The Thomas Worthington High School boys water polo team achieved a goal it set two years ago when it defeated St. Charles 15-13 in overtime in the state championship match Oct. 28 at Mason.
It represents the third state title for the Cardinals but their first since 2004.
"The seniors talked about this moment as sophomores and they worked hard through the process to accomplish it," coach Rick Yurich said. "But I don't know if they thought it would be that exciting and memorable. It was an incredible game."
The Cardinals were the top seed in the 12-team state tournament, but Yurich said they should've been seeded second behind Cincinnati St. Xavier, which was seeded sixth. According to Yurich, St. Xavier was seeded lower because its B and C teams endured losses during the season that counted in the state-ranking system.
"They beat us three times this year," Yurich said of St. Xavier. "But because they were seeded sixth, they were on the other side of the bracket and St. Charles beat them (11-4), so we didn't have to worry about the mental side of that."
Against St. Charles, Thomas rallied twice from a five-goal deficit and took its first lead of the game at 11-10 with just over 2 minutes remaining in the fourth period. St. Charles tied it with 42 seconds remaining to force overtime, which consists of two three-minute periods and not sudden death.
St. Charles led 12-11 after the first extra period, but senior Taylor Weinsz broke a 13-all tie in the second and Thomas added an insurance goal with 5 seconds left.
"It was the most incredible sporting event I've witnessed in my lifetime," said Yurich, whose team finished 32-9, with just four losses to teams from Ohio. "It's a testament to the boys and their will and perseverance. They just kept battling back. I'm ready to pass out with all this excitement.
"Even when things looked bleak, the boys never gave up. That comes from having a large senior class with hard workers and good leaders."
Thomas opened the state tournament by defeating Milford 22-4 on Oct. 27 and beat Cincinnati Princeton 11-4 in a semifinal on Oct. 28.
Senior Grant Cross scored six goals in the tournament, including four in the championship match. Weinsz led the Cardinals with 13 goals and senior Jack King added nine goals and 19 steals en route to setting the program's single-season record for steals with 135. Senior Brendon Zurovchak also had nine goals.
King, Weinsz, Zurovchak and goalie Owen Roesch all made first-team all-state. Roesch had 27 blocks and seven steals while allowing 19 goals in the state tournament.
"We had all senior starters and all of the boys stepped their games up," Yurich said. "Jack had eight steals in the championship (match) and shut down (St. Charles' top scorer), and senior Tim Berridge came off the bench to shut down their second scorer. Tim had nine steals in the tournament."
While the Cardinals will be losing all of their starters, they expect to return three key players in sophomores Yashar Bakhshaeisarand, Evers Brandt and Derek Taylor.
"It'll definitely be a growing year and we won't have any seniors unless they're first-year athletes," Yurich said. "But I like the boys who should be coming back, so I'm positive about next year."
The girls team finished 17-12-1 after placing fifth in the 11-team state tournament Oct. 20 and 21 at Princeton. The Cardinals were seeded fifth.
The Cardinals are losing seniors Caroline Girard, Elaine Miller and Becca Taylor.
Expected returnees include juniors Bianca Crank, Maddie Holub and Julia Nelson, sophomores Mallory Hartsell, Leah Lindenmeyer, Sloan Phallen, Tatum Shank and Audrey Taylor and freshmen Nataliya Kallergis, Maia Lin, Izzy Thomas and Nevin Woods.
Boys runners, Napoleon heading to state meet
Led by seniors Arjun Jha and Andy Payne, the boys cross country team will compete in the Division I state meet Saturday, Nov. 4, at National Trail Raceway.
The Cardinals were runners-up (115 points) to Hilliard Davidson (59) in the 16-team regional meet Oct. 28 at Pickerington North, where the top five teams and top 20 runners advanced to state.
Jha placed second of 129 runners in 15 minutes, 39.08 seconds and Payne was third in 15:43.33 as Pickerington Central's Matt Scrape won in 15:37.08.
Also scoring for the Cardinals were Isaac Wise (27th, 16:41.78), Zubin Jha (36th, 16:49.65) and Ryan Gimeson (67th, 17:20.13). Noah Yake (110th, 17:49.4) and Jack Caine (118th, 18:08.35) also competed.
The girls team, which has no seniors in its postseason lineup, finished eighth (225) of 17 teams at regional. Granville finished first (63), while Olentangy Orange (160) earned the fifth and final state berth.
Gia Napoleon placed 16th (19:01.67) of 129 runners to advance to state.
Also scoring for Thomas were Carina Napoleon (37th, 19:49.18), Lydia Miller (38th, 19:50.48), Tori Banks (66th, 20:32.19) and Cassidy Shaver (105th, 20:34.61). Jordyn Miller (110th, 21:46.72) and Ariana Parquette (119th, 22:19.73) also competed.
Field hockey team returning to state
The field hockey team is returning to the state tournament for the third consecutive season after beating fifth-seeded Watterson 5-0 in a district final Oct. 28 at Olentangy Liberty.
The two-time defending state champion Cardinals are 19-0 and will play Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame in a state semifinal at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, at Upper Arlington. Columbus Academy and Shaker Heights are in the other semifinal.
The state final is at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at UA.
"While the other teams at state have been there before, we do have a lot of girls with state playing experience in the past two years," coach Terri Simonetti Frost said. "But there are nerves on the big stage no matter if you have been there before or not, and as the defending champions, there's added pressure.
"But I think after the first five minutes or after a player touches the ball for the first time, it dismisses the nerves and it just goes back to playing the game. You pray at that point that it comes back to execution of fundamentals and the things you've worked on all season long."
The Cardinals have yet to play Mount Notre Dame this season, but they defeated Shaker Heights 8-1 on Sept. 15 and beat Academy 2-1 on Sept. 19.
Against Watterson, Rachel Rinaldi scored two goals and goalkeeper Isabelle Perese made three saves for the top-seeded Cardinals, who had an 18-3 advantage in shots. Sarah Charley, Anneliese Sinclair and Maya McDaniel also scored.
"The girls were excited to get past the hump game and we've got some things in mind that we will be working hard on during practice (this week)," Simonetti Frost said. "Mount Notre Dame is a very strong defensive group and they pass it well, too. Any team you play on this level is going to be very talented."
Season ends for boys soccer team
The boys soccer team lost to second-seeded Dublin Coffman 4-1 in a Division I district semifinal Oct. 25 to finish 10-6-2 overall.
The 13th-seeded Cardinals had beaten 33rd-seeded Mifflin 7-0 on Oct. 18 and 42nd-seeded Walnut Ridge 9-0 on Oct. 21 in the first two rounds of the district tournament.
Thomas went 3-3 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to tie Hilliard Bradley for third place, behind Dublin Jerome (5-0-1) and Kilbourne (3-1-2) and ahead of Hilliard Darby (2-2-2), Delaware (2-3-1) and Dublin Scioto (0-6).
"I was happy with our growth as a team, but I do wish a few other games went in our favor," third-year coach Ben Neer said. "We have progressed each year and I think next year will be one of our best yet. I'm proud of my boys."
The Cardinals are losing seven seniors in Mitch Ament (midfielder), Mike Boyd (forward), Ben Dawson (defender), Carter Dickson (goalie), John Kennedy (forward), Len Sasaki (defender) and Spencer Steele (midfielder).
"Our senior class definitely had some key players," Neer said. "I do see soccer in some of their futures and others will have a great future off the field. They were a great group and we will miss all seven of them."
Expected to return are juniors Nate Baer (forward), Kyler Block (defender), Andrew Goa (forward), Jonah Kuntz (midfielder), Tommy Swift (defender) and Jon Tchounguen (forward), sophomores Aaron Cockerham (midfielder) and Drew Holman (midfielder) and freshman Rye Conley (goalie).
Football team closes season with victory
The football team ended a six-game losing streak by beating Lexington 35-7 on Oct. 27 in its season finale.
The Cardinals finished 4-6 overall, with all four victories coming in non-league play. They went 0-6 in the OCC-Cardinal.
Against the Minutemen, quarterback Charlie Rhoades threw for nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Curran Fletch, and Dijahn Davis rushed for a pair of touchdowns to lead the Cardinals, who led 35-0 at halftime.