Just within the past month, first-year Olentangy High School boys soccer coach Kyle Hamrick has seen the growth he was hoping for across several areas of the team, not to mention potentially valuable depth.
"I have seen a lot of growth in our defending and team organization since we competed in summer contests at the Mason Pre-Season Classic and the Dublin Soccer Challenge (in July). Furthermore, we have quite a few attacking options from all positions," Hamrick said. "The biggest strengths we have are that we are deep in a lot of positions and the players are buying in to our expectations. Our players communicate well with each other and understand their roles. We are at a point where the boys are comfortable with being pushed to the point of being uncomfortable."
Olentangy was 1-0-1 before playing Big Walnut on Aug. 28.
The Braves return 13 players overall and five starters -- seniors Matt Celona (forward/midfielder), Thadd Graham (defender), Alec Heidl (midfielder) and Jackson Tomsic (defender) and junior Christian Bowens (midfielder/forward) -- from a team that went 11-4-5 overall and 1-1-3 in the OCC-Buckeye Division last season, losing to Dublin Jerome 1-0 in a Division I district final.
Among the Braves' losses were junior midfielder Dominic Antronica, who now plays for Berlin, and Connor Bailey, a sophomore midfielder who moved to the Dayton area and is playing for perennial Division II power Dayton Carroll.
Hamrick replaced Pat Shick, who stepped down last winter after going 31-32-10 in four seasons and leading the Braves to at least a district semifinal three times. Hamrick also serves as manager of the boys and girls district tournaments.
"Coach Shick and his staff did a great job preparing the boys for success year in and year out," Hamrick said. "Due to some of the similarities that Pat and I have in our approach to our teams, this year's teams have adjusted pretty well to my coaching style and our staff's coaching style."
Junior midfielder/forward Drew Clement had all three of Olentangy's goals through two games, a 2-1 win over visiting Dublin Coffman on Aug. 18 and a 1-all tie at Dublin Jerome on Aug. 21.
Other returning players who saw time on varsity last year include seniors Carson Griffith (defender) and Ryan Skinner (midfielder).
Rounding out the roster are seniors Owen Brennan (midfielder), Samuel Davies (defender), Kyle Eddy (midfielder), Joshua Gernert (midfielder), Sam Harrell (midfielder), Clayton Hoffman (goalkeeper), Mateo Montoya (midfielder/forward) and Eric Ward (midfielder) and juniors Drew Beck (defender), Marc Gil (midfielder), Vik Hudson (defender), Szymon Juscinski (midfielder) and Grant Robinson (goalie).
Juscinski is an exchange student from Poland.
The Braves begin OCC-Buckeye play Sept. 13 against Westerville South. Olentangy was fourth in the league last year behind champion Liberty (4-0-1).
Volleyball team ready for next step
Although Sarah Polhemus had spent four seasons coaching in the girls volleyball program before taking over as head coach last fall, she still considered 2017 a "building" year even with three Division I-bound players on the roster.
The Braves ultimately went 16-9 overall and finished as a Division I district runner-up, and now Polhemus is ready for her team to take the next step.
Headlined in part by senior twins Emily and Olivia Margolies, a right-side hitter/setter and outside hitter, respectively, who will play at Ohio University, Olentangy was 3-1 before playing Big Walnut on Aug. 28.
Senior setter Maggie Samijlenko has committed to Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Junior libero Madyson Chitty recently de-committed from Indiana.
"Our seniors really have completely shifted gears this year," Polhemus said. "Last year was a big trust-building year. We built a lot of relationships and now our seniors are down to business. They want to handle this. They want to own it. I am excited for how the rest of this season goes."
The Braves, who lost to DeSales 25-12, 25-16, 25-16 in a district final last year, opened Aug. 18 with a 25-14, 25-16, 25-21 win at Sylvania Northview. They lost to Coffman 25-17, 25-22, 25-19 in their home opener Aug. 21 but bounced back with a 25-12, 25-10, 25-18 win at Upper Arlington on Aug. 23 and beat DeSales 25-20, 25-19, 28-26 on Aug. 25.
Other returning players with varsity experience are senior middle hitters Brennah Gallagher and Abby O'Donnell.
Rounding out the roster are juniors Anna Cecil (right-side hitter), Maddie Harris (right-side hitter), Taylor Lansford (right-side hitter) and Ava Weithman (defensive specialist) and sophomores Olivia Grose (setter), Ellen Kinnaird (middle hitter) and Sophie Sparks (outside hitter).
"We have a steady group of girls," Polhemus said. "If they can continue to work on that business side of it and keep the energy going throughout the play, they know how to finish. They know how to play, they know how to work."
The Braves begin OCC-Buckeye play Tuesday, Sept. 4, at home against South. Olentangy went 6-4 in the league last year to finish third behind co-champions Liberty and Orange (both 9-1).
Girls soccer team copes with turnover
Fifteen of the 23 players on the girls soccer team's roster are upperclassmen, but second-year coach Earl Devanny still considers his team "very young" given the talent and experience lost after last year's Division I district runner-up finish.
Olentangy lost its top two scorers in junior midfielders Sydney Walker (9 goals) and Natalie Hegg (8), as well as junior goalie McKinley Hoffman, all of whom now play at Berlin. But a plethora of experience is back, led by junior midfielder Kayla Primm, an Ohio State commit, and five other returning starters in seniors Julia Francis (midfielder) and Raj Robinson (defender), junior Priya Hudson (defender) and sophomore midfielders Kylee Beinecke and Carly Ross.
Beinecke and Primm each scored five goals last year as Olentangy went 11-5-3 overall and 2-1-2 in the OCC-Buckeye, losing to Jerome 4-1 in a district final.
The Braves were 1-1 before playing Big Walnut on Aug. 28.
"Our team is going to be very young," Devanny said. "Given all the scoring we lost, our strength would be (our) defense but even that has three new starters. We have tried to be consistent year to year given the upheaval of (losing) personnel."
Olentangy has seven seniors, eight juniors, six sophomores and two freshmen.
The Braves opened with a 3-1 win over visiting Thomas Worthington on Aug. 21 and lost to Watterson 2-1 on Aug. 25 at Otterbein.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Maddie Garner (defender), Alexa Kennedy (midfielder), Brooke Lam (forward), Caitlin Myers (midfielder) and Sydney Richards (midfielder), juniors Kacey Draper (goalie), Bailey Hall (midfielder), Madeline Hall (defender), Kate McCauley (midfielder), Hannah Moses (midfielder) and Katie Scott (goalie), sophomores Rachel Austin (forward), Olivia Johnston (midfielder), Brooke Leonard (midfielder) and Jordan Renzi (defender) and freshmen Ashley Green (defender) and Jaime Rosales (forward).
Olentangy begins OCC-Buckeye play Tuesday, Sept. 4, at South. The Braves finished second in the league last year behind Orange (4-1).
Aug. 18 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
Aug. 21 -- at Dublin Jerome
Aug. 28 -- at Big Walnut
Aug. 30 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne
Sept. 1 -- at Grove City
Sept. 4 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
Sept. 8 -- vs. Bexley
Sept. 11 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
*Sept. 13 -- vs. Westerville South
Sept. 18 -- at Dublin Scioto
*Sept. 20 -- at Westerville North
*Sept. 24 -- vs. Westerville Central
*Oct. 2 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
Oct. 4 -- at Gahanna
*Oct. 9 -- at Olentangy Liberty
Oct. 11 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley
Aug. 21 -- vs. Thomas Worthington
Aug. 25 -- Watterson at Otterbein
Aug. 28 -- vs. Big Walnut
Aug. 30 -- at Delaware
Sept. 1 -- vs. Grove City
Sept. 6 -- at Hilliard Davidson
Sept. 8 -- vs. Upper Arlington
Sept. 11 -- at Hilliard Darby
*Sept. 13 -- at Westerville South
Sept. 15 -- vs. DeSales
*Sept. 20 -- vs. Westerville North
*Sept. 25 -- at Westerville Central
Sept. 27 -- at Watkins Memorial
*Oct. 2 -- at Olentangy Orange
Oct. 4 -- vs. Pickerington North
*Oct. 9 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
Aug. 18 -- at Sylvania Northview
Aug. 21 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
Aug. 23 -- at Upper Arlington
Aug. 25 -- at DeSales
Aug. 28 -- at Big Walnut
Aug. 29 -- vs. Grove City
Aug. 30 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*Sept. 4 -- vs. Westerville South
*Sept. 6 -- at Westerville North
Sept. 8 -- vs. Bloom-Carroll
Sept. 11 -- at Dublin Scioto
*Sept. 13 -- vs. Westerville Central
Sept. 18 -- at Marysville
*Sept. 20 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
*Sept. 25 -- at Olentangy Liberty
*Sept. 27 -- at Westerville South
*Oct. 2 -- vs. Westerville North
*Oct. 4 -- at Westerville Central
*Oct. 9 -- at Olentangy Orange
*Oct. 11 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy cross country, field hockey, girls golf and girls tennis teams:
Sept. 1 -- Westerville Classic at Westerville North
*Sept. 5 -- At Dublin Coffman
Aug. 30 -- Olentangy Liberty and Pickerington North at Turnberry
Sept. 5 -- Big Walnut and Olentangy Berlin at Bent Tree
*Aug. 30 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
*Sept. 4 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange
Sept. 5 -- Home vs. Watterson