Lindsay Schmitt has been a defender most of her soccer career, and the Pickerington High School Central senior plans to return to that position once she joins the Capital University women's team next year.

For now, Schmitt is enjoying life as a forward and not only is filling the Tigers' stat sheet in the process, but she also is helping them close in on last year's win total.

Schmitt recorded her third three-goal game of the season Sept. 18 in Central's 6-1 win over Logan. Her other hat tricks came in wins over Buckeye Valley on Sept. 6 and Teays Valley on Sept. 11, both of which also were decided by 6-1 scores.

"I think I've taken to the role pretty well," Schmitt said. "Junior year, things really kicked in midseason. I felt like I'd really learned how to play it. It was tricky at first. I didn't know how to score the right way. I had to learn to stay onsides, all those perfect things you need to do to be a good forward, but I think I know how to do that now."

Schmitt's position change last year was prompted by then-first-year coach Maria Manzo. She played left wing as a freshman and center defender as a sophomore.

Manzo emphasized when she was hired that she wanted the Tigers to play "pretty soccer" with crisp passes and finishes, and more than halfway through her second season, Manzo said she is seeing progress.

Central, which finished 6-11 last year, was 5-5-1 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Reynoldsburg on Sept. 25.

"It takes a while to grasp," Manzo said. "You have to instill that into them. I knew it would take me a couple years to get the girls to see our vision. Every game, they get better, and that's all I can ask.

"It stems from my seniors and their leadership all the way down to our freshmen. There's no drama and you will always have more success when you can eliminate that. The girls enjoy each other and the chemistry does get better every game. We've been able to possess the ball more and win balls out of the air. Winning the 50/50 (balls) has been huge."

Four of the Tigers' five seniors regularly start in Schmitt, Abby Augustyniak (forward), Danica Hanschu (goalkeeper) and Lexi Smith (midfielder). The fifth senior, forward Katie Hickman, is a part-time starter, according to Manzo.

Freshman Lauren Evans started in goal early this season while Hanschu recovered from an injury.

Augustyniak, a fourth-year starter, said progress has not been measured strictly in wins. She cited a 2-0 loss at Pickerington North on Sept. 13, the closest game the Tigers had played against their crosstown rivals since a 4-3 comeback win in 2014.

North was ranked fourth in last week's Division I state poll.

The Tigers evened their league record with a 2-0 win at Lancaster on Sept. 20.

"We're steadily improving," Augustyniak said. "Our defensive shape is getting better. We're getting passes strung together and getting some goals. It's been gradual, but the way we played North -- probably the best we've played them in four years -- was extremely encouraging. It wasn't a win, but it sort of felt like one because of the score."

Cross country teams run well at home

The boys and girls cross country teams both posted strong performances in their annual home meet, the Tiger Invitational, on Sept. 22.

Led by Brady Johnson's winning time of 16 minutes, 15.8 seconds, the boys team finished second (64 points) of 10 teams, behind champion and OCC-Ohio rival Gahanna (38). Also scoring were Jailen Willis (ninth, 17:05.6), Jacob Jobe (11th, 17:09.4), Chase Balko (12th, 17:12.4) and Tyler Gunderson (31st, 17:52.9).

That was Johnson's third race of the season after missing the first two meets because of Achilles' tendon issues. The senior posted the team's best time of the season on Sept. 15 when he won the Otterbein Invitational in 16:06.5.

The girls team finished third (71) of eight teams in the Tiger Invitational, behind champion Teays Valley (47).

Grace Osborn was second (20:02.8), followed by Lauren Marvin (eighth, 20:44.1), Maddie Schmidt (ninth, 20:52.3), Emily Green (24th, 21:49.6) and Sydney Hansen (36th, 22:23.6).

Osborn owns Central's best time of the season, 19:50.75, which she ran in the Asics Hot Summer Bash on Sept. 1 at Hilliard Davidson, and has been the Tigers' top runner in every race. Marvin has been the team's second finisher in all five races thus far.

Both the boys and girls teams return to action Saturday, Sept. 29, in the Midwest Meet of Champions at Hilliard Bradley.

Golfers prepare for sectionals

The boys and girls golf teams will participate in Division I sectionals Tuesday, Oct. 2, on courses that are familiar or have treated them well -- or both.

The boys will compete on their home course of Turnberry, where the top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to the district tournament Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.

Central is seeking its first team berth to district since 2010.

The girls will compete in a sectional at Mentel Memorial. In their only other appearance on that course this season, Central shot a 368 in the second round of the OCC-Ohio tournament Aug. 15. At the time, it was the Tigers' best 18-hole score of the season. Central later eclipsed that mark by shooting a 359 in the third round of the league tournament Aug. 29 at Westchester.

At sectional, the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 9 at Cooks Creek.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Central cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Sept. 29 -- Midwest Meet of Champions at Hilliard Bradley

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 27 -- Pickerington Cup at Pine Hill

Sept. 29 -- Pickerington Central Fall Invitational at Turnberry

Oct. 2 -- Division I sectional at Turnberry

GIRLS GOLF

Oct. 2 -- Division I sectional at Mentel Memorial

BOYS SOCCER

Sept. 29 -- At Fairbanks

*Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Grove City

GIRLS SOCCER

*Oct. 2 -- At Grove City

GIRLS TENNIS

Sept. 27 -- Home vs. Bexley

Oct. 1 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington

Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Sept. 29 -- At Logan with Dublin Scioto

*Oct. 2 -- At Lancaster. The Tigers defeated the Golden Gales 25-20, 25-20, 25-16 on Sept. 6.

*League contest