters are seniors in Noah Boffo (forward), Drew Fischer (forward), Chase Hamrick (defender), Jack Heyes (midfielder), Bryce Noonan (midfielder), Parker Phillips (goalie) and Zach Short (defender). The other is junior defender Luke Baily.
New Albany went 13-4 overall and 5-0 in the league a year ago, finishing ahead of runner-up Canal Winchester (3-1-1). But the Eagles fell short of repeating their Division I district title run of 2016, losing to Worthington Kilbourne 2-1 in the second round.
New Albany opened Aug. 17 with a 6-0 league win over Big Walnut and followed that up with wins over Westerville North (2-1 on Aug. 21) and Dublin Scioto (4-1 on Aug. 23).
Rounding out the roster are seniors Ryan Hudson (defen-der), Carson Hutton (defender), Nathan Kebede (forward), Hunter Milroy (forward) and Mac Smith (midfielder), juniors Matve Besperstov (defen-der), Max Malo (midfielder), Blaine Martin (forward), Josh Metcalf (defender), Joey Schroer (goalie), Thomas Shneker (attacker) and Teddy Ypsilantis (forward) and sophomores Jakob Bering (midfielder) and Ryan Blackburn (defender).
Despite New Albany's recent run of success, Ulry said he is downplaying long-term goals early in the season.
"Right now, (the next game) is the only thing we are thinking about," he said. "For this team, this year, we are just focused on one day at a time. Can we get better each day, if we have a setback, can we move forward from it and learn from it? This team has great potential to be very successful this year, so if we can make sure we are focused at the task at hand then we should be in good shape."
Volleyball team looks to reload
Although the girls volleyball team has seven seniors, the Eagles have plenty to replace after their top three leaders in kills and top two in digs graduated.
Among the key players back for ninth-year coach Karen Morlan are seniors Natalie Leatherman (outside hitter), Sophia Orsinelli (defensive specialist/setter) and Kirsten Tibbitts (outside hitter/right-side hitter), juniors Maddy Hofmann (middle blocker/outside hitter) and Kacy Morlan (libero/right-side hitter) and sophomore Gabi Tagaloa (setter/outside hitter).
Tagaloa had 93 kills, 420 assists, 163 digs and 48 service aces last year, when New Albany went 12-11 overall and 5-5 in the OCC-Capital.
Tibbitts added 44 kills. Morlan made 243 assists.
The Eagles were 3-4 before playing Gahanna on Aug. 28.
"This group is new at playing together, but they're doing a nice job of encouraging one another," coach Morlan said. "Our serving is strong right now. Gabi is a great setter. She's running a 5-1 (offense) for us this year. We are touching more balls on defense and we have a lot of work to do on defense, but our defenders right now are touching a lot of balls and keeping a lot of balls off the floor and in play.
"We're working hard on improving our attacking game, finishing and terminating the ball."
New Albany went 2-1 in the season-opening Marysville Spike-Off Invitational on Aug. 18, defeating Berlin 25-21, 27-25 and Dayton Stivers 25-2, 25-16 and losing to Dublin Jerome 25-22, 25-18.
The Eagles lost to Westerville North 25-18, 16-25, 25-17, 16-25, 15-6 in their home opener Aug. 21 but bounced back with a 25-22, 25-17, 23-25, 25-8 win at Reynoldsburg on Aug. 23. They went 0-2 at home Aug. 25, losing to Upper Arlington 25-12, 25-14 and Kilbourne 25-19, 24-26, 25-22.
"They have a grit that I like," coach Morlan said. "We're hoping for good things. Our young ones are getting better quickly."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Autumn Ford (middle blocker/opposite-side hitter), Makaila Freeman (middle blocker), Olivia Loos (defensive specialist) and Sydney Walters (defensive special-ist/setter), sophomore Olivia Gittins (defensive specialist) and freshmen Emily Heintzelman (middle blocker/outside hitter) and Sydney Tagaloa (outside hitter/setter).
New Albany begins OCC-Capital play Tuesday, Sept. 4, at Newark. The Eagles and Wildcats tied for third in the league last year behind champion Big Walnut (10-0).
*Aug. 17 -- vs. Big Walnut
Aug. 21 -- vs. Westerville North
Aug. 23 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
Aug. 28 -- at Gahanna
Sept. 4 -- vs. Pickerington Central
Sept. 6 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
Sept. 8 -- vs. Dresden Tri-Valley
*Sept. 13 -- at Newark
Sept. 22 -- vs. Dayton Dunbar
Sept. 23 -- vs. Lexington (Ky.) Henry Clay
*Sept. 25 -- at Groveport
Sept. 27 -- at Dublin Jerome
*Oct. 2 -- vs. Canal Winchester
*Oct. 9 -- at Franklin Heights
Oct. 11 -- vs. Upper Arlington
Oct. 13 -- at St. Charles
*Aug. 17 -- vs. Big Walnut
Aug. 21 -- at Westerville North
Aug. 23 -- at Olentangy Berlin
Aug. 28 -- vs. Gahanna
Aug. 30 -- vs. Westerville Central
Sept. 4 -- at Pickerington Central
Sept. 6 -- at Dublin Jerome
Sept. 8 -- at Thomas Worthington
*Sept. 13 -- vs. Newark
Sept. 18 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
Sept. 22 -- at Chillicothe Unioto
*Sept. 25 -- vs. Groveport
Sept. 27 -- vs. Pickerington North
*Oct. 2 -- at Canal Winchester
Oct. 4 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*Oct. 9 -- vs. Franklin Heights
Aug. 18 -- Marysville Spike-Off Invitational
Aug. 21 -- vs. Westerville North
Aug. 23 -- at Reynoldsburg
Aug. 25 -- vs. Upper Arlington and Worthington Kilbourne
Aug. 28 -- at Gahanna
Aug. 30 -- vs. Pickerington Central
*Sept. 4 -- at Newark
*Sept. 6 -- vs. Big Walnut
Sept. 11 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
*Sept. 13 -- at Groveport
*Sept. 20 -- vs. Canal Winchester
*Sept. 25 -- at Franklin Heights
*Sept. 27 -- vs. Newark
*Oct. 2 -- at Big Walnut
*Oct. 4 -- vs. Groveport
Oct. 6 -- vs. Licking Heights and Mount Vernon
*Oct. 9 -- at Canal Winchester
*Oct. 11 -- vs. Franklin Heights
Below are the coming schedules for the New Albany cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf and girls tennis teams:
Sept. 1 -- Granville Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion
Sept. 5 -- At Upper Arlington
Sept. 1 -- Pinnacle Classic at Pinnacle
Sept. 4 -- New Albany Invitational at New Albany Country Club
*Aug. 30 -- Home vs. Groveport
*Sept. 4 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester