Playing in November remains as reasonable of a goal as ever for the Olentangy Liberty High School field hockey team.
The Patriots have played in district finals in each of coach Marianne Flannery's first six seasons, including in 2016 when they advanced to state for the first time. The state tournament is held the first weekend in November every year.
Liberty lost a pair of college athletes on offense in Mollie McCormack, who is now playing lacrosse for Delaware, and Grace Buckey, who is playing field hockey for Ohio University. The Patriots also have a new goalkeeper.
Still, a deep defensive corps and returning players such as senior midfielder Sienna Sakich, who has committed to Ohio University, figure to keep the Patriots in the discussion of teams that will contend for district titles.
"This squad brings a lot of experience and composure," Flannery said. "Our goal for the season is to get back into the (district final) weekend and beyond. The standard for this program is to compete to the highest level, and this squad has bought in."
The Patriots, who went 15-4 overall a year ago and finished second (6-1) in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-West Division behind three-time defending state champion Thomas Worthington (7-0), have gotten out to a strong start. They were 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the league before facing Dublin Jerome on Sept. 5, beating the Hilliard club team 7-1 on Aug. 18, Dublin Scioto 8-0 on Aug. 22, Cincinnati St. Ursula 3-1 on Aug. 25 and Upper Arlington 4-1 on Aug. 29.
Sakich, who had seven goals through four games after playing defense last season, leads an offense that also features seniors Addie Druckenbroad and Haley Eckert, junior Dani Worrell and sophomore Reese McClelland. Worrell had 11 goals last season.
Senior Rory Ball, who missed last season with an injury, has returned to lead the defense. She's joined there by seniors Lauren Mace and Lauren Warner and junior Faith DiMantova.
Junior Keegan Grabow is a former soccer player who has taken over in goal.
Also looking to contribute are senior Lexie Cantrell (forward), juniors Anna Benton (midfielder), Sam Frantz (defender) and Maggie Quillin (midfielder/defender), sophomore Kelsey Eckert (midfielder) and freshmen Allie Hamilton (midfielder), Annie Pione (forward), Callie Tormasi (midfielder) and Janie Wagner (goalie).
Sprankle again leads girls runners
The girls cross country team had two of central Ohio's top runners last season in Gracie Sprankle and Emma Bower.
While Bower is now competing for Liberty University after finishing ninth (18 minutes, 5.7 seconds) in last season's Division I state meet, Sprankle is a senior coming off a fourth-place state finish (17:35.5).
On Aug. 25, Sprankle was runner-up (18:45.92) as Liberty scored 78 points to finish second in the 12-team Panther Division of the Pickerington North Classic behind Orange (70).
"All of the athletes this season have put in more miles in the summer and are better prepared for the season than in years past," fifth-year coach Darrell Dewese said. "We're looking forward to the times improving as the weather improves and the athletes get their legs back under them from the summer training."
Seniors Madeline Ailes and Lily Biros, junior Linnea Kunesh and sophomores Audrey Piero and Lauren Woodruff also were key runners last season.
Others looking to contribute include juniors Lauren Buddie, Jillian Martz and Megan Miller and sophomore Haley Kruest.
The Patriots are coming off championships in both the OCC-Buckeye and district levels as well as third-place finishes at both regional and state.
"Our goals for the season remain the same," Dewese said. "With a team of 68 athletes, we're focusing on improvement."
Boys runners plan for more success
Making it to the Division I regional each of the past 10 seasons is a source of pride for 12th-year boys cross country coach Jared Mills.
"Our goal is to continue to build upon our program's success, with the hope of building upon the legacy left by previous athletes," Mills said. "Our team's synergy is very positive as a result of our teams' leadership at summer camp and summer practices, which has been selfless and focused on elevating each other to the next level."
Liberty returns its top two runners in junior Jack Humenay and senior Joseph Johnson III. They helped the Patriots finish 13th at state last fall after placing 12th in 2016.
Humenay, who was 61st (16:33.3) at state last season, placed third (17:14.32) on Aug. 25 as the Patriots scored 35 points to win the 10-team Baron Blast at Buckeye Valley.
Other key returnees include seniors Drew Boggs, Adam Clark and Jake Zody and junior Caleb Ogle.
Others looking to contribute include seniors Drew Folwarczny, Johnny Galloway and Ben Schwartz, juniors Jacob Feldmaier and Jackson Scaglione and sophomores R.J. LaRosa and Tanner Sutton.
Golfers prep for final league rounds
On Wednesday, Sept. 12, the boys and girls golf teams both will compete in the fourth and final round of their respective OCC-Buckeye tournaments.
The boys team, which will compete at Darby Creek, leads the league at 10-2.
In the third round Aug. 28 at Denison Golf Club, the Patriots shot 321 to finish behind Orange (318) and Westerville Central (319) after winning the first two rounds.
Logan McCarrell shot 76 and Josh Steyer 79 to lead the Patriots during the third round. Steyer is tied with Central's Joshua Qian for the league lead in average at 75.0. McCarrell is seventh (76.0), Grant Smeltzer is eighth (78.3) and Andrew Blosser is 10th (78.7).
The girls team is second (12-3) behind Orange (15-0) heading into the final round at Cooks Creek.
On Aug. 29 in the third round at Royal American, Liberty shot 360 to finish behind the Pioneers (329) as Kavya Manocha led with an 84, followed by Taya Buxton (90), Juliana Renda (92) and Gracie Baun (94).
Manocha is tied for second in league average at 77.0.
Aug. 18 -- OHSAA Preseason Invitational at National Trail Raceway
Aug. 25 -- Boys: Baron Blast at Buckeye Valley; Girls: Pickerington North Classic
Sept. 1 -- Asics Hot Summer Bash at Hilliard Davidson
Sept. 8 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial
Sept. 15 -- Galion Festival at Amann's Reservoir Park
Sept. 22 -- Strongsville Invitational
Sept. 29 -- Midwest Meet of Champions at Hilliard Bradley
Oct. 6 -- Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington
Oct. 13 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at Hilliard Davidson
Aug. 18 -- vs. Hilliard Lynx
*Aug. 22 -- at Dublin Scioto
Aug. 25 -- vs. Cincinnati St. Ursula
*Aug. 28 -- at Upper Arlington
*Sept. 5 -- at Dublin Jerome
Sept. 8 -- at New Albany
Sept. 10 -- at Granville
Sept. 13 -- vs. Columbus Academy
Sept. 15 -- vs. Kettering Fairmont
*Sept. 18 -- vs. Thomas Worthington
Sept. 22 -- at Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame
*Sept. 26 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
Sept. 29 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne
*Oct. 1 -- at Olentangy Orange
*Oct. 3 -- vs. Olentangy Berlin
*Oct. 11 -- vs. Olentangy
Below are the coming schedules for the Liberty boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 8 -- St. Charles Invitational at Brookside
Sept. 10 -- Gdovin Memorial Invitational at Zanesville Country Club
Sept. 12 -- OCC-Buckeye at Darby Creek
Sept. 6 -- Olentangy, Pickerington North and Watterson at Safari
Sept. 8 -- Eagle-Panther Invitational at Cooks Creek
Sept. 10 -- Upper Arlington at Raymond Memorial
Sept. 12 -- OCC-Buckeye at Cooks Creek
Sept. 6 -- Home vs. St. Charles
Sept. 8 -- At Mason
*Sept. 6 -- Home vs. Olentangy
*Sept. 6 -- At Westerville South
Sept. 11 -- At New Albany