As the Big Walnut High School girls tennis team prepares for the start of the postseason, coach Ryan Balaz believes his young group is playing its best, with more consistency and fewer mental errors.
The Golden Eagles, who were 6-8 overall before playing Marysville on Sept. 27, will compete in a Division I sectional Thursday, Oct. 4, and Saturday, Oct. 6, at Pickerington Central, where the top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament Oct. 11 and 13 at Reynoldsburg.
"We've played a lot of close matches, and I think that's just a product of our girls learning how to win," Balaz said. "I've been really pleased with this team's growth. We've played a lot of different girls and got them a lot of playing time at both singles and doubles."
Lindsay Hill, a senior who was 7-2 at first singles before Sept. 27, will face Whitehall's Shawntavia Craine in her opening match at sectional.
"She has a good draw," Balaz said. "If she plays well, she has a chance to go pretty far, but she's going to have to play her best tennis."
Kina Ehlers, who plays second singles and is one of three freshmen on varsity, will face Canal Winchester senior Courtney Cowgill in her opening match at sectional.
"Kina is super determined and competitive and has a really bright future," Balaz said.
Ava Boldizar, a senior who plays third singles, will face Logan's Selena Zheng in her sectional opener.
Sophomore Lindsey Stevens and freshman Addy Smith will compete together in doubles at sectional, as will senior Hannah Kiser and junior Allyson Stevens.
Last year, 2018 graduate Macie Kercsmar reached district in singles play for the second consecutive season.
The Golden Eagles finished 3-2 in the OCC-Capital Division to place third behind New Albany (5-0) and Canal Winchester (4-1).
Golfers to compete at sectionals
The scorecards for the boys golf team this season have been indicative of its inconsistency.
Coach Charlie Brodhead has watched many players in his lineup shoot under 40 in nine-hole matches. However, in 18-hole matches, the Golden Eagles have struggled to consistently turn in scores of 80 or better.
Big Walnut enters a Division I sectional Tuesday, Oct. 2, at Darby Creek hoping to change its fortunes and produce scores in the 70s.
"We haven't seen it, but we've got players capable of doing that," Brodhead said. "It just has to be a special day for it. We've got five guys who can shoot under 80 at any given point. It's just, when are you going to be able to do it? They just have to put it together."
The top four teams and top four individuals not on a qualifying team at sectional advance to the district tournament Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.
In the four-round OCC-Capital tournament, Big Walnut shot a 317 at Darby Creek on Aug. 13 and a 338 at Apple Valley on Sept. 12. Austen Bennett led the team at Darby Creek with a 75, while Kenny Schneider carded a team-low 81 at Apple Valley.
Also scoring at Darby Creek were Zach Herbert (77), Kyle Williams (78) and Schneider (87).
Schneider was a district qualifier last season.
"I think our first objective is to get the team through (to district)," Brodhead said. "But, we've got to score low. It's going to be a challenge as the courses get tougher and the tees are further back."
Big Walnut finished ninth (333) in the 18-team OCC Shootout on Sept. 24 at Moundbuilders, as Bennett led the team with an 80.
The girls team will compete in a sectional Oct. 2 at Royal American, where the top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team advance to district Oct. 9 at Cooks Creek.
In the four-round OCC-Ohio tournament, Big Walnut shot a 403 at Royal American on Sept. 12 and a 411 at Cooks Creek on Aug. 8.
Sydnie Wright carded a 92 at Royal American to lead the Golden Eagles, with Jenna Allen (97), Grace Hofer (104) and Emily Kuederle (110) also scoring. Allen shot a team-best 88 at Cooks Creek.
Football team preps for Falcons
The football team will spend this week preparing to face an opponent with big-play ability.
Big Walnut, which was 1-4 before playing Newark in its OCC-Capital opener Sept. 28, travels to Franklin Heights on Friday, Oct. 5, for a league contest.
The Falcons, who were 1-4 before facing Groveport in their league opener Sept. 28, lost starting quarterback Cody Little to a broken leg in a 20-0 loss to Harvest Prep on Aug. 31. Last season, Little passed for 1,576 yards and 16 touchdowns with just one interception and rushed for 1,183 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Dane Fenice, who moved from wide receiver to quarterback to replace Little, threw touchdown passes of 78 and 30 yards in a 48-18 loss to Westerville North on Sept. 21.
Also against North, Nazir Valentine had a 70-yard touchdown run.
Big Walnut suffered its third consecutive loss Sept. 14, falling to visiting Marysville 45-17.
The Monarchs scored four unanswered touchdowns and held a 24-7 lead at halftime.
For the Golden Eagles, Nathan Montgomery scored on a 94-yard kickoff return in the second quarter, Caleb Meade kicked a 28-yard field goal in the third quarter and Tyler Crotinger had a 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 3 -- Darby Dash at Hilliard Darby
Oct. 6 -- Les Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington
Oct. 2 -- Division I sectional at Darby Creek
Oct. 2 -- Division I sectional at Royal American
*Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
Oct. 4 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
*Oct. 2 -- At Franklin Heights
Oct. 4 -- At Westerville Central
Oct. 6 -- Home vs. Central Crossing
Oct. 4, 6 -- Division I sectional at Pickerington Central
*Oct. 2 -- Home vs. New Albany. The Golden Eagles defeated the Eagles 25-20, 25-16, 25-15 on Sept. 6.
*Oct. 4 -- At Newark. The Golden Eagles defeated the Wildcats 25-15, 25-9, 25-15 on Sept. 13.