Whether it's with her school work or when she's competing on the golf course, don't expect to catch Maria Howard in a situation where her integrity is in question.
The senior for the Dublin Coffman High School girls golf team has learned to embrace what some might consider a harsh reality of a sport that doesn't have an official hovering over her every move.
"It's such a game of honesty and integrity," Howard said. "In golf, you control your own destiny and whatever happens is self-inflicted, so you learn how to take a lot of responsibility and be really honest. That's probably my favorite part. Golf has made me a super honest person. I don't lie, and I'd probably credit that all to golf."
Her scores the last three seasons with the Shamrocks also are something for Howard to be proud of.
She admits that it's a "bummer" when she thinks back to when she was a freshman. That season, she was Coffman's No. 6 player and didn't compete when the Shamrocks made their last appearance at the Division I state tournament, finishing ninth.
Howard moved closer to competing at state last season when she shot a 78 at the district tournament, falling six strokes short of advancing individually.
During the offseason, Howard re-worked her swing in an attempt to take another step forward.
"It's just been a year of making changes for me," Howard said. "The scores are very similar, but I know I'm a lot better than I was last year. I started working with a new coach, so over the winter I was changing my swing, making some tweaks that have definitely helped me.
"I'm definitely more consistent of a ball striker now. One of my problems was that my wrists weren't getting as hinged at the top and your wrist getting hinged creates a ton of speed coming down, so we've been working on that. Actually, with my swing speed, I've gotten a lot stronger, so my speed has picked up, which has increased my distance."
Howard earned OCC-Central Division medalist honors last season with a 75.5 average.
Heading into the fourth and final round of this year's league tournament Sept. 12 at Westchester, she had improved her average to 75.0, but was fifth overall behind New Albany's Morgan Pankow (70.7), Madison Spiess (71.3) and Kary Hollenbaugh (73.0) as well as her sophomore teammate, Annika Manjunath (74.7).
Howard was runner-up in the second round Aug. 15 at Cooks Creek with a 69, behind Spiess (66).
Through three rounds, Coffman was third in the league at 10-5, behind New Albany (15-0) and Upper Arlington (11-4).
The Shamrocks' other regulars have been senior Olivia Brickey, junior Jenna Lynn and sophomore Ava Guilliams.
"We've got five girls that can break 80," coach Randy Patton said. "Have we done it on a given day? No, but if we do, we're dangerous.
"We're led by Maria, a four-year varsity starter who's a really good student. I've been coaching 18 years, and she's one of two people, along with Olivia, who have been two-year captains. Her work ethic is phenomenal. Annika is a sophomore who's very, very good right now. Those two lead us and are very consistent."
Howard is the younger sister of former Jerome boys golfers Chad Howard, a 2013 graduate who played for the 2011 and '12 state championship teams, and 2011 graduate Jared Howard, who helped the Celtics place third at state as a senior.
"My older brothers played golf at Jerome, so I was always at golf tournaments and just have a passion for sports," said Maria, an Ohio University commit who is planning to major in sports management. "I'm thinking (I'd) like to work for an organization like the PGA Tour, Big Ten, ESPN or something like that."
Girls tennis team having strong season
The girls tennis team will play Upper Arlington for the OCC-Central title at some point this fall, although the date has yet to be determined after their scheduled match Sept. 6 was postponed.
That match also will represent a second-round contest of the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team district tournament. The Shamrocks beat Watkins Memorial 3-2 on Aug. 27 in the first round, while UA had a first-round bye.
Coffman was 7-2 overall before facing Olentangy on Sept. 11 and Columbus Academy on Sept. 12 and is 4-0 in the league.
"You can count on (UA) having a good team, and we've got to get that match in pretty soon," coach Brett Hundertpfund said. "We've been playing really well. A lot of the girls are doing a really good job at their respective courts. My doubles (teams) have been doing really well. I've got a first-year varsity player, (sophomore) Cassi Shough, who (was) undefeated at third singles (entering play Sept. 11) and, overall, my singles have been performing well."
Junior Claire Feit has spent most of the season at first singles, with junior Hannah Qin at second singles. Doubles players have included seniors Lena Caruso, Alex Kapustin and Anya Shah and sophomore Ria Singhal.
"Claire has got the toughest job on the team playing (first singles), so she's done really well," Hundertpfund said. "Hannah has had some really good wins and some tough matches, so I've been really proud of both of them. With our doubles (teams), we've been mixing it up a little bit. The girls all get along with each other and I've definitely seen some improvement from the first match until now."
Girls soccer team off to fast start
Before facing Jerome on Sept. 11, the girls soccer team was 4-0-1, having tied 2017 Division I state semifinalist Olentangy Liberty at 1 on Aug. 17.
The Shamrocks followed with wins over Thomas Worthington (3-0 on Aug. 23), Watkins Memorial (3-0 on Aug. 25), Olentangy Orange (1-0 on Aug. 28) and Westerville North (3-1 on Sept. 4).
Through five games, Simone Rivard-Roberts had four goals, Catherine Zugaro had three and Emma Barthel had one goal and five assists to lead the offense.
Coffman begins its OCC-Central championship defense Thursday, Sept. 13, at Hilliard Davidson. The Shamrocks won the league last season at 3-0-2, edging the runner-up Wildcats (3-1-1).
Below are the coming schedules for the Coffman cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 15 -- Otterbein Invitational
*Sept. 17 -- Home vs. Olentangy Berlin
*Sept. 19 -- At Olentangy Orange
Sept. 15 -- Trojan Invitational at Findlay Country Club
Sept. 15 -- Toledo St. Ursula Invitational at Highland Meadows
Sept. 18 -- Olentangy Liberty at Marysville Golf Course
Sept. 15 -- At Cincinnati St. Xavier
*Sept. 18 -- At Westland
*Sept. 13 -- At Hilliard Davidson
Sept. 13 -- At Columbus School for Girls
Sept. 15 -- Lexington Invitational
Sept. 18 -- At Scioto
*Sept. 13 -- Home vs. Marysville
Sept. 15 -- Home vs. Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame