Following some regular-season ups and downs, the Watterson High School field hockey team was back on track by the time last year's postseason began.
The Eagles, who had just six seniors last fall after losing a large senior class the year before, are hoping for a smoother trip this season following a 10-9 finish that included a 5-0 loss to eventual state champion Thomas Worthington in a district final.
Under Janet Baird, who is in her 22nd season as coach, Watterson has reached the state tournament nine times, the last of which came in 2014.
The Eagles have finished as district runners-up each of the past three seasons.
"The girls get you excited," Baird said. "Their speed is good. We're working on the skill piece, but we did more on turf than we ever have this offseason because we don't have a field."
Watterson's only official home games are Sept. 21 against Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown, which will be played at Dublin Jerome, and Sept. 22 against Shaker Heights, which will be played at Thomas Worthington.
The Eagles opened with a 3-0 win over Hartley in a game that began Aug. 20 but wasn't completed until Aug. 22. They then beat defending Central Ohio Field Hockey League-East Division champion Granville 4-1 on Aug. 30.
The top returnees are junior attacker Emily Dixon, who scored one of Watterson's goals in a 2-0 win over Granville in a district semifinal last season, as well as seniors Alexandria Igoe (attacker), Jessica Joseph (midfielder) and Bella Pardi (defender).
Senior Maria Pardi is the starting goalkeeper after having served as the backup the past three seasons.
The other seniors are Julianna DiSabato (defender), Lindsey Hull (attacker), Savannah Hutchings (midfielder) and Corrine O'Reilly (defender).
Olivia Wallace (defender) is the only other junior, with Lauren Neutzling (midfielder), Alexandra Piccolo (attacker) and Anne Marie Ruess (attacker) comprising the sophomore class.
Freshmen Grace Cantwell (attacker), Camille Gregory (midfielder), Molly Griffith (midfielder) and Claire Sugar (midfielder) also made the team. Griffith is a starter.
Cantwell, Hull and Ruess each scored against Hartley.
"This is the most freshmen I've ever kept, so I like that," Baird said. "I like the way these guys are playing. They're too young to know better, so they're just out there and they're very athletic kids. We've got great senior leadership with Ella Pardi, Julianna DiSabato and Maria Pardi in the cage."
Cross country teams look to build depth
Last season, the boys cross country team advanced to the state meet for the first time since 1981.
Six of the seven runners who competed in the Division II state meet as Watterson placed 18th were lost to graduation, with sophomore Will Garey as the only key returnee.
Seniors Dyland Tucker and Dominic Giacomin, who were the team's Nos. 10 and 11 runners last year, respectively, also have returned.
Junior Jimmy Racher and freshmen David Druhan, Cris Kubatko, Max Latshaw and Jack Vanausdal are other key runners.
Among those lost to graduation was Nick Kuraly, who finished 24th (16 minutes, 31.7 seconds) at state to earn all-Ohio honors.
Sophomore Charlie Nowinski, who also would have been a key contributor after being the team's No. 7 runner at the CCL meet a year ago when Watterson placed second, transferred to Upper Arlington.
"I have four possible freshmen in my top eight and eight freshmen boys out, which is a good number for us," 30th-year coach Matt McGowan said. "If you look at our top six from last year, one started running as a junior and another as a senior. Another came out as a sophomore. We have the potential to have a halfway decent team. We'll have to wait and see what happens. My goal for the boys team is to see if I can get a couple more runners so that we can be competitive in Division II."
The girls finished 11th in the 16-team Division I, district 2 meet last season as the top teams advanced to regional. Senior Emily Latshaw and sophomore Brooklyn Brush, who finished 40th (21:09.02) and 42nd (21:11.66), respectively, at district, are the top returnees.
Juniors Bridget Dougherty and Sarah Heink and sophomores Danielle Grim and Emily Vais also are returnees.
Sophomore Tessa Whittaker and freshmen Riley Connors and Leah Hetteberg are others looking to contribute.
"We've got great kids out," McGowan said. "In the league meet, we can be very competitive for first place and with district, we've got six to eight weeks to see what happens. I've taken a lot of kids who have never run before and we try to run smart during the season and create runners. You've got to develop the athletes and hope they continue running 10 to 20 years after graduating."
Football team preps for Walsh Jesuit
The final three Fridays of September, the football team will face opponents that made the 2017 playoffs.
On Friday, Sept. 7, at Ohio Dominican University, however, Watterson gets a rematch against an opponent that finished with the same 2-8 record that it did a season ago in Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit.
The Eagles will be looking to avenge a 37-34 double-overtime loss to the Warriors last year.
"(Walsh Jesuit) brought in a different quarterback in the second half (of last year's game)," coach Brian Kennedy said. "We were up 14 (points) at the beginning of the fourth quarter and they were able to tie it up. It was a pretty evenly matched game."
Watterson opened Aug. 24 with a 41-14 loss to Dublin Jerome and played Olentangy Orange on Aug. 31. Walsh Jesuit lost to Mayfield 3-0 on Aug. 24 and played Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary on Aug. 31.
Junior Cameron Mayes completed six of 12 passes for 114 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 71 yards and one score after being inserted at quarterback for Walsh Jesuit in last year's contest.
Against Jerome, senior linebacker Grant Horvath had 10 tackles and sophomore free safety Sam Intihar returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown to lead the defense.
"There certainly were some positives," Kennedy said. "(Jerome has) double-digit starters returning and they're a good team. We've got a lot of guys with little or no experience. We had a little more success moving the ball in the second half than in the first half."
Aug. 25 -- Newark Catholic Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion
Sept. 1 -- Circleville Invitational
Sept. 8 -- Northland Invitational at Woodward Park
Sept. 19 -- Whetstone Invitational
Sept. 22 -- Bob Reall Invitational at Lancaster
Sept. 29 -- Pickerington North Invitational
Oct. 13 -- CCL meet at Otterbein
*Aug. 22 -- at Hartley
*Aug. 30 -- at Granville
*Sept. 4 -- at Columbus School for Girls
Sept. 8 -- at Cincinnati Ursuline Academy
*Sept. 11 -- at Bexley
Sept. 17 -- at Upper Arlington
Sept. 19 -- at Olentangy
Sept. 21 -- Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown at Dublin Jerome
Sept. 22 -- Shaker Heights at Thomas Worthington
*Sept. 26 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
*Sept. 27 -- at Lancaster
*Oct. 2 -- at Columbus Academy
*Oct. 3 -- at New Albany
Oct. 6 -- at Hudson
Oct. 10 -- at Thomas Worthington
Below are the coming schedules for the Watterson boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 8 -- St. Charles Invitational at Brookside
Sept. 11 -- Bexley at Westchester
Sept. 6 -- Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty and Pickerington North at Safari
Sept. 8 -- Eagle-Panther Invitational at Cooks Creek
Sept. 10 -- DeSales at Champions
Sept. 8 -- Home vs. Granville
*Sept. 11 -- At St. Charles
*Sept. 6 -- At Hartley
Sept. 8 -- At Olentangy Orange
Sept. 11 -- At Marysville
Sept. 6 -- Home vs. Wellington
Sept. 11 -- Home vs. New Albany
Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange
Sept. 8 -- Louisville (Ky.) Assumption Invitational
*Sept. 11 -- Home vs. DeSales