During the Watterson High School boys golf team's preseason tryouts, just seven strokes separated its top six finishers.
The Eagles also had strong enough performances from two other players to convince 11th-year coach Olin Melaragno to keep eight players on the team.
Watterson opened Aug. 6 by shooting a 351 to place ninth in the Columbus Academy Shootout at Columbus Country Club, behind champion Kettering Alter (308).
"I'm keeping eight on varsity and will rotate them in and out for the next three weeks," Melaragno said. "In September, we'll narrow it down to the top six players. It's not going to be one person carrying us. I think we'll be strong (Nos.) 1 through 6 and have interchangeable parts. I'm hoping they make it difficult to determine a top five."
Watterson, which tied Hartley for runner-up in the CCL last season at 3-3 behind St. Charles (6-0), played the league's preseason tournament Aug. 15 at Darby Creek.
Carson Trafford, a freshman who has experience playing in junior tournaments, had the team's best average in tryouts.
Senior Chris Finissi and juniors Fred Gilbert, Ryan Newcomb, Michael Reis and Patrick Sellers all were key players last season.
Newcomb shot an 81 at the Division I sectional at Clover Valley last season to miss advancing to the district tournament by one stroke, as the Eagles shot a 337 to finish sixth of 12 teams. Gilbert shot an 83 at sectional.
Also on the team are senior Keegan Gibson and junior Max Ritchey.
The Eagles had three players transfer to other schools during the offseason, but the only varsity regulars lost were 2018 graduates Jack Eddingfield and Bobby Reis.
"Our first (goal), obviously, is to win the CCL," Melaragno said. "Because of the fact that the Central District in Division I is so talented, I'd like to see us get out of the sectionals and into district. Next year, I think, is really going to be our year."
Girls golfers working on short game
The girls golf team opened with a sixth-place finish (375) behind champion New Albany (295) in the Gahanna Invitational on Aug. 6 at Jefferson.
During most of last season, the Eagles were in the 360s for 18-hole matches.
Fourth-year coach Debbie Weis is emphasizing putting to help a team that lost three of its top players to graduation cut strokes off its score.
"They all hit the ball well. It's just their short game that lags a little behind," Weis said. "They all just give up strokes around the green, but (hopefully they'll) get in the groove a little bit."
With Hartley adding a team last season, the CCL will determine a league champion as Watterson will play in a league for the first time since 2015 when it won its 13th consecutive Mid-Ohio Girls Golf League title. The Eagles competed in the CCL preseason tournament Aug. 15 at NorthStar and will play a postseason league tournament Oct. 6 at the same site.
Senior Lizzy Steffensmeier likely will be one of the top players in the CCL and possibly the district after shooting a 74 to tie for seventh at last year's Division I district tournament at Cooks Creek.
Junior Sammy Politz also is a key returnee.
Senior Eve Quinn, sophomore Isabella Roscoe and freshman Anna Stafford also will be varsity regulars, with senior Sydney Mandzak also on the team.
"Lizzy had a very good summer," Weis said. "She shot in the 70s (in tryouts) and the next three (players) were in the 90s both days, but Sammy and Eve could get into the 80s on some days."
Tennis squad has rebuilt lineup
After losing one of the state's top players to graduation and two others who were expected to be key players, the girls tennis team's lineup was ripe with opportunity heading into this season.
Sophomore Caroline Goodlive, who saw some time at singles and doubles last season, likely will play No. 1 singles this fall.
Senior Liza Drought was the top junior varsity player last season but was expected to be at second singles when the Eagles opened Aug. 13 at Columbus Academy.
Watterson, which went 8-10 overall and was runner-up in the CCL last season at 3-1, opens league action Sept. 4 at home against defending champion Columbus School for Girls (4-0).
Claire Ghidotti, who lost in a quarterfinal at the Division I state tournament last fall, was lost to graduation. Senior Paige Parker transferred to CSG and senior Jenna Mar elected not to return this fall.
"We have kind of a new team," seventh-year coach Susan Weil said. "Our No. 1 looks like Caroline Goodlive, a sophomore who has been working pretty hard in the offseason. She is notably stronger and more consistent and has been serving really well. We're kind of an inexperienced team, but it's a nice group of girls. We hope to just see them all show some improvement in their games over the season and have fun."
Senior Sam Vogel and juniors Abbey Giesler and Layne Geswein are other returnees.
Seniors Rachel Weithman and Emily Hoehfelder and junior Caroline Bouchard are others looking to contribute. Hoehfelder did not play last season but was part of the program her first two prep years.
Coaching changes announced
According to athletics director Doug Etgen, the school has hired a new swimming and diving coach but is looking for a girls lacrosse coach.
Dan Cherok will take over the swimming program from Megan Downing Teeters, who recently stepped down after five seasons.
"Coach Cherok comes highly recommended and currently coaches through USA Swimming and the Ohio State swim club," Etgen said. "We look forward to having coach Cherok join our staff and maintaining the momentum coach Teeters established during her time here."
At the state meet last winter, the boys swim team finished seventh in Division II and the girls placed 21st in Division I after both were CCL runners-up.
The boys team's 200-yard freestyle relay won the first state title in boys program history.
Joe Gavin stepped down after one season as girls lacrosse coach because of a new job, according to Etgen. The Eagles went 7-12 last spring.
Aug. 6 -- Columbus Academy Shootout at Columbus Country Club
Aug. 7 -- Cleveland St. Ignatius at Red Tail
Aug. 8 -- Walker Jones Invitational at Shale Creek
Aug. 9 -- New Albany Invitational at New Albany Links
Aug. 11 -- Cincinnati St. Xavier Invitational at Maketewah
Aug. 13 -- Liberty Township Lakota East Invitational at Four Bridges
Aug. 14 -- Dublin Coffman Invitational at Golf Club of Dublin
Aug. 15 -- CCL preseason tournament at Darby Creek
Aug. 18 -- Cincinnati Moeller Invitational at Walden Ponds
Aug. 21 -- St. Charles at The Lakes
Aug. 25 -- Northridge Invitational at Clover Valley
Aug. 28 -- Hartley at Champions
Sept. 1 -- Pinnacle Classic
Sept. 5 -- Columbus Academy at TBA
Sept. 8 -- St. Charles Invitational at Brookside
Sept. 11 -- Bexley at Westchester
Sept. 15 -- Rodney Butt Classic at Denison Golf Club
Sept. 20 -- New Albany at New Albany Country Club
Sept. 22 -- Watterson Invitational at Clover Valley
Sept. 23 -- CCL postseason tournament at Apple Valley
Sept. 29 -- Pickerington Central Invitational at Turnberry
Aug. 6 -- Gahanna Invitational at Jefferson
Aug. 10 -- Panther Invitational at Turnberry
Aug. 13 -- Hudson Invitational at Lake Forest
Aug. 15 -- CCL preseason at NorthStar
Aug. 17 -- Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and Newark Catholic at Bent Tree
Aug. 21 -- Olentangy Liberty at Scioto Reserve
Aug. 25 -- Cooks Creek Invitational
Aug. 29 -- Newark Catholic at The Links at Echo Springs
Aug. 30 -- Granville at Champions
Sept. 6 -- Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty and Pickerington North at Safari
Sept. 8 -- Eagle-Panther Invitational at Cooks Creek
Sept. 10 -- DeSales at Champions
Sept. 13 -- Granville at Denison Golf Club
Sept. 19 -- DeSales at NorthStar
Sept. 20 -- Canal Winchester at Westchester
Sept. 24 -- Pickerington Central at Turnberry
Sept. 26 -- Upper Arlington Invitational at Scioto Country Club
Sept. 27 -- Pickerington Central at Airport
Oct. 6 -- CCL postseason at NorthStar
Aug. 13 -- at Columbus Academy
Aug. 15 -- at Olentangy Berlin
Aug. 18 -- Columbus School for Girls Doubles Tournament
Aug. 24 -- vs. Toledo Notre Dame
Aug. 25 -- Watterson Invitational
Aug. 29 -- at Pickerington Central
Aug. 30 -- vs. Thomas Worthington
*Sept. 4 -- vs. CSG
Sept. 5 -- at Olentangy
Sept. 6 -- vs. Wellington
Sept. 11 -- vs. New Albany
Sept. 12 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
*Sept. 13 -- at DeSales
*Sept. 18 -- at Hartley
Sept. 20 -- vs. Pickerington North
*Sept. 25 -- vs. Ready
Sept. 26 -- at Bexley
Sept. 27 -- at Dublin Coffman
Below are the coming schedules for the Watterson field hockey, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
*Aug. 20 -- At Hartley
Aug. 17 -- Home vs. Jonathan Alder
Aug. 21 -- At Hamilton Township
Aug. 19 -- Home vs. Marysville
Aug. 18 -- Home vs. Cincinnati Ursuline Academy