With two returning starters and two new ones on defense this season, the Olentangy High School girls soccer team set a goal of recording eight shutouts.
The Braves picked that number for one reason, and not because that is half the number of regular-season games.
"Last year, we had seven (in the regular season) so we are just trying to get better," senior Maddie Garner said.
That goal remained attainable entering the week, as Olentangy had five shutouts with two regular-season games and at least one Division I district tournament contest remaining. A bigger goal -- winning a third league championship in four years -- also remained in play.
The Braves were 9-3-2 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Buckeye Division before playing Liberty on Oct. 9. That was to have been the team's last regular-season game, but a key league contest at Orange was postponed Oct. 2 because of bad weather and rescheduled for Saturday, Oct. 13.
Led by two returning defensive starters in senior Raj Robinson and junior Priya Hudson, Olentangy gave up 15 goals through 14 games. Garner and junior Madeline Hall are the Braves' other two starters in the back in front of sophomore goalkeeper Katie Smith.
Smith replaced last year's starting goalie in junior McKinley Hoffmann, who now plays at Olentangy Berlin.
"Our back line plays very well together," coach Earl Devanny said. "The fact that we have two seniors and two juniors in there, their experience carried over to this year and just made it that much more solid. Katie has been stellar in goal. It's that cohesiveness that's really carried them.
"Maddie and Madeline are very technical players and that helped them acclimate themselves to the position and deal with the pressure. The good part about Maddie is she is not shy about talking. That helps most of the time."
Garner played center midfielder last year and said her adjustment to defense was minimal.
"Learning to play outside, I think I have good speed so I can get back on defense, but I think I can help play up to progress us forward," Garner said. "It's not a huge change. I've been an outside back before, so when a spot opened up, I was probably a logical choice to go there. I think I fit in really well."
According to Robinson, Garner and Hall's speed on the perimeter helps anchor the entire defense.
"Outside backs need to be really fast and really good at one-on-ones. Madeline and Maddie do an amazing job with that to the point that Priya and I can stay in position according to what (the opponent) is doing," Robinson said. "It takes pressure off our goalie because we can trust each other."
The Braves earned the fifth seed in the 44-team Division I district tournament. They took a first-round bye and will play host to 42nd-seeded Briggs in the second round Oct. 18.
Olentangy and Orange both were undefeated in the OCC-Buckeye entering the week, two games ahead of both Liberty and Westerville North. Orange visited North on Oct. 9.
"We were disappointed not to play Orange (on Oct. 2)," Devanny said. "Everybody was mentally and physically ready for that game, so we'll have to get to that level. But I think everybody understands the importance."
Casto ties for first at boys golf sectional
Cameron Casto credited his tie for first place in a Division I sectional Oct. 2 at Turnberry to improved putting.
Casto shot a 72, tying Gahanna's Michael Hahn, Groveport's Preston Nanthavong and Olentangy Liberty's Grant Smeltzer for medalist honors and earning an individual berth to district Oct. 9 at Apple Valley. Olentangy fell short of qualifying as a team, shooting a 325 to finish sixth behind champion Liberty (303) as 13 teams scored.
The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district.
"Any opportunity I had, I felt like a (putt) would go in," Casto said. "I mostly just changed my grip and got my two hands closer together. It freed me up to just hit the ball and not think too much about it. I think I had 28 putts (Oct. 2), so it certainly made a big difference. Anything under 30 putts on these small greens, you can certainly get it done."
Also scoring for the Braves were Bennett Zeitner (83), Ben Nash (84) and Garrett Leckrone (86). Chas Martin shot a 94.
Gahanna (304) and Pickerington Central (307) also advanced to district.
This was Casto's second district tournament. He shot a 77 at Apple Valley in 2016 when Olentangy competed as a team and tied for fifth place.
At district, the top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Oct. 19 and 20 at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
Tennis team's Khayat advances to district
Nour Khayat will represent the girls tennis team in the Division I district tournament Thursday, Oct. 11, and Saturday, Oct. 13, at Reynoldsburg, needing two wins to cap her freshman season at the state tournament.
Khayat went 5-0 in a sectional that concluded Oct. 6 at Reynoldsburg to finish first, defeating Lancaster's Hope Rooker 6-4, 6-1 in the final. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district.
Also competing but failing to advance were singles players Priyanka Agochiya (0-1) and Archita Sriram (0-1) and the doubles teams of Khushi Agarwal and Faith Shielu (2-1) and Amanda Jones and Jothsna Sabbasani (2-1).
At district, the top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to state Oct. 19 and 20 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Girls golf season ends at sectional
The girls golf team's season came to an end Oct. 2 when it finished eighth (420) in a Division I sectional at Royal American behind champion Orange (306) as 11 teams scored.
Sophomore Lauren Sommerfeld shot a 90 to lead Olentangy. Also scoring were junior Sam Horton (93), senior Madi Earl (117) and junior Lauren May (120). Senior Stephanie Frank shot a 149.
The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 9 at Cooks Creek.
Dublin Jerome (335) and Hilliard Davidson (360) also advanced to district.
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy cross country, field hockey, boys soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 13 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at Hilliard Davidson
*Oct. 11 -- At Olentangy Liberty
Oct. 16 -- At New Albany in second round of district tournament.
Oct. 11 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley
Oct. 17 -- Home vs. 43rd-seeded Big Walnut in first round of Division I district tournament. The Braves are seeded sixth.
*Oct. 11 -- Home vs. Liberty. The Braves lost to the Patriots 25-20, 22-25, 11-25, 25-21, 15-9 on Sept. 25.
Oct. 17 -- Home vs. 27th-seeded Lancaster or 31st-seeded Eastmoor Academy in second round of Division I district tournament. The Braves are seeded third.