Coming off what it deemed to be a down season, the Olentangy Liberty High School hockey team won the CHC-White Division last winter and lost seven fewer games than it did the previous year.

Coming off what it deemed to be a down season, the Olentangy Liberty High School hockey team won the CHC-White Division last winter and lost seven fewer games than it did the previous year.

The Patriots will try to build on that improvement despite moving up to the strongest of the CHC's three divisions, the CHC-Red, where they'll join Dublin Coffman, Dublin Jerome, St. Charles and Upper Arlington.

Their new league opponents all reached the semifinal round of last season's district tournament, with Coffman going on to win district and advance to the state tournament.

"(The team) comes in with high expectations with 11 returning seniors," said 10th-year coach Jack Hoogeveen, who has led the Patriots to two district titles and three league titles. "If (the team) shows up every day wanting to improve, respecting one another as teammates, owning a positive attitude ... we'll be a success."

The Patriots followed a 22-9-1-1 finish a year ago by opening with four games in the Bowling Green Invitational.

After beating Parma Padua 5-0 and losing to Bowling Green 7-1 on Nov. 25, the Patriots beat Findlay 7-1 on Nov. 26. They then lost to Bowling Green 6-2 on Nov. 27.

Back leading the way are senior forward Jimmy Bursinger, senior defenseman J.T. Schoettmer and senior goaltender David Dew.

Bursinger led Liberty in scoring last season with 29 goals and 16 assists. Dew had 20 wins and a .933 save percentage, and Schoettmer had nine goals and 14 assists.

Also back are senior forwards Tyler Buckerfield (14 goals, 12 assists) and Kent Stadulis (10 goals, 9 assists) and junior defenseman Sam Turner (6 goals, 13 assists).

Other seniors are Ian Gilbertson (forward), Collin Hull (defenseman), Nick Rosato (forward), Clay Sakich (defenseman), Logan Senhauser (goalie) and Nick Wollenberg (defenseman).

Others looking to contribute are juniors Buddy Ambrosia (forward), Carter Bissonette (forward), Harrison Schweitzer (forward) and Matt Taura (forward), sophomores Craig Lutwen (defenseman) and Kevin Springfield (forward) and freshman Keegan Pullins (defenseman).

"J.T. Schoettmer will lead one of the best defensive corps in central Ohio and should bring lots of offense," Hoogeveen said. "Leading the offense will be Jimmy Bursinger. After leading the team in scoring last year, (we expect him) to have another huge year."

Girls basketball team in 'growth mode'

After losing seven players to graduation, the girls basketball team has just two seniors and little overall varsity experience.

Talent, however, isn't something the program is lacking.

"A lot of people say rebuilding mode, but growth mode is what we refer to it as," third-year coach Sam Krafty said. "We have some talented young players that are new players. Talent is not the issue. It's just hard to replace the experienced players that we lost. We're actually further ahead than I thought we'd be."

Liberty, which went 21-4 overall and was a Division I district semifinalist a year ago, opened Nov. 26 by losing 61-36 to Rocky River Magnificat in the Gary West Tipoff Classic at Reynoldsburg.

The top returnees are seniors Katie Harrop (5-foot-7, guard) and Breanna Yashko (5-7, guard) and juniors Sydney Englehart (5-9, wing player), Kennedy Kashmiry (5-8, guard) and Lauren Spicer (6-1, post player).

Yashko was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district a year ago when she averaged 12.5 points.

Yashko and Harrop are expected to take on most of the ball-handling duties in place of 2016 graduate Alexa Fisher, a second-team all-district selection who now is playing for Nebraska Omaha.

Junior Emma Humenay, a 5-4 guard, was the leading scorer for the junior varsity last season and should step into a key role in the backcourt.

Junior Jess Thomas, a 5-10 post player, also saw some varsity action last season but is out with an injury and might not return until later this month or January.

Hope Santangelo, a 5-9 post player, rounds out the junior class.

Two freshmen who could be immediate contributors are 5-10 wing player Kelly Levering and 6-1 wing player Teegan Pifher.

Levering is the sister of 2015 graduate and current Miami University sophomore Kristen Levering, while Pifher has impressed Krafty with her versatility.

Also on the roster are sophomores Jessie Barna (5-9, wing player), Abby Erickson (6-2, post player) and Betsy Merritt (5-6, guard) and freshman Gina Santangelo (5-5, guard).

Liberty, which shared the OCC-Central title with Coffman at 12-2 a year ago, will compete in the OCC-Buckeye with Olentangy, Orange, Westerville Central, Westerville North and Westerville South.

Another key player lost to graduation was forward Lauren Hofer, who averaged 11.5 points and now is playing for Denison.

"I have very high hopes for this group," Krafty said. "We are young, but I know they're going to compete. It's going to be a pretty balanced league with the three Westervilles and the three Olentangys. I'd look for us to compete for the OCC championship, and we're looking to make some noise in the district."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Nov. 26 – Rocky River Magnificat in Gary West Tipoff Classic at Reynoldsburg

Nov. 29 – vs. Hilliard Bradley

*Dec. 6 – vs. Olentangy

*Dec. 8 – at Olentangy Orange

*Dec. 15 – vs. Westerville South

Dec. 20 – vs. Marysville

Dec. 27 – vs. Amherst Steele

Dec. 29 – at Carleton (Mich.) Airport

Dec. 30 – Bellville (Mich.) at Carleton (Mich.) Airport

Jan. 3 – at Gahanna

*Jan. 6 – at Westerville North

Jan. 10 – vs. Hilliard Davidson

*Jan. 13 – vs. Westerville Central

Jan. 14 – vs. Teays Valley

*Jan. 19 – at Olentangy

Jan. 21 – at Dublin Jerome

Jan. 23 – at Newark

*Jan. 27 – vs. Olentangy Orange

Jan. 28 – vs. Dublin Coffman

*Feb. 3 – at Westerville South

*Feb. 7 – vs. Westerville North

*Feb. 10 – at Westerville Central

HOCKEY

Nov. 25 – Parma Padua and Bowling Green in Bowling Green Invitational

Nov. 26 – Findlay in Bowling Green Invitational

Nov. 27 – Bowling Green in Bowling Green Invitational

*Dec. 2 – St. Charles at OhioHealth Ice Haus

*Dec. 3 – New Albany at Chiller North

Dec. 8-11 – Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin

Dec. 16 – Lakewood St. Edward in Parma Padua Invitational at OBM Arena in Strongsville

Dec. 17 – Parma Heights Holy Name and Mentor Lake Catholic in Parma Padua Invitational at OBM Arena in Strongsville

Dec. 18 – TBD in Parma Padua Invitational at OBM Arena in Strongsville

*Dec. 21 – Upper Arlington at Chiller North

*Dec. 23 – Dublin Jerome at Chiller North

*Dec. 24 – Watterson at Chiller Easton

*Dec. 26 – Thomas Worthington at Chiller North

*Jan. 6 – Olentangy Orange at Chiller North

*Jan. 7 – Olentangy at Chiller North

*Jan. 8 – Dublin Coffman at Chiller Dublin

Jan. 13-15 – Pioneer Classic at TBA

*Jan. 20 – Dublin Coffman at Chiller North

*Jan. 21 – Dublin Jerome at Chiller Dublin

*Jan. 27 – Gahanna at Chiller North

*Jan. 29 – Upper Arlington at OhioHealth Ice Haus

*Feb. 3 – DeSales at Chiller North

*Feb. 4 – St. Charles at Chiller North

*Feb. 5 – Cincinnati Moeller at Northland Ice Center in Cincinnati

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Liberty boys basketball, bowling and swimming & diving teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

Dec. 2 – Perrysburg at Grove City

Dec. 3 – At Grove City

BOWLING

*Dec. 4 – Big Walnut at Sawmill Lanes

*Dec. 5 – Olentangy

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 3 – At Upper Arlington

*League contest