The Grove City Christian School boys soccer team's progress was evident in its final few games of the season.
After being shut out by Wellington in a pair of MSL-Cardinal Division contests, the Eagles made a strong bid for a win in the third meeting before dropping a 2-1 decision to the Jaguars in a Division III district semifinal Oct. 23.
"We finished the season with many positives to carry us into next year," said coach Dan Milam, whose team finished 8-9-1 overall. "Our last four games were some of our best of the season. Many of the fundamentals and strategies that we worked on throughout the year seemed to all come together."
Senior goalkeeper A.J. Gillespie opened the scoring in the semifinal with a goal off a direct kick with 15 seconds remaining in the first half.
The host Jaguars rallied in the second half on goals by Freddie Lin and Jordan Livits.
Gillespie finished with eight saves.
The 10th-seeded Eagles defeated 19th-seeded Patriot Prep 4-2 in the first round Oct. 15 and 22nd-seeded Ready 5-0 in the second round Oct. 17.
A four-year starter, Gillespie was named first-team all-district and all-league.
"A.J. is an incredible goalkeeper and I look forward to following his career at Indiana Wesleyan University," said Milam, whose team loses three seniors. "Over his four years, I witnessed many incredible saves that most keepers would not make. He kept us in many games, and even win some, against opponents in which we were outmatched."
Junior midfielder Zach Lauron was first-team all-league and second-team all-district, and junior defender Carter Stedtefeld was second-team all-league. Senior defender Gavin Robbins and juniors David Claffey (forward), Julianna Hunt (midfielder), Griffin Milam (midfielder), Seth Ortega (midfielder) and Cristian Quiroz (defender) were honorable mention all-league.
Other players eligible to return include juniors Maddie Babcock (defender), Bailey Garren (mid-fielder/goalie), Richard Gonzalez (midfielder), Ian Hester (midfielder) and Logan Kinstle (midfielder), sophomore Sebastian Sosa (midfielder) and freshman Angel Benitez (defender).
The Eagles went 3-5 in the MSL-Cardinal to tie Fisher Catholic for third behind champion Wellington (7-0-1). They lost to the Jaguars 3-0 on Sept. 11 and 4-0 on Oct. 3.
Girls volleyball coach pleased with progress
Girls volleyball coach Joe Bradford was pleased with his team's improvement, as the Eagles won five of their final seven matches.
The Eagles lost to second-seeded Shekinah Christian 25-27, 25-11, 25-13, 25-23 in the second round of the Division IV district tournament Oct. 20 to finish 10-14 overall.
"We focused on the positives," Bradford said. "It was the last game for four seniors who played a lot of volleyball for us. I'm proud of them for how hard they played, how well they played and how resilient they were."
Ninth-seeded Grove Christian defeated eighth-seeded Tree of Life 25-14, 26-24, 25-19 in the first round Oct. 18.
Senior middle hitter Katie Jacobs was named first-team all-district and honorable mention all-league. She led Eagles in kills (230) and blocks (53).
Senior setter Taylor Oda was second-team all-district and all-league. She had a team-high 487 assists and 233 digs.
Senior outside hitter Gidgyt Hartman had 180 digs and junior outside hitter Ashley Stoll had 178 digs and 122 kills.
Other players eligible to return are juniors Brooke Benson (defensive specialist), Odette Espinosa (defensive specialist) and Maddie Lewis (middle hitter) and sophomores Alaina Dawson (setter/outside hitter) and Brooke O'Dell (defensive specialist/setter).
Grove City Christian went 4-8 in the MSL-Cardinal to tie Zanesville Rosecrans for fourth behind champion Fairfield Christian (12-0).