The members of the Watterson High School girls basketball team are aware of what those outside the program expect of them this season.
The dreaded phrase "we're supposed to be rebuilding," as coach Tom Woodford puts it, doesn't necessarily mean the Eagles are about to embark on a painful season.
"For the rebuilding year that this year is supposed to be, I'm shocked about how far we've come," 5-foot-8 senior guard Lainey Billing said. "We're working well together, but we obviously have work to do."
Watterson lost six players to graduation from last season, when it finished 21-4 overall, won the CCL title at 7-0 and reached a district final for the first time since 2009. The Eagles, who lost to Reynoldsburg 48-42 in a Division I district final, last won a district title in 2004.
Billing and 5-5 sophomore guard Paige Woodford, the coach's daughter, averaged 9.0 and 4.7 points, respectively, last season and are the top returnees. Billing scored 19 points in the Eagles' opener, a 47-45 loss at Upper Arlington on Nov. 24.
The only other returning letterwinner is 5-9 senior guard Gretchen Glanzman.
Elizabeth Van Paepeghen (5-10, forward) rounds out the senior class.
"We're really hard working and communicate," Van Paepeghen said.
The Eagles also returned juniors Grace Jenkins (5-10, forward) and Elizabeth Rabold (5-9, guard).
Danielle Grim, a 5-5 freshman guard, is a player who coach Woodford believes has high-end potential because of her basketball IQ.
Junior Julianna DiSabato (5-9, guard) is another who should be a key player.
Others looking to contribute include junior Lauren Lucki (5-7, guard), sophomore Emily Dixon (5-7, guard) and freshman Kilyn McGuff (5-9, guard).
Among the players lost to graduation were wing player Giavanna Paradiso (10.4 points per game), forward Lauren Sawyer (10.0 ppg) and guard Gabby Garrett (7.1 ppg).
"We're coming off of a very good season," coach Woodford said. "We've had a very good run over the last 10 years or so. When we talk about our goals, we don't put a number on wins that we want to reach because the kids feel pressure."
One thing coach Woodford has tried to get his team to focus on is being physically tougher. The Eagles' believe their size should be an asset as well.
"We like to break down our goals into things we can control," coach Woodford said. "We actually sat down after practice (Nov. 17) and went through our shooting goals, rebounding goals, turnover goals, things we can control every trip down the floor that will have an impact on the overall outcome. Our goals haven't changed from where we want to end up. If we can take care of the little things, then the overall outcome is going to take care of itself. ... I'm excited about this season."
Hockey team hopes to continue growth
In Jay Graham's first season as coach last winter, the hockey team won 10 more games than it did the year before.
The Eagles' next goal, in addition to continuing that improvement, is to contend for the Capital Hockey Conference-Blue Division title.
After placing third in the CHC-Blue a year ago, Watterson is joined in the league this season by DeSales, Gahanna and Thomas Worthington. Olentangy and Cincinnati Moeller, which finished first and second, respectively, in the league a year ago, are now in the CHC-White.
"We feel like we have a real good chance at winning the Blue Division," Graham said. "We've got to keep our game simple, be physical and get good goaltending."
Watterson, which finished 13-20-1 last season, opened Nov. 24 with a 4-3 shootout loss to Olentangy Orange and split a pair of games Nov. 25, beating Whitehouse Anthony Wayne 2-0 and losing to Strongsville 6-5 in a shootout, before defeating Centerville 7-1 on Nov. 26. All four games were part of the Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin.
Senior forwards Ian Callahan, Jack Geswein, Nick Kuraly, Kyle Naderhoff and Keiler Rodil, junior forward Adam Fallon and the goaltending duo of junior Ryan Roark and sophomore Max Graham are among the top returnees.
Last season, Fallon and Kuraly both scored more than 30 goals and Graham earned seven victories in goal.
"(We're) improving," Geswein said. "We've got some young guys coming in. We had some big losses (last season), but definitely we've moved forward. We're about the same gritty mentality and we're trying to get the chemistry going."
Also back are juniors Jack Kish (defenseman/forward) and Danny Kraft (defenseman).
Others looking to contribute are juniors Dominic Giacomin (forward) and Keegan Gibson (forward), sophomores Mason Jolly (defenseman), Zach Kubatko (defenseman) and Ian Simone (defenseman) and freshmen Nick Columbo (defenseman), Adam Pavliga (defenseman) and Mason Rogers (forward).
Jolly is a transfer from Gahanna.
"We've had some really nice-looking games where we've put together quite a few (scoring) chances," coach Graham said. "We've got quite a few pieces to the puzzle, and the freshmen are catching on quickly."
Nov. 24 -- at Upper Arlington
Nov. 28 -- at Dublin Scioto
Dec. 2 -- Hilliard Davidson at Quicken Loans Arena
Dec. 4 -- vs. Westerville Central
*Dec. 9 -- vs. Columbus School for Girls
Dec. 13 -- at Marysville
Dec. 16 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley
Dec. 21 -- vs. Westerville South
Dec. 23 -- at Thomas Worthington
Dec. 27 -- Cincinnati Seton in Watterson Christmas Classic
Dec. 28 -- New Albany in Watterson Christmas Classic
*Jan. 4 -- vs. DeSales
Jan. 6 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
Jan. 8 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
*Jan. 11 -- vs. Hartley
Jan. 16 -- at Canal Winchester
*Jan. 20 -- at Ready
*Jan. 25 -- at DeSales
Jan. 27 -- at Mount Vernon
*Feb. 1 -- at Hartley
Feb. 3 -- vs. Gahanna
*Feb. 8 -- vs. Ready
Nov. 24 -- Olentangy Orange in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin
Nov. 25 -- Whitehouse Anthony Wayne and Strongsville in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic
Nov. 26 -- Centerville in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic
*Dec. 1 -- Gahanna at Chiller Easton
*Dec. 2 -- Gahanna at Chiller Dublin
*Dec. 3 -- St. Charles at Chiller Dublin
*Dec. 8 -- Olentangy Orange at Chiller North
*Dec. 10 -- Dublin Jerome at Chiller Dublin
Dec. 15 -- Oxford Talawanda in Rough Rider Tournament at Kent Arena
Dec. 16 -- Hudson and Kent Roosevelt in Rough Rider Tournament
Dec. 17 -- TBA in Rough Rider Tournament
*Dec. 22 -- Thomas Worthington at Chiller North
Dec. 27 -- Hudson in Cleveland Heights Tournament
Dec. 28 -- Cleveland Heights and Cleveland Benedictine in Cleveland Heights Tournament
Dec. 29 -- TBA in Cleveland Heights Tournament
*Jan. 5 -- DeSales at Chiller Easton
*Jan. 6 -- Upper Arlington at OhioHealth Ice Haus
*Jan. 7 -- Dublin Coffman at Chiller Dublin
Jan. 12-14 -- TBA in Big Chill Tournament in Ann Arbor, Mich.
*Jan. 19 -- Olentangy at Chiller North
*Jan. 20 -- DeSales at Chiller Dublin
*Jan. 21 -- Cincinnati Moeller at Chiller Dublin
*Jan. 27 -- Thomas Worthington at Chiller Dublin
*Feb. 2 -- New Albany at Chiller Dublin
*Feb. 3 -- Olentangy Liberty at Chiller Dublin
*Feb. 4 -- Springboro at Chiller Dublin
Feb. 8-11 -- Blue Jackets Cup
Below are the coming schedules for the Watterson boys basketball, bowling and swimming & diving teams:
Dec. 2 -- Home vs. Athens
Dec. 5 -- At Fairfield Union
Nov. 30 -- Grandview at Sawmill Lanes
*Dec. 5 -- Ready at Game of Western Columbus
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 1 -- At Columbus Academy
Dec. 2 -- St. Charles Showdown