The depth throughout the Olentangy Liberty High School girls cross country program should pay dividends this fall.

The depth throughout the Olentangy Liberty High School girls cross country program should pay dividends this fall.

Although the Patriots lost 18 runners to graduation, there are 59 athletes out overall.

Two of those athletes, junior Emma Bower and sophomore Gracie Sprankle, are two of the area's best runners, and there seem to be plenty of options to fill the other spots.

On Aug. 20 in the OHSAA Preseason Invitational at National Trail Raceway, the Patriots finished second (83) behind Centerville (45) in the 22-team Division I race as Bower was third (19 minutes, 5.6 seconds) and Sprankle took fifth (19:23.4).

Last season, the pair led Liberty to a state runner-up finish (124) behind the Elks (71) as Bower was third (17:5.43) and Sprankle took 11th (18:22.4).

"We've got quite a few back with previous experience," third-year coach Darrell Dewese said. "We've got a whole group of girls challenging for our top seven, and certainly Bower and Sprankle are leading the pack again. They're ranked as two of the best in the nation in their classes."

Sophomores Rachel Ausec and Emily Matta and junior Sarah Colvin all competed at state a year ago. Other key runners are junior Addison French and freshman Linnea Kunesh.

Also battling for spots are juniors Anna Bower and Jenna Martz, sophomores Maddie Ailes and Lily Biros and freshman Emma Shear.

Liberty scored 55 points to win the 12-team Panther Race of the Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North on Aug. 27 as Sprankle was first (19:09.24) and Bower was second (19:13.42).

Boys runners bring back strong nucleus

Despite losing three of its top four runners, the boys cross country team isn't planning to take a step back after making its eighth consecutive regional appearance last fall.

The Patriots were fifth at regional as the top four teams advanced to state.

"(Losing who we did) has served as great motivation for the underclassmen," 10th-year coach Jared Mills said. "The only other programs on a streak as long as ours of making the regional are Dublin Coffman and Hilliard Davidson. We're young, but we've got a lot of guys back."

Senior Ryan Milligan was 59th (16:55.9) at regional last season and is the top returnee. Also back after competing in that meet are junior Nicholas Anderson and sophomore Joseph Johnson.

Junior Logan Boone is another key runner.

Others battling for spots are senior Quin Pollock, juniors Nolan Vandracek and Nathan Warrick and sophomores Drew Boggs, Adam Clark and Tomas Gonzalez.

Volleyball team hopes for another big year

The girls volleyball team finally broke through with its first Division I district championship a year ago.

Building on that, as well as winning the new OCC-Buckeye Division after settling for second (12-2) behind Dublin Coffman (14-0) in the OCC-Central last season, is among the team's goals.

All of Liberty's losses during a 23-3 season came against the Shamrocks, including 25-11, 25-10, 25-11 in a regional semifinal.

"We knew it was going to be a tall order winning the league title having Coffman in our league," said Jen Chapman, who is in her 14th season and has been the program's only coach. "So (winning our new league) is a goal, and we also have more focus looking past the district. We graduated seven seniors, so it was a pretty big group, but we've got some players who are returning."

Liberty was 5-0 before playing Davidson on Aug. 30.

The top returnees are senior Madison Brenner, an outside hitter who was honorable mention all-league last season with 169 digs and 96 kills, and junior Maddie Fogg, a setter who has committed to Toledo.

The other seniors are Haylie Beck (outside hitter), Audrey Meeker (defensive specialist), Lindsey Merrels (middle hitter) and Caroline Wells (right-side hitter).

Junior Heather Littlejohn (outside hitter) is another key returnee.

Also on the team are juniors Danielle Campbell (middle hitter), Cameryn Dyer (defensive specialist), Chloe Merritt (outside hitter) and Lauren Wilch (setter/defensive specialist) and sophomores Grace Clark (outside hitter) and Taylor Karlo (middle hitter).

Field hockey team eyes postseason run

When the Central District holds its two field hockey championship games during the last weekend of October, the games will be played at Liberty.

Making one of those games and continuing past it for the first time is the biggest goal for the Patriots this season.

They've lost four consecutive district finals, including 4-1 to Thomas Worthington last season.

"The seniors want to get into November," fifth-year coach Marianne Flannery said. "They've beaten (Columbus) Academy before and they've beaten Thomas Worthington, and now they want to get to state. What really excites me is that Liberty will be hosting the district finals this year, and we see that as a huge motivation."

Liberty, which finished second (7-1) in the Central Ohio High School Field Hockey League-West Division behind Thomas (8-0) last season, was 4-0 before playing Dublin Jerome on Aug. 31.

Leading the way are seniors Claire Buckey (midfielder), Katie Flanagan (goalkeeper) and Mara Hunter (forward). Buckey has committed to Ohio University while Hunter, who sat out last season after being diagnosed with leukemia in May 2015 but is back to full strength, has committed to Ohio State.

Seniors Maria Englehart (defender), Cassidy Kershner (midfielder), Savannah Minard (defender) and Katie Pione (forward) also are key returnees. The other seniors are defenders Abbey Cohen, Ellie Corder and Izzy Wagner.

Others on the roster are juniors Grace Buckey (forward), Sophia Englehart (midfielder) and Mollie McCormack (forward), sophomores Rory Ball (defensive midfielder), Addie Druckenbroad (forward), Tori Nageotte (midfielder) and Sienna Sakich (defender) and freshman Faith DiMantoua (defensive midfielder).

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

CROSS COUNTRY

Aug. 20 -- OHSAA Preseason Invitational at National Trail Raceway

Aug. 27 -- Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North

Sept. 3 -- ASICS Hot Summer Bash at Hilliard Davidson

Sept. 10 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial

Sept. 17 -- Galion Cross Country Festival

Sept. 24 -- Strongsville Invitational

Oct. 1 -- Erin Nance Fall Distance Classic at London Country Club

Oct. 8 -- Les Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington

Oct. 15 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at Hilliard Bradley

FIELD HOCKEY

Aug. 20 -- vs. Cincinnati Ursuline Academy

*Aug. 23 -- at Lancaster

*Aug. 24 -- at Olentangy Orange

Aug. 27 -- at New Albany

*Aug. 31 -- at Dublin Jerome

Sept. 3 -- at Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame

*Sept. 7 -- at Dublin Scioto

Sept. 8 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne

*Sept. 13 -- vs. Olentangy

Sept. 15 -- vs. Watterson

*Sept. 19 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

Sept. 29 -- vs. Columbus Academy

*Oct. 5 -- at Upper Arlington

Oct. 8 -- vs. Shaker Heights

Oct. 12 -- vs. Louisville Kentucky Country Day

*Oct. 15 -- vs. Thomas Worthington

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Aug. 20 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne

Aug. 23 -- at Marysville

Aug. 25 -- vs. Gahanna

Aug. 27 -- at Dublin Scioto with Marion Pleasant

Aug. 30 -- at Hilliard Davidson

Sept. 1 -- vs. Newark

*Sept. 6 -- vs. Olentangy Orange

*Sept. 8 -- at Westerville South

*Sept. 13 -- vs. Westerville North

*Sept. 15 -- at Westerville Central

Sept. 17 -- Worthington Kilbourne Invitational

*Sept. 20 -- vs. Olentangy

*Sept. 22 -- at Olentangy Orange

*Sept. 27 -- vs. Westerville South

*Sept. 29 -- at Westerville North

Oct. 4 -- at Pickerington North

*Oct. 6 -- vs. Westerville Central

Oct. 11 -- at Upper Arlington

*Oct. 13 -- at Olentangy

*League contest

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

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 7 -- Thomas Worthington at Kinsale

GIRLS GOLF

Sept. 1 -- Marysville and Worthington Kilbourne at Scioto Reserve

BOYS SOCCER

Sept. 6 -- Home vs. Gahanna

GIRLS SOCCER

Sept. 6 -- At Gahanna

GIRLS TENNIS

*Sept. 1 -- Home vs. Westerville North

*Sept. 6 -- At Westerville Central

Sept. 7 -- At Columbus Academy

*League contest