During her seven seasons at North Union, first-year Dublin Jerome High School girls basketball coach Natalie Herring directed the Wildcats to an average of 21 wins per season as well as six Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference titles and three Division III district championships.

During her seven seasons at North Union, first-year Dublin Jerome High School girls basketball coach Natalie Herring directed the Wildcats to an average of 21 wins per season as well as six Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference titles and three Division III district championships.

She believes the Celtics can stand toe-to-toe with many of her previous teams from an athletic standpoint.

Jerome opened Nov. 28 with a 46-42 loss at Upper Arlington and begins OCC-Cardinal Division play Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Scioto.

"First and foremost, our kids are really hard workers," Herring said. "This is also one of the fastest teams I've ever coached, so I'm excited to have kids who can motor up the floor."

Herring, a native of Bryan who played for Heidelberg University and now runs a corporate fitness center in Columbus, compiled a 147-28 record at North Union. She takes over a Jerome program that went 19-26 in two seasons, including 10-13 a year ago, under former coach Trey Fogg.

Four seniors and three other experienced players have returned for the Celtics, who went 7-7 in the OCC-Cardinal last season to place fifth behind champion Hilliard Bradley (13-1).

The top returnee is 5-foot-9 senior guard Deanna Prochko, who averaged eight points and was named special mention all-league.

The other seniors are Rachel Ferguson (5-5, guard), Alex Madry (5-10, post player) and Rachel Remias (5-6, guard).

Junior Stephanie Cline (5-3, guard) and sophomores Emily Becker (5-10, post player) and Demi Brewer (5-5, guard) are others who saw action a year ago.

Also looking to contribute are juniors Paige Elder (5-8, post player), Mitali Singh (5-7, guard) and Tasia Talton (5-9, post player), sophomores Carah Elliott (5-5, guard), Nicole Greiwe (5-9, post player) and Larkin Thomas (5-7, guard) and freshman Alie Intihar (5-10, post player).

"I'm a really motivated person and was looking for a new challenge, and (Jerome) is really close to home for me," Herring said. "Our goal is to raise their basketball IQ, and secondly make sure we're the best conditioned we can be. The seniors are definitely going to be the backbone of the program."

Hockey team has high aspirations

After reaching the state tournament for the first time in 2015, the hockey team remained one of the area's top programs last season despite having new players in numerous key roles.

A strong group of returnees has the Celtics eyeing a longer tournament run than a year ago when they were the district's third seed and lost to second-seeded Coffman, the eventual district champion, 4-2 in a district semifinal.

Jerome, which finished 23-14 overall last season, opened last weekend in the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin. The Celtics beat Centerville 13-1 on Nov. 25 before splitting two games Nov. 26, losing to Mentor Lake Catholic 4-2 and beating Cincinnati St. Xavier 9-2. Then on Nov. 27, they defeated Olentangy Orange 5-1 to improve to 3-1.

Jerome went 12-4 (24 points) in Capital Hockey Conference play last season to place second in the CHC-Red Division, behind St. Charles (28, 14-2) and ahead of Coffman (23, 11-4-1) and Upper Arlington (22, 10-4-1-1).

The Celtics open league play Friday, Dec. 2, against UA at Chiller Dublin.

"We always put on our objective list winning our division and trying to win the Blue Jackets Cup," said coach Pat Murphy, who entered his 13th season with the Celtics with a 285-131-31 record. "We're hoping to be in the top 10 in Ohio all season long, and as we've evolved as a program, that's become doable. Ultimately, we want to make it to the final four again, and not just make it, but make it to the state championship game and win it."

Leading the way are senior forwards Austin Booth, Jack Dowling, James Fischer, Joey Jenkins and Ian Markovich, senior goaltender Jack Richey and junior goaltender Harrison Graff.

Last season, Fischer had 21 goals and 16 assists, Jenkins had 19 goals and 11 assists, Dowling had eight goals and 13 assists and Booth had 11 goals and eight assists.

Richey and Graff split time in goal a year ago. Richey went 11-5-1 with a .913 save percentage and Graff was 11-8 with an .892 save percentage.

Other seniors are defensemen Cade Apple, Jack Brim, Jacob Karq, Charlie Kelly and William Swift.

Leading the junior class are Nathan Kolenda (defenseman), Carter Patchett (forward) and Brian Wheeler (forward) as well as twins Chris Posacki (forward) and Kellen Posacki (defenseman). Sophomore defenseman Ryan Jenkins also should contribute.

The Celtics lost eight players from last season to graduation, including forward Evan Walters (10 goals, 31 assists). Also not back is senior defenseman Jack Laird, who moved to New York to play travel hockey.

"We lost five defensemen, so that's an area of concern at the moment, but we've got some guys who are doing a good job," Murphy said. "Historically, we play a good defensive brand of hockey."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Nov. 28 -- at Upper Arlington

Dec. 2 -- at Olentangy

*Dec. 6 -- at Scioto

*Dec. 9 -- at Worthington Kilbourne

Dec. 10 -- vs. DeSales

*Dec. 16 -- vs. Thomas Worthington

Dec. 27 -- Grove City in Jeff Sheets Classic at Teays Valley

Dec. 28 -- Gahanna in Jeff Sheets Classic

*Jan. 3 -- at Hilliard Bradley

*Jan. 6 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

Jan. 7 -- vs. Coffman

*Jan. 10 -- at Delaware

*Jan. 13 -- vs. Scioto

Jan. 17 -- vs. Olentangy Orange

*Jan. 20 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne

Jan. 21 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty

Jan. 24 -- at Fairbanks

*Jan. 27 -- at Thomas Worthington

Jan. 31 -- at New Albany

*Feb. 3 -- at Hilliard Darby

*Feb. 7 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

*Feb. 10 -- vs. Delaware

HOCKEY

Nov. 25 -- Centerville in Midwest Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin

Nov. 26 -- Mentor Lake Catholic and Cincinnati St. Xavier in Midwest Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin

Nov. 27 -- Olentangy Orange in Midwest Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin

*Dec. 2 -- Upper Arlington at Chiller Dublin

*Dec. 3 -- Cincinnati Moeller at Northland Ice Center

*Dec. 4 -- Springboro at Chiller Dublin

Dec. 8 -- Hilliard in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin

Dec. 9 -- Coffman in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin

Dec. 10 -- Olentangy Orange and Parma Padua in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin

*Dec. 18 -- New Albany at Chiller Easton

*Dec. 21 -- DeSales at Chiller Dublin

*Dec. 23 -- Olentangy Liberty at Chiller North

Dec. 26 -- Cleveland St. Ignatius at Kent State

Dec. 27 -- Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit and Imperial (Pa.) West Allegheny at Kent State

Dec. 28 -- Rocky River at Kent State

*Dec. 31 -- Coffman at Chiller Dublin

*Jan. 6 -- Coffman at Chiller Dublin

*Jan. 7 -- Gahanna at Chiller Dublin

*Jan. 8 -- St. Charles at OhioHealth Ice Haus

Jan. 13 -- Upper Arlington in Mark Rasmus Memorial Invitational at Tam-O-Shanter in Sylvania

Jan. 14 -- Cincinnati Moeller and Cincinnati St. Xavier in Mark Rasmus Memorial Invitational

Jan. 15 -- TBD in Mark Rasmus Memorial Invitational

*Jan. 21 -- Olentangy Liberty at Chiller North

*Jan. 22 -- Olentangy at Chiller Dublin

*Jan. 27 -- Upper Arlington at OhioHealth Ice Haus

*Jan. 28 -- Thomas Worthington at Chiller North

*Jan. 29 -- St. Charles at Chiller Dublin

*Feb. 3 -- Watterson at Chiller Easton

Feb. 9-12 -- Blue Jackets Cup at TBA

*League contest

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

BOYS BASKETBALL

Dec. 1 -- Home vs. Marion-Franklin in opener

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 3 -- Home vs. Lancaster

WRESTLING

Dec. 3 -- Bad Apple Brawl at Mount Vernon