Defense and stamina will be paramount to an Olentangy Orange High School girls basketball team that is small in stature.

The Pioneers have no players taller than 5-foot-8 junior forward Madi Riley as they try to improve on last season's finish of 5-18 overall and 0-10 in the OCC-Buckeye Division.

"We are vertically challenged," said coach Bob Scott, who is in his fifth season. "We have preached to them to do a lot more running and be in pretty good shape.

"Basically we have to take shots when we have them. If you're open, shoot the ball. We're probably not going to get a lot of layups so we have to knock down some outside shots. That's the key."

The Pioneers have two returning starters in junior guards Riley Duffy and Anna Grabau. Senior guard Maddie Erickson was the first player off the bench last season.

"What we're working on the most is outrunning our opponents," said Erickson, whose team opens Saturday, Dec. 1, at Thomas Worthington. "We want to be in better shape and get around opponents in that way because we don't have that height."

Erickson is one of three seniors along with guards Madi Felchlin and Lauren Perone. Senior post player Aurelia Johnson (6-0) did not return to the program.

"I would say that I have had to take on more of a leadership role such as in helping my teammates grow as a team," Erickson said. "I still contributed last year, but now it's more making sure everyone is doing the best they can.

"In past years we haven't had the best chemistry, and that hurt us in our games. This year it's important to build team chemistry because we can win more playing together."

Rounding out the roster are junior guards Camille Barron and Joy Gimei and sophomore guards Reese Miller and Brooke Thompson.

"We have to be really scrappy on defense, and we've been good with that in our scrimmages," said Scott, whose team opens league play Tuesday, Dec. 4, at home against Westerville North. "We're going to be smaller than every team we play, so our defense has to keep us in games.

"We're going to try to be playing at a faster pace. If you are small, you can't really be deliberate. If we could get 10-12 points per quarter and play defense, we'll be OK."

Hockey team under new leadership

J.D. Damrath expects to have a balanced hockey team in his first season as coach.

The Pioneers are looking to improve on last year's finish of 19-16-1 overall and 6-9-1 in the Capital Hockey Conference-White.

Damrath replaced Tim Chugh after three seasons. The St. Louis native played at Ohio State from 1980-83 and coached the Ohio State women's club team from 2009-12, and he coached the Northville (Michigan) High School girls program from 2014-16.

"The biggest concern you have as a new coach coming in is how the kids will respond," said Damrath, whose team is 2-2 after losing to Westerville 4-2 in the Chiller Thanksgiving Classic on Nov. 25 at Chiller North. "They have totally embraced it. They are onboard and willing to give it a whirl with a new coach."

Senior forwards Zach Miller (19 goals, 21 assists) and Aaron Mosher (19 goals, 10 assists) are the top returning scoring threats. Junior forwards Nathan Hazel (6 goals, 5 assists) and Cam Miller (13 goals, 13 assists) also add scoring punch to the lineup.

Senior Josh Gutkoski (8 goals, 14 assists) and juniors Aaron Johnson and Jake Marrone lead the defense, and senior Nathan Thompson (31 saves) has taken over in goal.

"We have the Miller brothers, Zach and Cam, and Aaron Mosher making things really go on offense," said Damrath, whose team opens league play Dec. 7 against Dublin Jerome at Chiller Dublin. "We have a strong junior class defensively in Jake Marrone and Aaron Johnson.

"We have an equal number of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors in the program. That's good because it's not like we're going to lose our entire team after this season."

Orange athletes select colleges

Thirteen Orange student-athletes announced their college decisions Nov. 14.

Ashley Au will play women's golf at Yale, Lauren Cheetham will compete in women's diving at Michigan, Luke Cheetham will participate in men's diving at Cincinnati, Riley Dean will play women's golf at Akron, Grace Frye will compete in women's track and field at Kent State, Allie Guagenti will run women's cross country and track and field at Ohio State, Sydney Krupp will play women's golf at Otterbein, Brooke Little will participate in women's volleyball at Indiana (Pennsylvania), Taylor Metzler will compete in women's volleyball at Lake Erie, Carrigan O'Reilly will play women's volleyball at Xavier, Andrew Schroff will run men's cross country and track and field at Miami University, Natalia Sompolvorachai will participate in women's golf at Cincinnati and Grace Weidenhamer will compete in women's soccer at St. Francis (Pennsylvania).

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen

Schedules

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Dec. 1 -- at Thomas Worthington

*Dec. 4 -- vs. Westerville North

*Dec. 7 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty

Dec. 11 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

*Dec. 14 -- at Westerville Central

Dec. 15 -- at Grove City

*Dec. 21 -- vs. Westerville South

Dec. 27 -- New Albany in Roosters Stallions Holiday Classic at DeSales

Dec. 28 -- DeSales or Ringwood (Australia) in Roosters Stallions Holiday Classic at DeSales

*Jan. 4 -- vs. Olentangy

Jan. 5 -- at Licking Heights

Jan. 8 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson

*Jan. 11 -- at Westerville North

Jan. 15 -- at Big Walnut

*Jan. 18 -- at Olentangy Liberty

Jan. 22 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

*Jan. 25 -- vs. Westerville Central

Jan. 28 -- vs. Watterson

*Feb. 1 -- at Westerville South

Feb. 5 -- at Franklin Heights

*Feb. 8 -- at Olentangy

Feb. 12 -- at Buckeye Valley

HOCKEY

Nov. 23 -- Hilliard in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North

Nov. 24 -- St. Charles and Dayton in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North

Nov. 25 -- Westerville in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North

Nov. 29 -- Olentangy Liberty in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin

Nov. 30 -- Parma Padua in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin

Dec. 1 -- New Albany in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin

Dec. 2 -- TBA in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin

*Dec. 7 -- Dublin Jerome at Chiller Dublin

*Dec. 8 -- Thomas Worthington at Chiller North

*Dec. 14 -- New Albany at Chiller Easton

*Dec. 15 -- Dublin Coffman at Chiller Dublin

*Dec. 19 -- Olentangy Berlin at Chiller North

*Dec. 21 -- Upper Arlington at OhioHealth Ice Haus

*Dec. 23 -- Cincinnati Moeller at Chiller North

Dec. 30-Jan. 1 -- Northwest Ohio Holly-Daze Tournament at The Cube in Findlay

*Jan. 3 -- Columbus Academy at Chiller Easton

*Jan. 5 -- St. Charles at Chiller North

*Jan. 11 -- Olentangy Liberty at Chiller North

*Jan. 12 -- Olentangy at Chiller North

*Jan. 13 -- Springboro at Chiller North

Jan. 18-20 -- Orange Pioneer Holiday Classic

*Jan. 26 -- Dublin Scioto at Chiller North

*Feb. 1 -- Gahanna at Chiller North

*Feb. 2 -- DeSales at Chiller North

*Feb. 3 -- Watterson at Chiller Dublin

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Orange boys basketball, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

Nov. 30 -- Home vs. New Albany

Dec. 1 -- At Marion Harding

SWIMMING & DIVING

Nov. 30 -- At Upper Arlington

Dec. 1 -- Westerville South at Westerville Community Center

WRESTLING

Dec. 1 -- Lee Spitzer Invitational at UA