Canal Winchester High School cross country coach Jeff Kline pulls no punches regarding his expectations of seniors Ethan Fusek and Luke Schirr.

Canal Winchester High School cross country coach Jeff Kline pulls no punches regarding his expectations of seniors Ethan Fusek and Luke Schirr.

"They potentially can be one of the best 1-2 punches in the area," Kline said.

Based on their history, the Indians' fourth-year coach isn't grabbing at straws. Fusek was the boys team's top runner as a sophomore, finishing 13th in the Division I, district 1 meet and 68th at regional, and despite missing much of his junior season because of a shin injury, still ended up 31st in district 2.

Schirr became the Indians' top runner during Fusek's absence, finishing fifth at district and 50th at regional. That pecking order remained during the season-opening Mount Vernon Kiwanis John Fair Invitational on Aug. 27 at Foundation Park, when Schirr placed second (16 minutes, 34.6 seconds) and Fusek was third (17:04.2) to lead Canal Winchester to 35 points and the championship of the four-team meet, ahead of runner-up Olentangy (39).

"They're both consistently running 50 to 60 miles a week," Kline said. "Luke is clearly the top dog right now, which I am sure motivates Ethan. Ethan was our top guy as a sophomore and he knows what it takes to be in that spot. He wants to get back to that top level."

Sophomore Will Butler returns to keep the top three intact for the Indians. He finished seventh (17:26.1) Aug. 27, ahead of freshman Reece Klamorick (ninth, 17:46.2), juniors Evan Young (16th, 18:27.5) and James Moore (22nd, 19:01.5) and sophomore Jared Tomlinson (24th, 19:02.6).

Juniors Erica Babusci, Paige Bormann and Kassidy Pastor are the girls team's only returnees from last year's top eight. They finished consecutively in the top eight Aug. 27 as Canal Winchester finished second (46) of four teams, behind Olentangy (15).

Pastor placed sixth (21:30.3), Babusci was seventh (21:43.6) and Bormann was eighth (22:18.1). Also scoring for the Indians were juniors Bethany Hinkle (20th, 23:26.6) and Katelyn Genther (31st, 24:00.7).

Rounding out the top seven were junior Kaitlyn Swearingen (34th, 24:12.5) and senior Ashley Clubb (43rd, 25:00).

Last season, the girls were sixth in the district 3 meet to earn the last team berth to regional, where they finished 16th.

"I have a handful of girls ready to take their training to the next level," Kline said. "They're running higher mileage than in the past and I like their mentality, too. They are making an effort to push the pace.

"Hungry is the probably the best word to describe them. They want their chance to prove they belong in that top seven. The top girls are definitely going to keep us competitive."

The Indians, who have moved from the OCC-Cardinal Division to the OCC-Capital as part of OCC realignment, laid out their goals during a team retreat in early August, concentrating on the program as well as both teams.

"Foremost in their minds is that the guys haven't been to regional since 2010," Kline said. "That's the obvious goal. And we want to be competitive in this new conference. Newark might be the favorite (on the boys side), but we think we can be right there.

"The girls should be competitive in the conference. The big thing I want to see right now is getting the back of the pack closer to the front."

Volleyball coach likes team's makeup

Versatility and a blue-collar work ethic stood out to girls volleyball coach Dana Stearns as she entered her second season with the Indians.

"We really do have a lot of girls who can play multiple roles, which is nice, and we know it will take every single person on this team to be successful," Stearns said. "We will not be a team that will come out and be super flashy. Everybody will have to play their roles to be successful. Our goal is always to be in our system, but we will not have that one or two players who can carry us.

"We may have a different look on any given night. We're starting to jell."

Canal Winchester was 2-2 overall before their home opener against Westland on Aug. 30.

Top returnees include seniors Gabby Alonzo (defensive specialist), Andrea Hawkins (defensive specialist), Darby Krueger (middle hitter), Relli Sanders (defensive specialist) and Sara Vanderwerf (defensive specialist) and juniors Audrey Jenkins (setter) and Lauren Toledo (libero).

Jenkins led the team in assists as a sophomore, and Toledo was team leader in digs last year as the Indians went 11-12 overall and 7-7 in the OCC-Cardinal.

Rounding out the roster are juniors Jada Butler (outside hitter), N'Daia Hamilton (outside hitter/right-side hitter), Hannah Hiser (setter), Astrid Munthe (middle hitter), Emily Sarles (utility), Emily Sotlar (defensive specialist) and Brooklyn Wolfe (outside hitter/right-side hitter) and freshman Shalea Byrd (middle hitter/right-side hitter).

Canal Winchester split a season-opening tri-match Aug. 20 at Dublin Scioto, defeating the host Irish 25-16, 25-17 and losing to Hamilton Township 25-15, 25-16.

The Indians swept Central Crossing 25-15, 25-22, 25-16 on Aug. 23 and lost to Lancaster 25-21, 25-22, 25-23 in their home opener Aug. 25.

Canal Winchester begins OCC-Capital play Tuesday, Sept. 6, at Big Walnut. The Indians lost to the Golden Eagles 25-11, 25-15, 25-17 in the first round of last season's Division I district tournament.

The Indians, who finished fourth in the OCC-Cardinal last year, were realigned into the OCC-Capital with Big Walnut, Franklin Heights, Groveport, New Albany and Newark.

"We have a lot of girls who are very passionate about the sport, and our goal is to be in the top two in the conference," Stearns said. "We know it's possible, but we all have to show up every time we have a match. We've set high goals."

Football team looks to build on opening win

The football team will seek its first 2-0 start since 2011 when it opens the home portion of its schedule Friday, Sept. 2, against Athens.

Canal Winchester began the season in dramatic fashion Aug. 26, edging host Thomas Worthington 24-21 in double overtime on Trevor Thompson's 38-yard field goal.

Nick Tiell and Jared Bulluck rushed for touchdowns of 58 and 4 yards, respectively, in the first half to give the Indians a 14-7 lead, and Darren Davis added a 3-yard scoring run in the first overtime. Myron Johnson blocked a field-goal attempt for Thomas in the second overtime, and Thompson missed from 38 yards, but that attempt was nullified by a Cardinals timeout.

Stanton Smith played quarterback for Canal Winchester, as projected starter Trevor Harrison-Rawn continues to recover from a fractured left collarbone suffered during the preseason. Harrison-Rawn, who was injured late in the Indians' scrimmage against Dresden Tri-Valley on Aug. 12, said Aug. 27 that he hopes to return within the next two to four weeks.

"To get that kind of a win on the road, that's a big boost for your morale," coach Phil Mauro said. "Stanton did a good job with his reads and finding his options, but we still have plenty to work on."

The Indians will face an Athens team that missed the playoffs in 2015 after finishing as Division III state runner-up in 2014 with current Ohio State player Joe Burrow at quarterback.

The Bulldogs steamrolled Vincent Warren Local 41-0 in their season opener Aug. 26, as quarterback Treyce Albin completed 10 of 13 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 30 yards and a touchdown. Athens limited the Warriors to 52 total yards, all but three of which were rushing.

Albin's top targets include wide receivers Robert Dickelman and Andy Kostival and tight end Brendan Sano. Sano also is a defensive end, while Kostival is a linebacker and defensive back and Dickelman is a safety.

Athens features size on its line with 6-foot-3, 300-pound lineman Cam Kasler and 6-5, 300-pounder Brody Rodgers.

"They're going to spread the ball around. They have some good balance," Mauro said. "They might put seven in the box (on defense). They'll be built to stop the run."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

CROSS COUNTRY

Aug. 27 -- Mount Vernon Kiwanis John Fair Invitational at Foundation Park

Aug. 31 -- Canal Winchester Invitational at home

Sept. 10 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial

Sept. 21 -- Arrowhead Invitational at Whetstone

Sept. 24 -- Saturday Night Lights at Centerville

Oct. 1 -- Panther Invitational at Pickerington North

Oct. 8 -- Marion Harding Invitational

Oct. 15 -- OCC-Capital meet at Newark

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Aug. 20 -- at Dublin Scioto with Hamilton Township

Aug. 23 -- at Central Crossing

Aug. 25 -- vs. Lancaster

Aug. 30 -- vs. Westland

Sept. 1 -- at Pickerington North

Sept. 3 -- vs. Watkins Memorial and Westerville South

*Sept. 6 -- at Big Walnut

*Sept. 8 -- vs. Groveport

Sept. 10 -- vs. Amanda-Clearcreek and Upper Arlington

*Sept. 13 -- vs. Franklin Heights

*Sept. 15 -- at New Albany

*Sept. 20 -- vs. Newark

*Sept. 22 -- vs. Big Walnut

*Sept. 27 -- at Groveport

*Sept. 29 -- at Franklin Heights

Oct. 3 -- vs. Bloom-Carroll

*Oct. 6 -- vs. New Albany

Oct. 10 -- at Thomas Worthington

*Oct. 13 -- at Newark

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Canal Winchester boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls tennis teams:

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 3 -- Bexley Invitational at Westchester

GIRLS GOLF

Sept. 6 -- Hilliard Darby at Westchester

BOYS SOCCER

Sept. 1 -- At St. Charles

Sept. 6 -- Home vs. Lancaster

GIRLS SOCCER

Sept. 1 -- Home vs. Grove City

Sept. 3 -- Home vs. Westerville South

Sept. 6 -- At Lancaster

GIRLS TENNIS

*Sept. 1 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights

*Sept. 6 -- At New Albany

Sept. 7 -- At Bexley

Of note: The Indians are 2-1 overall and 0-0 in the OCC-Capital.

*League contest