Consecutive shutouts to start the season helped set the tone for the Olentangy High School girls soccer team, but goalkeeper McKinley Hoffman needed less than one game to know the Braves' defense could be special.
"It became very apparent during our first game that we had a strong back line," Hoffman said. "I just felt that after seeing how they played together that it would be a strong year. I vividly remember that's the game where it was solidified that we would be a good fit."
A 2-0 win over DeSales on Aug. 18 and a 3-0 victory over Thomas Worthington on Aug. 24 were signals of things to come for a defense that continues to find its way. Olentangy had recorded six shutouts before an Oct. 3 game against Orange in going 8-2-3 overall and 1-0-2 in the OCC-Buckeye Division.
Other shutouts followed against Westerville South (5-0 on Sept. 12), Watterson (3-0 on Sept. 16), Westerville Central (scoreless tie Sept. 26) and Marysville (6-0 on Sept. 30).
Returning starters McKenna Riesterer and Rajika Robinson anchor the unit at center back and outside back, respectively, and are flanked by center back Priya Hudson and outside back Carly Ross. Hudson and Ross are in their first season as starters.
Riesterer is a senior, Robinson is a junior, Hudson is a sophomore and Ross is a freshman.
Hoffman, a sophomore, is in her first year as starting goalie.
"It's still a young back line in comparison to others we've had. It's quite a range of experience," coach Earl Devanny said. "They stay coordinated very well with regards to pressure cover balance. It all works out pretty well from that standpoint."
Robinson said the unit clicked almost immediately, as the team's early performances might suggest.
"Our back line has a really strong chemistry," she said. "We play so well together. We have each other's backs. It's the foundation of the team."
Olentangy was 1-0-2 in the OCC-Buckeye Division before playing Orange on Oct. 3.
The Braves had given up just nine goals through 12 games. Three of those came Aug. 31 in a one-goal loss to Pickerington North, which was 11-0-1 before Oct. 3.
"I have definitely become a lot more confident with the help of the back line. They are very encouraging and they always have my back," Hoffman said. "They play so well together. They are organized and they are willing to do whatever they have to do to block a shot. They put themselves on the line for the team."
Olentangy finishes the regular season with road games against Big Walnut on Thursday, Oct. 5, and Liberty on Tuesday, Oct. 10.
Orange led the OCC-Buckeye with a 3-0 record before Oct. 3, ahead of the second-place Braves.
Sydney Walker had a team-high seven goals through 13 games, ahead of Natalie Hegg (6).
"We need to work on scoring in tight games. That's going to be our primary focus," Devanny said. "It's paying attention to details, where the crosses are placed and where the runs are made. Those are things we can continue to work on and get better at."
Girls runners look
to field full lineup
Girls cross country coach Dwight Dewese hopes to see his full team run at least once before the OCC-Buckeye meet Oct. 14 at Hilliard Darby, and the Braves have that many meets left before then as they travel to Darby on Saturday, Oct. 7, for the Darby Dash.
While returning Division I state qualifier Lex Brookshire missed the first meet of the season with an injury and has run in each of the Braves' four meets since then, Dewese still was waiting last week for sophomore Meghan Boggess to make her debut because of a foot injury.
"We're moving in the right direction," Dewese said. "We have a nice group of four runners at the front of the team, even five when you include Olivia Cool. Once we incorporate Meghan, I think I'll really like where we'll be. I'm really encouraged about how girls have stepped up, and I'm proud of the girls who have run open races, too (outside the team's top seven). I'm happy with our production down the line, and those girls do their best to push the girls at the top of the lineup. One of our seniors, Kaitlin Digiovine, has (broken her personal record) in every race. You don't see that kind of progression very often."
Melina Endsley led Olentangy in three of its first four races, and was second in the other two races behind Brookshire. Other runners who have spent time in the top five include Katie Balthaser, Seville Davis, Ellie Jansen, Megan Schlabig and Katie Slyh.
The boys' lineup has been more flexible, with considerable movement within the top five. Cullen Sainey led Olentangy in two of its first four races, and Sam Holt and Carter Schaefer were the Braves' top runners in one race each.
Other leading runners have included Jack Dunlop, Afton Freeman, Chandler Moyer and Mikey Worboy.
Sainey has the boys team's fastest time so far this year of 17 minutes, 2.8 seconds, recorded in the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 9 at Watkins Memorial. He finished 64th in that race.
Endsley's time of 19:21.4 in the same meet, in which she finished 17th, is the girls team's top mark this season.
Girls tennis team
prepares for sectional
The girls tennis team will participate in a Division I sectional tournament Thursday, Oct. 5, and Saturday, Oct. 7, at Reynoldsburg.
Kathleen Jones is seeded third in singles. Priyanka Agochiya and Vidya Puttagunta also will play singles.
The Braves' doubles teams will consist of Krista Graybill and Janie Miller and Amanda Jones and Archita Sriram.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles will advance to the district tournament Oct. 12 at Hilliard Bradley and Oct. 14 at Upper Arlington.
Olentangy finished the regular season at 7-8, losing matches last week to Dublin Coffman (4-1 on Sept. 26) and Pickerington Central (3-2 on Sept. 27).
Golf teams hoped
to extend season
The boys and girls golf teams participated in Division I sectional tournaments Oct. 3, hoping to prolong their seasons into this week and beyond.
The boys played in a sectional at Darby Creek, where the top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to the district tournament Tuesday, Oct. 10, at Apple Valley.
The girls were in a sectional at Royal American. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Tuesday, Oct. 10, at Cooks Creek.
From both district tournaments, the top two teams and two individuals not on qualifying teams advance to their respective state tournaments Oct. 20 and 21 at Ohio State.
The girls also will compete Saturday, Oct. 7, in the Pickerington North Fall Classic at The Links at Groveport.
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy cross country, field hockey, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 7 -- Hilliard Darby Dash
Oct. 7 -- Home vs. Columbus School for Girls
Oct. 9 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne
Oct. 11 -- At Bexley
Oct. 5 -- At Hilliard Davidson
Oct. 7 -- Home vs. Gahanna
*Oct. 10 -- Home vs. Olentangy Liberty
Oct. 5 -- At Big Walnut
*Oct. 10 -- At Liberty
*Oct. 5 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange. The Braves lost to the Pioneers 25-12, 25-19, 23-25, 25-21 on Sept. 14.
*Oct. 10 -- At Liberty. The Braves lost to the Patriots 23-25, 25-21, 25-18, 25-18 on Sept. 19.