Having played varsity only sparingly last year as the Upper Arlington High School boys water polo team finished fifth in the state tournament, Jake Meyer tempered his expectations for his junior season.

He certainly never saw himself as the Golden Bears' second-leading scorer during their fast start to the season.

"At the beginning, I didn't really have any expectations," Meyer said. "Last year, I didn't play much varsity at all. I just wanted to be first off the bench this year. I never really hoped for a starting spot. I guess that once I got here, I exceeded my own expectations."

Meyer had 39 goals through 17 games, second only to senior Alec Caswell's 47, and UA was 14-3 before playing St. Charles on Sept. 12.

The Bears, who returned six starters in seniors Caswell, Will Geletka, Reed Ray and goalkeeper Ben Staton, junior Antonio Ventresca and sophomore Avery Voss, scored 10 or more goals nine times in their first 12 games.

Ray, who had 27 goals before Sept. 12, attributed that success to a fresh approach.

"Last year, our offense was kind of one-dimensional," Ray said. "We're attacking things differently now, looking at things differently. It's more analytical. We're watching other teams play and trying to learn from that."

UA went 27-11 last year, defeating Toledo St. Francis 9-8 in the fifth-place game at the state tournament. The Bears got off to an 8-4 start a year ago and won their first 12 games in 2016.

"They have come together when it gets tough," second-year coach J.J. Spangler said. "It's a great environment in practices and in games. When they get challenged, it's that determination that helps us muscle through."

Staton is splitting time in goal with junior Trevor Westin. Through 17 games, Westin had 48 saves on 83 shots (63.4 percent) and Staton had stopped 50 of 79 shots (63.3 percent).

"Ben has some seniority, but Trevor is really pushing him and becoming very talented himself," Spangler said. "They enjoy having each other and it's helped push them further together."

Rounding out the roster are seniors Josh Gorski, Luke Landis and Daniel Seely, juniors Hunter Dean, Jimmy Ravine, Brandon Vanderhorst and Brody Widman, sophomores Andy Armstrong, Blake Burkle, Jimmy Colombo, Ethan DeNaeyer, Deniz Erdal, Jackson Goodin, Hayden Jay, Thomas Ray and Ethan White and freshmen Garrett Widman and Maxen Yerington.

UA finished sixth in the Ohio Cup that concluded Sept. 9 at Thomas Worthington, losing to Barrington, Illinois, 12-11 in the fifth-place game.

With the state tournament providing the only postseason competition for water polo teams, Reed Ray said the team's goals are cut and dry.

"October is when all the magic happens. We're looking forward to that but just taking things one game at a time," he said. "The thing that was special last year was we had so many seniors. We have a ton of great leaders. They've stepped up."

Girls water polo team developing skills

With only one senior on his team, 14th-year girls water polo coach Dan Peterkoski said he has to be mindful of not overloading his players with information as they try to improve on last year's state runner-up finish.

"It's not necessarily a bad position to be in in the respect that these girls are getting a lot of playing time. Our only focus for the regular season is to get as much experience for all of them as possible," said Peterkoski, whose team is 9-8 entering the Ohio Cup on Saturday, Sept. 15, and Sunday, Sept. 16, at Thomas. "We've had years that we've had a tremendous amount of growth and we've won state championships. I've pointed that out to the girls. Every year hasn't been easy. They need to focus and they need to grow. If they aren't learning drastically from day one to the state championship, we'll be in trouble. If they learn drastically and implement some of those things, who knows?"

Grace McCarty is UA's only senior, but nine other girls who saw some playing time last year return in juniors Cat Fernandez, Abby Hendershot, Grace Houser, Katie McKenzie, Erin Reardon and Adrienne Wachtman and sophomores Caroline Colombo, Carley Hart and Addie Jay.

Wachtman is back as the starting goalie after the Bears went 19-9 last season, losing to Napoleon 10-9 in the start final. Fernandez and freshman Kezia Lietzau are her backups.

"We have a lot of fast swimmers," McCarty said. "The younger girls have talent; it's just learning the water polo skills that they have to work on. We mix it up a lot. Dan subs a lot of people. We only have about 12 field players, so he can sub in six at a time and give other people a break. It's been tough to find that set starting six because we have such a variety."

Rounding out the roster are sophomores Lydia Muldoon and Lilli Swanson and freshmen Caroline Porterfield, Diana Rodriguez and Samantha Schaefer.

"We're definitely seeing progression," Peterkoski said. "It all starts with defense. They have to develop defensively. Historically, it's always been (about) defense and then transition."

Tennis team closes in on league title

Bad weather delayed the girls tennis team's showdown with Dublin Coffman for the OCC-Central Division championship, postponing their match from Sept. 6 to Sept. 20 at UA.

Both teams are 4-0 in the league.

UA is seeking its 29th league championship in 30 years.

Not only will the Bears-Shamrocks winner capture the OCC-Central championship, but the match also is part of the second round of the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I district tournament.

The winner will visit Watterson in a district quarterfinal on a date to be determined.

UA is 6-0 overall and has won each of its first four league matches by 5-0 scores, beating Central Crossing on Aug. 23, Hilliard Davidson on Aug. 28, Westland on Aug. 30 and Marysville on Sept. 4.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

BOYS WATER POLO

Aug. 10-11 -- Courtney Fisher Sprint-Off Classic at Napoleon

Aug. 17-18 -- Early Bird Invitational at Ann Arbor (Mich.) Huron

Aug. 25 -- Mason Invitational

Sept. 5 -- at Thomas Worthington

Sept. 8-9 -- Ohio Cup at Thomas Worthington

Sept. 12 -- vs. St. Charles

Sept. 15-16 -- Cincinnati St. Xavier Invitational

Sept. 29 -- Upper Arlington Invitational

Oct. 5-6 -- Ann Arbor (Mich.) Skyline Invitational

Oct. 10 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne

Oct. 12-13 -- Rockford (Mich.) Invitational

GIRLS WATER POLO

Aug. 10-11 -- Courtney Fisher Sprint-Off Classic at Napoleon

Aug. 17-18 -- Upper Arlington Invitational

Aug. 24-25 -- Cincinnati Princeton Invitational

Aug. 31-Sept. 1 -- McDowell Cup at Erie (Pa.) McDowell

Sept. 5 -- vs. Thomas Worthington

Sept. 15-16 -- Ohio Cup at Thomas Worthington

Oct. 5-6 -- Milford Invitational

Oct. 10 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne

Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Sept. 15 -- Friendship Invitational at Cedarville

FIELD HOCKEY

Sept. 17 -- Home vs. Watterson

Sept. 19 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 16 -- Lion-Cardinal Classic at Quail Hollow

GIRLS GOLF

Sept. 15 -- Toledo St. Ursula Arrow Golf Invitational at Highland Meadows

Sept. 17 -- Pickerington North at Turnberry

BOYS SOCCER

*Sept. 13 -- Home vs. Central Crossing

GIRLS SOCCER

*Sept. 13 -- At Central Crossing

Sept. 15 -- At Gahanna

Sept. 18 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Sept. 13 -- Home vs. Westland

Sept. 15 -- At Dublin Scioto with Mount Vernon and Teays Valley

Sept. 18 -- Home vs. Gahanna

Sept. 19 -- At Hilliard Bradley

*League contest