The Worthington Kilbourne High School boys soccer team had just one win in its first five games this season, but it was a big one.
A 3-0 victory over perennial power Dublin Jerome on Aug. 28 proved the Wolves have the ability to play at a high level. It also opened the door for the rest of the OCC-Cardinal Division teams.
However, what followed was a tough lesson, according to veteran coach Jon Sprunger, whose team is 2-4 overall and 1-1 in the league entering a home game with Hilliard Bradley on Thursday, Sept. 13.
"The boys were ready for Jerome. They were in a good mental position and they were prepped well by the coaching staff," Sprunger said. "They came out and scored three goals in the first 40 minutes. That's the way they are capable of playing.
"But then we came out two days later against Olentangy saying, 'We got this.' We obviously didn't and it showed (in a 4-1 loss)."
The Wolves then lost to Hilliard Darby 1-0 on Sept. 4.
"We came out and played well in the first 20 minutes against Darby," Sprunger said. "We followed the game plan in terms of formations, moving the ball and sharing the ball. We were pretty sharp. But we gave up a goal and we stopped playing that way.
"Late in the first half and all during the second half, we started getting too much individual play and we weren't trusting teammates. Hey, we have some good skill and talent, but we're much better as 11 than we are as one or two. We have got to put this thing together as a team and stick with it. It's a tough lesson that they have to learn."
Kilbourne rebounded to defeat Hudson 3-0 on Sept. 8, using the winning formula it had used against Jerome. The Wolves scored three times in the first half, with Logan Evans recording two goals and Josh Blankenship netting the other.
Against Jerome, Blankenship, Evans and Brandon Kim scored and goalkeeper Tyler Katz made two saves. Jack Smullen scored against Olentangy.
The good news for Kilbourne is that through two league contests, only Dublin Scioto has two wins in what could be an open and tight battle for the league title this season. Jerome is the defending league champion.
"We're lacking consistency, but we know our ability and we're looking to put things together and get moving," Sprunger said. "It's early in terms of the league race and we always look to peak in the (Division I district) tournament like we did last year."
The Wolves finished 7-9-4 last year, but won three district tournament games before losing to Dublin Coffman 4-1 in a district final.
Girls water polo team improving 'every day'
The girls water polo team will take a six-game winning streak into the Ohio Cup on Saturday, Sept. 15, and Sunday, Sept. 16, at Thomas.
After a slow start, Kilbourne is 7-7 and has matched its win total from last season, when it finished 7-20-1.
"This team continues to work hard and improve every day," said fourth-year coach Olivia Miranda, who also guides the Thomas girls program. "(Junior) Melanie Fisher is leading the team in most stats on offense, while (junior) Cleo Melvin is proving to be an incredible center defender.
"Senior captains Emma Yeager, Ashley Gilbert and Sami Fink have done a nice job leading the way and they kept things calm during the slow start. This team is small in numbers but works together well in the water, with everyone playing an important role in and out of the water."
Joining Fisher, Gilbert and Melvin as starters have been junior Katie Rzymek and sophomores Kayla Balemian, Lauren Richner and Phoebe Saunders.
Completing the roster are junior Izzy Tackett, sophomore Fiona Saunders and freshmen Rachel Brennan and Adriana Dolciato.
"I fully expect this team to be very competitive at the state tournament this year," Miranda said.
Boys water polo team short on players
The boys water polo team is limited in what it can do this season.
The Wolves have only seven players on their roster and one is out for the season because of an injury, meaning they have no substitutes. Every player must compete for the entire game.
"They are ironmen and they have to be ironmen and I'm so proud of this group," said fourth-year coach Rick Yurich, who also coaches the Thomas boys team. "They have good talent and all seven competed last season. But as you can imagine, they wear down as the games go along, so there are times when we don't attack on offense."
Considering the situation, Yurich isn't disappointed with the team's 2-11-1 record.
"They're also a young team, with just one senior in Nicko Seculov," Yurich said. "He's a fourth-year guy and is the unquestionable leader. They have a great sophomore goalkeeper in Jake Tefend and junior Mitchell Fisher is also a very strong player."
Also on the roster are juniors Matt Gerold and Thomas Rzymek and sophomores Drew Harvey and Andrew Winget. Rzymek is injured.
The Wolves, who finished 7-26 last season, went 0-3 in the Ohio Cup held Sept. 8 and 9 at Thomas. They lost to Cincinnati St. Xavier 13-6, Walled Lake (Michigan) 11-8 and Toledo St. Francis 17-4.
Kilbourne will compete in the Cincinnati St. Xavier Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 15.
Below are the coming schedules for the Kilbourne cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis, girls volleyball and water polo teams:
Sept. 15 -- Galion Festival at Amann Reservoir
*Sept. 13 -- At Columbus School for Girls
Sept. 15 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange and Gates Mills Hawken
*Sept. 17 -- At Bexley
Sept. 19 -- At Upper Arlington
Sept. 15 -- Rodney Butt Classic at Denison Golf Club
Sept. 17 -- Westerville North at Worthington Hills
Sept. 18 -- Hilliard Darby and Lancaster at Rolling Meadows
*Sept. 13 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley
Sept. 15 -- Home vs. Chillicothe
Sept. 18 -- At Olentangy Orange
*Sept. 13 -- At Hilliard Bradley
Sept. 15 -- At Whitehouse Anthony Wayne
Sept. 18 -- At Buckeye Valley
Sept. 13 -- Home vs. Groveport
Sept. 15 -- Wellington Cup
Sept. 17 -- At Granville
Sept. 19 -- At Pickerington Central
*Sept. 13 -- At Thomas
Sept. 15 -- Kilbourne Invitational
Sept. 18 -- At Hilliard Davidson
Sept. 15-16 -- Boys: Cincinnati St. Xavier Invitational; Girls: Ohio Cup at Thomas