Goals were at a premium in both of the Pickerington High School North girls soccer team's Division I regional tournament games, but the Panthers broke through in different ways.

Goals were at a premium in both of the Pickerington High School North girls soccer team's Division I regional tournament games, but the Panthers broke through in different ways.

They hoped the state tournament would bring even more breakthroughs.

After edging Dublin Jerome 1-0 in overtime in a regional semifinal Nov. 1 at Gahanna, North avenged one of its two regular-season losses by shutting out Gahanna 1-0 in a regional final Nov. 5 at Hilliard Bradley. Against the Lions, Camryn Dees scored off a corner kick from Aleece Lukacsko with 9 minutes, 35 seconds left.

Gahanna handed the Panthers their only loss in OCC-Ohio Division play, 2-1 on Sept. 20 in a match that ultimately decided the league championship.

"We knew it was going to be tough because (the Lions are) one of the most organized teams defensively I've ever seen," coach Greg Van Kannel said. "We just had to finish one of those balls."

Goalkeeper Grace Kenyon's six saves made the shutout hold up.

North was 18-2-1 before playing Springboro in a Division I state semifinal Nov. 8. The winner plays Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit or Toledo Notre Dame Academy in the state final Saturday, Nov. 12, at Mapfre Stadium.

The Panthers, who did not play Walsh Jesuit or Notre Dame Academy during the regular season, sought their first state final appearance since 2010, when they lost 3-0 to Walsh Jesuit in the championship.

North lost in state semifinals in 2007, 2012 and 2013, each time by a 1-0 score. In 2012 and 2013, the Panthers lost to Mason in overtime.

None of that mattered to North after its regional final.

"We've been working all summer and every day since summer to come to this (point)," Dees said.

"I was just hoping to get to the ball and it was a great corner by Aleece. I think we were breaking through all game and we just needed to hit it on goal and get it in."

Lukacsko said the winning play did not go as planned.

"I tried to get it into the air, but (Dees) was there and she saved me," Lukacsko said. "It feels so good compared to last year when we lost in the regional semis (1-0 to Olentangy)."

Cameron Shedenhelm scored the winning goal against Jerome with eight seconds left in overtime. The teams played the ball back and forth in the midfield for much of the second half and overtime, but North mustered a breakaway chance in the waning moments of overtime and Avery Hart fed Shedenhelm, who snuck her shot to the right of outstretched Jerome goalkeeper Liz Forbes.

"The team that gets the ball and drives up the field typically wins the game, so we were driving as hard as we could," Shedenhelm said. "That felt awesome."

Two boys runners compete at state

Both of the boys cross country team's competitors in the Division I state meet Nov. 5 at National Trail Raceway finished around the middle of the pack.

Junior Ashwin Briggs finished 51st (16:09.8) of 186 runners and freshman Matt Duvall was 79th (16:22).

Briggs and Duvall, who were the Panthers' top two runners all season, were making their first appearance at state.

That ended a year highlighted by North being represented at state after a one-year absence.

The boys team finished fourth (78 points) in the OCC-Ohio meet Oct. 15 at Newark, behind Gahanna (56), Pickerington Central (56) and Lancaster (58) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (133) and Grove City (159). Briggs was second overall (16:10.28).

The girls finished third (79) at the league meet, behind Gahanna (26) and Central (54) and ahead of Lancaster (94), Grove City (114) and Reynoldsburg (162).

In the district 1 meet Oct. 22 at Watkins Memorial, Briggs placed sixth (16:13.96) and Duvall was eighth (16:24.06) to lead the boys team to a third-place finish (82) behind champion Thomas Worthington (31) as 12 teams scored. The girls team finished sixth (167) in the district 2 meet behind champion Olentangy Liberty (55) as 13 teams scored.

The top five teams and top 20 individuals in both races advanced to regional Oct. 29 at home.

At regional, Briggs placed ninth (16:18.41) and Duvall was 20th (16:33.34) to lead the Panthers, who finished eighth (209) behind champion Thomas (71) as 15 teams scored. The top five teams and top 20 individuals advanced to state.

Other expected returnees for the boys include juniors Kevin Mason and Nate Rini, sophomore Jake Prestileo and freshman Harper Moore.

The girls are losing seniors Hannah Rickman, Anna McSurley, Sierra Waite and Julia Westall from their postseason top seven, while juniors Skylar Briggs and Hailey Rung, sophomore Courtney Chabot and freshman Brianna Bowden are expected to return.

Volleyball coach pleased with season

Girls volleyball coach April Boudreau called her team's 17-win season "unexpected," mostly because North had to replace two University of Evansville-bound players from a year ago in Deja Clark and Elane Shumway.

But led by senior middle blocker Jalisa Hollingshed and junior outside hitter Julia Vermilion, the Panthers went 17-7 overall and 6-4 in the OCC-Ohio, losing to Watterson 25-19, 25-20, 25-10 in a Division I district semifinal Oct. 26 at Franklin Heights.

"It was an honestly unexpected season," Boudreau said.

"We lost a lot last year, but our kids worked so hard and believed in our system. I couldn't ask for a harder-working group of girls. Our biggest strengths were our quickness, blocking and scrappy defense."

Vermilion, who was named first-team all-league and all-district, recorded a team-best 249 kills. Sophomore middle hitter Bri Hollingshed had 121 kills and a team-high 92 digs, and Jalisa Hollingshed added 116 kills.

After a 25-18, 31-29, 25-20 loss to eventual league champion Gahanna on Sept. 26, North went 6-1 in its next seven matches.

"We played really well after our loss to Gahanna in the second half of league play," Boudreau said. "We had to make some adjustments to the lineup because of injuries and we had some kids really step up and accept their roles."

North finished third in the OCC-Ohio, behind Gahanna (10-0) and Central (7-3) and ahead of Grove City (5-5), Lancaster (2-8) and Reynoldsburg (0-10).

Jalisa Hollingshed was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, and senior defensive specialist/libero Izzy Collinsworth, who had a team-high 224 digs, made honorable mention all-league.

Other expected returnees include both of the Panthers' setters in junior Ilana Sark and sophomore Megan Vayansky.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

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