Janet Baird has guided the Watterson High School field hockey team to nine state tournament appearances and two state championships.

Janet Baird has guided the Watterson High School field hockey team to nine state tournament appearances and two state championships.

If the Eagles are to reach that level of success this season, they will have to overcome a type of adversity that Baird can't remember dealing with during her 20-year tenure as coach.

Watterson opened Aug. 25 by defeating Hartley 8-0 at Thomas Worthington.

Unlike in past years when the Eagles played their home games at Whetstone Park of Roses, they are holding home games at Thomas, New Albany and Worthington Kilbourne this year.

"(Park of Roses) took our upper field space this year, so we don't have room to have a regulation field there," Baird said. "It's going to be a mental-toughness type of year for us. There's something to be said for kids that have to get through stuff, and they've been coming out and working hard."

In addition to the field issues, Watterson will carry 15 players on varsity and 13 on junior varsity. Those numbers are lower than in many of Baird's past seasons.

Still, coming off a season in which they won the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-East Division at 6-0-1, were a district runner-up and finished 15-2-2 overall, the Eagles aren't planning to take a big step back.

Seniors Ellen Geyer, Laura Schmeling and Claire Sweeney all are returning starters at attacker. Senior Mary Schons and juniors Avery Dixon and Lillie Fernandes are others who should help out at the position.

Seniors Anna France and Giovanna Paradiso are back to lead a defense that also includes seniors Brenna Kenney and Meredith Racher and junior Caroline Newcomb.

Junior Caroline Golonka is back at goalkeeper.

Junior Fran Passen is moving from attacker to lead a midfield unit that also includes junior Emily Harbrecht and sophomore Bella Pardi, who also could see time at defender.

"We just want to have fun and get to our potential," Baird said. "They've had amazingly positive attitudes. I love their grit and determination because it really is not easy."

Football team set for Orange matchup

The football team will travel to Olentangy Orange on Friday, Sept. 2, looking for its second win in as many seasons against the Pioneers.

The Eagles began a three-game winning streak last season when they edged Orange 13-7 in week 2. The Pioneers, who finished 3-7 a year ago, opened Aug. 26 with a 29-28 overtime loss to Worthington Kilbourne.

Senior kicker Kevin Laming made three field goals last season for the Eagles, including ones of 30 and 40 yards against Orange.

After going 6-5 last season, the Eagles opened Aug. 26 with an 8-3 loss to Walnut Ridge.

Watterson managed just 126 yards of offense and quarterback Cole Andrew was intercepted three times. Adam Kasun had 25 carries for 83 yards and made the Eagles' only reception, which went for 7 yards.

The Scots' only touchdown came on a fumble return with 10 minutes, 35 seconds remaining.

Orange outgained Kilbourne 372-243 in total yardage and got two touchdown passes from quarterback J.D. Dayhuff. Jack Applegate ran for a 4-yard touchdown to give the Pioneers a 28-21 lead in overtime, but Kilbourne answered with a touchdown and two-point conversion.

Volleyball team battling injuries

The girls volleyball team isn't worried that it's gotten off to a slow start.

The Eagles opened with losses to Cincinnati Ursuline Academy (25-21, 27-29, 25-18, 25-10 on Aug. 20) and Olentangy (25-17, 23-25, 25-21, 28-26 on Aug. 22), but they were without juniors Josie Vondran (setter) and Sarah Puthoff (outside hitter/right-side hitter) because of injury.

Both are expected to be among the team's top players as it looks to build on a 16-10 record last season that included a Division I district runner-up finish.

"When we scrimmaged, we beat everybody we played," fourth-year coach Max Miller said. "Josie got hurt on the very last play of our last scrimmage (Aug. 16). Sarah Puthoff should be back (by early- to mid-September)."

The only seniors on the team are middle hitters Grace Hett-erscheidt and Grace Schreiber.

Junior Karlyn Hannewald (outside hitter) is a transfer from Olentangy who is expected to be a key contributor.

Sophomore Veronica Merkle has been filling in at setter during Vondran's absence.

The other juniors are Callie Cloran (outside hitter/defensive specialist), Anna Hamrock (defensive specialist), Maggie Simone (defensive specialist) and Rachel Winkler (defensive specialist).

Other sophomores are Claire Canute (outside hitter/right-side hitter), Grace Jenkins (outside hitter/middle hitter) and Kari Mercer (defensive specialist).

"Once everyone is on the court, we'll be in great shape," Miller said.

Runners planning for long-term success

Now in his 28th season as the boys and girls cross country coach, Matt McGowan sets a plan every year of preparing athletes to peak near the end of the season.

"Our goal is to get everyone healthy and improving as the season goes on," McGowan said. "We've got a nice, solid group."

Watterson opened Aug. 27 in the Newark Catholic Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion. The girls placed second (117 points) of 19 teams, behind Liberty Union (79), and the boys were third (90) of 20 teams, behind Newark (35) and Heath (44).

Although there are 57 girls and 29 boys out, the boys squad has significantly more returning experience.

Back to lead the way for the boys is junior Nick Kuraly, who finished 27th (16 minutes, 58.06 seconds) in the Division I, district 2 meet last season as the Eagles placed sixth.

Seniors Mike Grunenwald, Nick Haley and Ross Kuhn and junior Patrick Monnin also competed at district.

Juniors Matthew Hartel and Shane Merklin are others who should contribute.

The Eagles scored 32 points at the CCL meet last season to settle for a runner-up finish just behind St. Charles (30).

"We're still a Division I school, but we've got a halfway decent team that has potential to run fairly well," McGowan said.

The girls have won back-to-back league titles, but the only returnees among the team's top seven from last year are junior Kelsi Conners and sophomore Emily Latshaw.

Senior Sam Mikula and freshman Sarah Heink also are expected to be among the top runners.

Others who should contribute are seniors Alyssa King and Anna Stinnett and sophomore Amanda Flanagan.

"The girls lost five of the top seven, but hopefully some of these athletes will improve as the season goes on," McGowan said.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

CROSS COUNTRY

Aug. 27 -- Newark Catholic Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion

Sept. 10 -- Northland Invitational at Woodward Park

Sept. 21 -- Arrowhead Invitational at Whetstone

Sept. 24 -- Lancaster Invitational

Oct. 1 -- Pickerington North Invitational

Oct. 15 -- CCL meet at Otterbein University

FIELD HOCKEY

*Aug. 25 -- Hartley at Thomas Worthington

Aug. 29 -- at Lancaster

*Aug. 31 -- at Granville

*Sept. 1 -- at Bexley

*Sept. 8 -- at Columbus School for Girls

Sept. 15 -- at Olentangy Liberty

Sept. 17 -- Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame at New Albany

*Sept. 20 -- at Worthington Kilbourne

*Sept. 22 -- at Columbus Academy

Sept. 24 -- Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown and Shaker Heights at Thomas Worthington

Sept. 28 -- at Dublin Coffman

Oct. 1 -- Cincinnati Ursuline Academy at Thomas Worthington

Oct. 5 -- at Thomas Worthington

*Oct. 7 -- at New Albany

Oct. 12 -- Upper Arlington at Worthington Kilbourne

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Aug. 20 -- at Cincinnati Ursuline Academy

Aug. 22 -- at Olentangy

Aug. 29 -- vs. Olentangy Orange

Aug. 31 -- vs. Marysville

Sept. 3 -- Best of Ohio Invitational at Toledo St. Ursula Academy

Sept. 9 -- Louisville Invitational at Louisville (Ky.) Assumption Academy

*Sept. 14 -- at Ready

*Sept. 15 -- at Hartley

*Sept. 19 -- at Columbus School for Girls

*Sept. 21 -- vs. DeSales

*Sept. 26 -- vs. Hartley

Oct. 1 -- vs. Cincinnati Seton and Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit

*Oct. 3 -- vs. Ready

*Oct. 10 -- at DeSales

Oct. 11 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

*League contest

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

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 6 -- Hilliard Bradley at Darby Creek

GIRLS GOLF

Sept. 1 -- Olentangy Orange and Hilliard Davidson at Blackhawk

Sept. 6 -- Pickerington North and Pickerington Central at Airport

BOYS SOCCER

Sept. 3 -- At Hilliard Bradley

GIRLS SOCCER

Sept. 1 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange

Sept. 3 -- Pickerington North at Otterbein

GIRLS TENNIS

Sept. 7 -- At Olentangy Orange