Abby Wild was good enough to start for the Upper Arlington High School girls soccer team as a freshman and, as a sophomore, helped the Golden Bears win a Division I district championship.
Yet coach Chris Merrick, who has seen the senior defender play on and off since she was 12, calls this perhaps Wild's best season.
"She makes great decisions and she wins tackles, even some tackles that I might say, 'Yikes, she won't get there,' and she does," Merrick said. "She just makes plays."
Wild, a four-year letterwinner who has started since the middle of her freshman season, has been a constant in a defense that continues to find itself in part because injuries have forced occasional changes in personnel. UA gave up 18 goals through 13 games and was 6-5-2 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Marysville on Oct. 3.
Wild first played for Merrick in the Ohio Premier club organization, and the two crossed paths again when Merrick took over at UA before the 2014 season.
"Abby is my general back there," Merrick said. "She is organized and she keeps everybody else organized and lets them know where they need to be marking and how they need to be playing and if we need to pick it up a little bit. You talk about the intangibles of a smart player and toughness, and she's got it."
Wild plays center back in a defensive unit that also includes center back Ava D'Herete and outside backs Zanovia Criss and Grace Wild, Abby's younger sister. However, Criss recently moved back to midfield, where she played last year, when Alyssa Dunsizer was sidelined by a concussion, and has been replaced by former forward Sydney Lape.
UA lost most of its defense from last year when Julia Ferraro, Anna Piscopo and Lauryn Wilmarth graduated.
"We started off not having played together, but we talk a lot and we cover each other. So far, so good," Abby Wild said. "It's kind of like a whole new defense, but we are working really well together. We have good chemistry back there. We're close. We were a little rocky in our scrimmages, but then we started clicking very well."
Wild said she prefers defense mostly because of the view that position provides of action on the rest of the field.
"I have a field vision, a good IQ. Having other backs who are good helps so much," Wild said. "I think I am a good leader. The main thing is seeing the entire field and helping make things happen."
The Bears had only two shutouts through 13 games, a 4-0 win over Thomas Worthington in their season opener Aug. 18 and a 9-0 win over Westland on Sept. 26.
UA went 4-9-4 last year but started this season 3-0 and surpassed its 2016 win total Sept. 14 when it routed Reynoldsburg 8-1.
"We have been good at connecting passes and we get a lot of good combinations through the midfield, and we have a strong midfield. We are strong all over the field," D'Herete said.
"Abby is just a really strong, reliable defender back there. She's always great at stepping to balls and will always be covering for you. She won't get muscled off the ball and she always makes good decisions."
Water polo teams
heading to Milford
After having last weekend off, the second-ranked girls water polo team and the sixth-ranked boys team both will participate in the Milford Invitational that runs Friday, Oct. 6, through Sunday, Oct. 8.
The girls team is 14-6 after splitting four games at the Beast of the East tournament that concluded Sept. 23 in Reading, Pennsylvania. UA defeated Erie (Pennsylvania) Fairview 11-1 and Reading 8-6 before losing to Reading Wilson Area 9-2 and Souderton (Pennsylvania) Area 8-3.
The boys team is 18-8 coming off three wins at its Upper Arlington Invitational on Sept. 30. The Bears defeated Cincinnati St. Xavier 8-2, Cincinnati Sycamore 13-6 and Worthington Kilbourne 12-4 before losing to St. Charles 12-11.
Gavin Voss leads UA in both goals (62) and assists (26). Alec Caswell had 53 goals and Reed Ray has 29.
Goalkeeper Ben Staton has saved 199 of 344 shots (57.8 percent).
Tennis team preps
The girls tennis team wrapped up regular-season play Oct. 2 with a 4-1 loss to Columbus Academy before turning its attention to a Division I sectional Thursday, Oct. 5, and Saturday, Oct. 7, at home.
Both of UA's doubles teams earned seeds at sectional, as Ella Hazelbaker and Noel Mizer are third and Evelyn Holman and Wendy Shi are fourth.
Lily Goldberg, Masha Manilchuk and Sarah Marti are playing singles, with Manilchuk being seeded third.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament Oct. 12 at Hilliard Bradley and Oct. 14 at home.
UA was eliminated from the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I district tournament with a 3-2 loss to Olentangy Orange in a quarterfinal Sept. 25. The Bears are 9-2 overall.
Golf teams hoped
to extend season
The boys and girls golf teams competed in Division I sectionals Oct. 3, hoping to prolong their seasons into this week and beyond.
The boys team played in a sectional at Clover Valley, from which 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 Westchester, where the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 10 at Cooks Creek.
From both district tournaments, the top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advance to their respective state tournaments Oct. 20 and 21 at Ohio State.
Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington cross country, field hockey, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls volleyball and water polo teams:
Oct. 7 -- Les Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington
Oct. 7 -- Home vs. Cincinnati St. Ursula
*Oct. 11 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman
Oct. 7 -- Pickerington North Fall Classic at The Links at Groveport
*Oct. 10 -- At Dublin Coffman
Oct. 7 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne
*Oct. 10 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman
*Oct. 5 -- At Marysville. The Golden Bears defeated the Monarchs 25-17, 25-13, 25-23 on Sept. 14.
*Oct. 10 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman. The Golden Bears lost to the Shamrocks 25-15, 25-11, 25-6 on Sept. 19.
Oct. 6-8 -- Boys and girls: Milford Invitational
Oct. 11 -- Girls: Home vs. Thomas Worthington