Affectionately called "Buddy" by his teammates, Ron Ambrosia III has what Olentangy Liberty High School hockey coach Jack Hoogeveen calls an "interesting" way of skating.

"He skates like a figure skater, but the guy is going fast and I don't understand it," Hoogeveen said. "He's effective and he's good."

Ambrosia is part of a cast of characters that has come together and has the Patriots looking like a contender to make it to the state tournament for the second consecutive season.

The Patriots have gotten a big contribution from senior forward Austin Barok, a transfer from Gahanna who has helped spark the offense.

Junior Grant Bertges previously played travel hockey before joining the Patriots this season and has been a key cog on the defensive unit.

Then there are players like senior defenseman Sam Turner, a four-year starter whom Hoogeveen has lauded for his leadership abilities on a team that has had to mix incumbents with talented newcomers.

So far, the Patriots have been up to the task again this winter as they take an 18-4-2 record into their game Friday, Jan. 19, against Dublin Jerome at Chiller North.

The teams already have met three times this season, with Liberty winning 3-2 in a shootout Dec. 2 and 3-0 on Dec. 3 but losing 3-2 on Dec. 8 in a Capital Hockey Conference-Red Division game.

The Celtics lead the CHC-Red at 9-1, followed by the Patriots (8-1), St. Charles (7-1-0-1) and Upper Arlington (6-2-0-1).

"We're really just playing lock-down defense, keeping it simple and not trying to do too much," Turner said. "Bertges is new this year, but it's been good. I'd never really played with him before. It's been nice to play with him. We complement each other really well.

"My biggest strength is breaking out the puck and moving it up more. I consider myself more of an offensive defenseman."

Liberty went 2-1 in the Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit tournament Jan. 13 and 14 at Kent State, including beating Culver (Indiana) 5-4 in the finale of the event.

"Overall, we're getting there," Hoogeveen said. "The defense has held up well and the goaltending has been really good. That top line of Barok, Buddy and (Connor) Hisaw have been playing really well. (Our) top two lines have been surging ahead.

"One thing we need to guard against is thinking we're good."

Ambrosia joined the program last season after previously playing at the travel level.

Liberty coaches strategically don't tell their players during the season who is leading the team in scoring, which is something Ambrosia and Hooge-veen both see as a positive in helping the Patriots stay focused on what they believe is important.

Ambrosia, who already was a Powell resident before deciding to switch from travel to the prep level last season, likes what his team is building a season after it reached a state semifinal.

"(Hoogeveen) doesn't tell us until the end of the year (who our scoring leaders are) so that no one plays selfishly," Ambrosia said. "We're doing pretty well. I played AAA before and played one year in Cleveland, but I was kind of getting tired of the travel and knew Liberty had a good team so I decided to compete for a state championship. It's a lot of fun. I like it a lot."

Gymnasts excited about progression

With a third-place finish (124.15 points) behind Hudson (136.75) and Jerome (129.4) on Jan. 6 in the Worthington Kilbourne Invitational, the gymnastics team earned its first trophy in program history, according to coach Tara Mays.

It was an example of the improvements the Patriots have shown throughout a season that includes just two more meets before the OCC-Buckeye Division championships are held Feb. 13 at Hilliard Davidson.

"The season is going amazing so far," Mays said. "The girls are wonderful and the families are a great support system. They're all working really hard and have really improved on their skills and technique. The team camaraderie is amazing and continues to grow every week. That is great to see as a coach. It was one of their goals to become a closer, stronger team, and I'd say they've accomplished this goal."

According to Mays, junior Chelsea Naples has been leading the way, and seniors Maia Kropp and Gracelyn Scheetz and junior Hannah Roy also have been key contributors.

"We're perfecting our routines and working on consistency overall," Mays said. "On vault, we've started working up skills and possibly will start implementing those vaults into competitions. On bars, we're working on connecting our routines."

Pohlman, Valz leading bowling program

With a 205.6 average through eight matches, senior Evan Pohlman was 10th among boys in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference.

Senior Daniel Valz is averaging 197.7 in league matches for the boys, who are 4-4 overall and in the COHSBC-A Division. Orange also is 4-2 in the OCC-Buckeye.

"Daniel and Evan are stepping up like they always do," coach Linda Ridolfo said. "Obviously they have a good time together. They just need to keep improving at picking up their spares, that's the biggest part. The problem is when you have so many matches, you don't have time to practice. You can't really work with them much during a match."

Senior Nicholas Anderson, junior Caden Gallagher and freshmen Nick Bateson and Matthew Lawrence also have been key boys competitors.

The girls team is 1-7 overall and in the COHSBC-A. It also is 0-6 in the OCC-Buckeye.

Senior Liz Trent and sophomore Brenna Withrow are leading in average at 131.3.

Junior Lauren Suhodolsky, sophomores Stephanie Greeno and Eryn Temby and freshmen Nandini Kasam and Meaghan Suhodolsky also have been key contributors.

Girls basketball team looks to find groove

After beating Westerville North 62-46 on Dec. 22, the girls basketball team lost its next five games, including 61-48 to Gahanna on Jan. 9.

The Patriots were 6-7 overall and 3-3 in the OCC-Buckeye after beating Olentangy 69-48 on Jan. 15. They also played Dublin Scioto on Jan. 17.

The next two opponents on Liberty's schedule -- Orange (Friday, Jan. 19) and Hilliard Davidson (Tuesday, Jan. 23) -- both have losing records. Both are road games.

In the game against Olentangy, which had been postponed Jan. 12, Emma Humenay made a program-record seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points. Kennedy Kashmiry added 18 points.

Glover takes over girls golf program

Shayla Glover was named girls golf coach Jan. 11.

She replaced Kaiya La Londe, who stepped down after her fifth season.

"Ms. Glover joins our team with an extensive athletic, coaching and teaching background," athletics director Darin Meeker said. "She had a stellar high school golf career at (Dublin Scioto), where she was a team captain and four-year letterwinner and also played softball."

Glover, who coached softball for three years at Franklin Heights, has been on staff as a teacher at Liberty since the 2013-14 school year and has served as j.v. girls golf and assistant softball coach for three years.

Liberty finished fourth in the Division I district tournament last fall to miss advancing to state by two spots. Junior Kavya Manocha and sophomore Sarah Latzke are key players eligible to return.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Liberty boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Jan. 19 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange. The Patriots lost to the Pioneers 71-65 on Dec. 8.

Jan. 23 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Jan. 19 -- At Orange. The Patriots beat the Patriots 59-32 on Dec. 8.

Jan. 23 -- At Davidson

BOWLING

*Jan. 18 -- Gahanna at Gahanna Lanes

*Jan. 23 -- London at Sawmill Lanes

GYMNASTICS

Jan. 24 -- Marysville at Union County YMCA

HOCKEY

*Jan. 19 -- Dublin Jerome at Chiller North

*Jan. 20 -- St. Charles at Chiller North

*Jan. 21 -- Upper Arlington at Chiller North

SWIMMING & DIVING

Jan. 20 -- Westerville South at Liberty Township/Powell YMCA

WRESTLING

*Jan. 18 -- Home vs. Westerville South

Jan. 20 -- At Wadsworth

*League contest