Isabelle Perese has to be the loneliest field hockey goalkeeper in the state.
The Thomas Worthington High School senior can thank her teammates for that.
"The defense has been super again this year," said Perese, who had a total of eight saves through seven games, five of which came in a 3-1 win over Hudson on Sept. 15. "I'll take all the help I can get. I don't care."
The Cardinals entered a Sept. 18 game against Olentangy Liberty on a 36-game winning streak. They were 7-0 on the season, having outscored their opponents 51-2.
Thomas is the three-time defending state champion and the key to its success has been its commitment to playing defense all over the field.
"The defense starts up front," said Perese, who was a member of the U17 National Team and has committed to Miami University. "Our forwards, Rachel Rinaldi and Sarah Charley, do a great job of back-checking and winning possession on the other end. They do get credit for scoring a lot, but they're great on defense, too. If the ball doesn't get past midfield, opponents aren't going to score."
Perese, Charley and Rinaldi all earned all-state honors last season. Charley has committed to Ohio State.
Of course, defenders Reilly Ford, Izzy Flint-Gonzalez and Cora Hamilton have been solid in front of Perese as well. The strong defense has led to offense for Thomas.
"I emphasize to my players year after year that defense starts on the forward line," coach Terri Simonetti Frost said. "Therefore, we really try to help one another by tackling back for a steal, making the opponent make a mistake or channel her into one of our own midfielders. When we all play defense, we possess the ball more and generate more offense."
Through seven games, Charley had 18 goals and 12 assists, Rinaldi had 10 goals and 10 assists, Bella Avila had seven goals and five assists and Julia Scharff had eight goals.
Thomas won each of its first four games by a 9-0 score, but its contests have been a little more challenging of late. The Cardinals beat Olentangy Orange 2-0 on Sept. 10 as Avila and Althea Chan scored and Perese made one save. They then allowed their first goal of the season on Sept. 12, but rolled past Granville 10-1 as Charley, Rinaldi, Scharff and Chan all scored two goals.
Against host Hudson, Scharff, Rinaldi and Mollie Estepp scored.
"We just began a rough part of the schedule against Hudson and we face powerhouses from the North Region in Shaker Heights (on Friday, Sept. 21) and (Shaker Heights) Hathaway Brown (on Saturday, Sept. 22) at home after going to face a strong Liberty team," Simonetti Frost said. "We also have our showdown with Columbus Academy coming (Wednesday, Sept. 26).
"Academy is always a big game for us, and they are a very solid team this year and strong in every position. It will be a great competitive game."
Zeller earns league honors in boys golf
Aaron Zeller of the boys golf team didn't shoot a strong score in the fourth and final round of the OCC-Cardinal Division tournament Sept. 12 at Denison Golf Club.
But the senior had played well enough in the first three rounds to earn first-team all-league honors.
Zeller shot an 83 in the final round, but his league average was 77.5.
The Cardinals totaled 364 in the final round to place seventh, behind Dublin Jerome (288), Olentangy Berlin (320), Hilliard Bradley (334), Delaware (338), Kilbourne (340) and Hilliard Darby (353) and ahead of Dublin Scioto (389).
Also competing for Thomas were Paari Kaviyarasu (85), Noah Jackman (95), Josh Towns (101) and Colin Corbett (106). Kaviyarasu averaged 87.8 in league play, followed by Jackman and Corbett (both 97) and Towns (98.8).
The Cardinals went 6-22 in the league to finish seventh, behind Jerome (28-0), Berlin (23-5), Bradley (19-9), Delaware (18-10), Kilbourne (9-19) and Darby (8-20) and ahead of Scioto (1-27).
Thomas is preparing to compete in a Division I sectional Oct. 2 at Turnberry, where the top four teams and top four individuals not on a qualifying team advance to district Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.
Soccer teams log similar first wins
The boys and girls soccer teams both produced their first victory of the season for their respective first-year coaches.
Both teams beat Delaware 5-0 on Sept. 13.
The boys improved to 1-7-1 overall and 1-2 in the OCC-Cardinal under coach David Fairchild, while the girls improved to 1-5-3 overall and 1-1-1 in the league under coach Jeff Sever.
Jon Tchounguen had two goals to lead the boys against the Pacers, while Sounak Dey, Andrew Gao and Mohamed Jimena each scored one.
Annie McClure led the girls with three goals. Also scoring were Eve Hertz and Brooke Ackley (penalty kick).
Both teams return to action Thursday, Sept. 20, with the boys playing host to Berlin and the girls visiting Berlin.
Below are the coming schedules for the Thomas cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis, girls volleyball and water polo teams:
Sept. 22 -- Saturday Night Lights at Centerville
Sept. 22 -- Home vs. Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown
*Sept. 24 -- At Dublin Scioto
Sept. 26 -- At Columbus Academy
Sept. 22 -- Howlett Invitational at Worthington Hills
Sept. 24 -- OCC Shootout at Moundbuilders
Sept. 25 -- Dublin Scioto at York
Aug. 20 -- Dublin Scioto at The Ridge Golf & Gardens
Aug. 22 -- Hilliard Darby at Rolling Meadows
Aug. 23 -- DeSales at Mentel Mem-orial
*Sept. 20 -- Home vs. Olentangy Berlin
*Sept. 25 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto
*Sept. 20 -- At Olentangy Berlin
*Sept. 25 -- At Dublin Scioto
Sept. 24 -- Home vs. Worthington Christian
*Sept. 20 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley. The Cardinals lost to the Jaguars 21-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-21 on Aug. 21.
Sept. 22 -- At Watkins Memorial with Canal Winchester
*Sept. 25 -- At Dublin Jerome. The Cardinals lost to the Celtics 25-23, 26-24, 25-10 on Aug. 23.
Sept. 21-22 -- Boys: Packer Classic at Cincinnati Princeton
Sept. 22-23 -- Girls: Dave McLennan Invitational at Cincinnati Sycamore