Last winter in Jay Graham's second season as coach, the Watterson High School hockey team improved by eight wins and finished first in the Capital Hockey Conference-Blue Division.
The Eagles lost most of their scoring leaders from last season but return key players on defense and in goal as they look to continue that progression.
Because Watterson won the lowest of three divisions of the CHC, it has moved into the middle division, the CHC-White, this season.
Last season, Watterson went 21-11-2 overall and 11-5 in the CHC-Blue.
"We're certainly in a rebuilding mode, but it's actually exciting," Graham said. "The veterans have to realize that they're the go-to guys. Once those guys realize that, we're going to be better for it."
Watterson opened Nov. 17 with a 4-2 loss to Olentangy Berlin at Chiller North. Then in the Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin, the Eagles lost to Strongsville 7-2 on Nov. 23, lost to Cleveland Benedictine 5-1 and the Holmdel (New Jersey) St. John Vianney B team 2-1 on Nov. 24 and fell to Berlin 2-0 on Nov. 25.
The Eagles have a six-member senior class that features forwards Dominic Giacomin and Jack Kish, defenseman Danny Kraft and goaltender Ryan Roark.
Juniors Mason Jolly and Zach Kubatko and sophomores Nick Colombo and Adam Pavliga are other returnees on defense.
Junior Max Graham, the coach's son, was a goalie last season and could serve in that role again this winter, but is currently playing at forward.
Junior Ian Simone (forward), sophomore Hayden Storts (forward) and freshman Luke Simone (defenseman) also should be key players.
The other seniors are Keegan Gibson (forward) and Kyle Hanley (forward).
Also looking to contribute are sophomores Daniel Davis (forward), Andrew Mershad (forward), Colin Meyer (forward) and Reed Whetstone (forward).
Senior Adam Fallon, who was the team's second-leading scorer last season with 26 goals, isn't expected to be with the team this season.
Among the players Watterson lost to graduation were forward Nick Kuraly, who led the CHC with 30 goals in league play and scored 47 overall last season, and forward Kyle Naderhoff, who had 21 goals and 18 assists.
"We're new and young and lost basically all of our scoring," coach Graham said. "What's going to be the biggest challenge is teaching the system and making sure we're defensively strong."
Girls basketball team has 'huge upside'
Despite entering last season with little experience after going 21-4 and finishing as a Division I district runner-up in 2016-17, the girls basketball team didn't take much of a step back.
The Eagles finished 16-9 overall and were a district semifinalist despite having just two key seniors.
With most of its roster returning this season, Watterson entered its opener Nov. 27 against Thomas Worthington feeling a sense of optimism.
"We have a huge upside," 18th-year coach Tom Woodford said. "We have some experience, we have some youth. We have athleticism. We have kids that can score in different ways and I think we have more kids that can put the ball in the basket."
The top returnees are seniors Julianna DiSabato (5-foot-9, forward), Grace Jenkins (5-10, post player) and Elizabeth Rabold (5-9, wing player/guard), junior Paige Woodford (5-6, guard) and sophomore Danielle Grim (5-7, guard).
Last season, Woodford averaged 10.5 points, Jenkins averaged 7.7 and DiSabato averaged 4.2.
Also expected to be key contributors are senior Lauren Lucki (5-7, guard), junior Emily Dixon (5-7, guard) and sophomore Kylin McGuff (5-10, forward).
There are eight players on junior varsity and 13 freshmen in the program, and some of those players could see time on varsity.
Among the players lost to graduation were Lainey Billing (10.5 points per game) and Gretchen Glanzman (6.0 ppg). Billing is playing for Lake Erie College.
Watterson finished second in the CCL at 5-2, behind Hartley (6-1), and coach Woodford expects his team to be in the league title race again.
The CCL schedule doesn't begin until January.
"Hartley is going to be really good," coach Woodford said. "DeSales is going to be good and Ready is going to be better. The CCL is always very tough. We beat DeSales by 20 (points) the first time we played them (53-33) and lost to them by three the second time (35-32). We all know each other very well and have to be able to execute and hit shots."
Athletes announce college decisions
Eight student-athletes announced their college decisions Nov. 14.
In baseball, Fallon will play for Bowling Green, Stephen Garrett will compete for Walsh and Drake McAninch will play for Ashland.
In women's soccer, Sammy Francis will play for Findlay and Emma Schossler will compete for High Point.
Elizabeth Intihar will compete in women's swimming and diving for William & Mary, Maddie McCleary will play softball for Ursuline and Kari Mercer will play women's volleyball for South Carolina Aiken.
Nov. 27 -- vs. Thomas Worthington
Nov. 29 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
Dec. 1 -- vs. Mount Vernon
Dec. 6 -- vs. Whetstone
Dec. 8 -- at Olentangy Berlin
Dec. 10 -- vs. Upper Arlington
Dec. 12 -- at Gahanna
Dec. 23 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
Dec. 27 -- Cincinnati Seton in Watterson Christmas Classic
Dec. 28 -- Chillicothe in Watterson Christmas Classic
Jan. 3 -- vs. Pepper Pike Orange
*Jan. 5 -- at DeSales
*Jan. 10 -- at Hartley
Jan. 15 -- vs. Canal Winchester
*Jan. 19 -- vs. Ready
*Jan. 24 -- vs. DeSales
*Jan. 26 -- at Columbus School for Girls
Jan. 28 -- at Olentangy Orange
*Jan. 31 -- vs. Hartley
Feb. 2 -- vs. Bexley
Feb. 4 -- at Jonathan Alder
*Feb. 7 -- at Ready
*Nov. 17 -- Olentangy Berlin at Chiller North
Nov. 23 -- Strongsville in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin
Nov. 24 -- Cleveland Benedictine and Holmdel (N.J.) St. John Vianney B in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin
Nov. 25 -- Olentangy Berlin in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin
*Dec. 1 -- St. Charles at Chiller Dublin
*Dec. 2 -- Upper Arlington at Chiller Dublin
*Dec. 7 -- New Albany at Chiller Easton
Dec. 14 -- Gahanna in Kent Roosevelt tournament at Kent State
Dec. 15 -- Hudson and Chagrin Falls Kenston in Kent Roosevelt tournament
Dec. 16 -- TBA in Kent Roosevelt tournament
*Dec. 21 -- Olentangy Liberty at Chiller North
*Dec. 23 -- Dublin Scioto at Chiller Dublin
*Jan. 4 -- Gahanna at Chiller Easton
*Jan. 5 -- Dublin Coffman at Chiller Dublin
*Jan. 6 -- Olentangy at Chiller Dublin
*Jan. 12 -- Columbus Academy at Chiller Dublin
*Jan. 13 -- DeSales at Chiller Dublin
Jan. 18-21 -- Toledo Walleye Winterfest Tournament at TBA
*Jan. 25 -- Springboro at South Metro Ice
*Jan. 26 -- Thomas Worthington at Chiller North
*Feb. 1 -- Dublin Jerome at Chiller Dublin
*Feb. 2 -- Cincinnati Moeller at Northland Ice Center
*Feb. 3 -- Olentangy Orange at Chiller Dublin
Feb. 7-10 -- Blue Jackets Cup
Below are the coming schedules for the Watterson boys basketball, bowling and swimming & diving teams:
Dec. 4 -- Home vs. Walnut Ridge in opener
Dec. 4 -- Independence at Sawmill Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Nov. 30 -- At Columbus Academy
Dec. 1 -- St. Charles Showdown