The New Albany High School girls golf team arguably has been the top squad in central Ohio all season, and now the Eagles get to try and finish an undefeated season as the state's best team.
On paper, the Eagles are the favorites entering their first Division I state tournament Friday, Oct. 19, and Saturday, Oct. 20, at Ohio State's Gray Course. They shot a 298 to win the district tournament Oct. 9 at Cooks Creek, 16 shots ahead of the second-best state-qualifying score posted by Centerville in the Southwest District tournament.
New Albany is 165-0 on the season, but coach Rich Ritter planned to make preparation for state as normal as possible even though only one player, sophomore Madison Spiess, has competed there before.
"They know what the magnitude of the situation is," Ritter said. "It's important to them. They care about playing for each other. They know people are watching and all of that does mean something. I won't shy away from that conversation, but I just remind them of what they've all been through as individual golfers before and that they have each other to count on."
At district, the Eagles finished 17 shots ahead of runner-up and two-time defending state champion Olentangy Orange (315). The top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state.
Spiess shot a 71 to earn medalist honors by one shot ahead of Olentangy Berlin's Leila Raines, a Michigan State commit. It was the second-best individual round at any district tournament, behind a 68 shot by Centerville's Marissa Wenzler, who is a Kentucky commit.
Also scoring were Morgan Pankow (73), Anna Ritter (74) and Kary Hollenbaugh (80). Gwynnie Lee shot an 86.
Competing as an individual at state last year, Spiess shot a 142 to finish third.
"It's a dream come true. Knowing (state) is actually going to happen, it's unbelievable," Pankow said. "We just came in to play our game. We pretended there was nothing on the line. That's when we play our best, when there is no pressure. We just thought of it as a regular tournament."
Anna Ritter, the coach's daughter, got out to a hot start with three birdies in her first six holes.
"My strength was putting. I felt comfortable with my stroke; I don't know how to describe it, but I felt like I could make any putt I had to make," she said. "We were nervous coming in, especially the freshmen because we didn't know what to expect. My goal was just to put up a good score. It was a good nervous. We weren't uptight but we were excited."
Area teams have captured seven consecutive Division I state championships and nine overall. Dublin Jerome holds a state record six titles, having won in 2005 and every year from 2011-15, and Dublin Coffman won in 2000.
"I am very happy for them because they deserve this with the way they've played all year, but you still have to go out and do it when it counts," coach Ritter said. "For them to put up (a 298) is impressive. They showed good mental toughness and played very well. We've been getting good scores out of somebody, somewhere, up and down the lineup every single time out. If somebody does not have a great day, somebody else is going to take the reins and run with it."
Cross country teams sweep league titles
The girls cross country team won its third consecutive OCC-Capital Division championship Oct. 13 at Lancaster, and Ethan McNichols finished first (17 minutes, 3.1 seconds) to lead the boys team to the title.
In the girls race, Sammie Sika was second (20:31.1) to lead five runners in the top 10 as New Albany scored 26 points to finish ahead of Big Walnut (44), Canal Winchester (63) and Newark (118). Also scoring for the Eagles were Mary Carson (fourth, 20:56.2), Lindsey Neff (fifth, 21:17.9), Monica Vale (eighth, 21:44.6) and Anda Stan (ninth, 21:47.1).
The boys scored 44 points to finish ahead of Canal Winchester (51), Groveport (62), Newark (80) and Big Walnut (124).
Will Benseler was fourth (17:34.8), followed by Colin Swincicki (10th, 17:51.1), Victor Orsinelli (12th, 18:00.3) and Evan McClelland (17th, 18:36.9).
The boys will run in the Division I, district 3 meet Saturday, Oct. 20, at Hilliard Darby. The girls are in district 2.
From both races, the top six teams and top 24 individuals advance to regional Oct. 27 at Pickerington North.
Boys soccer team rolls into tournament
The boys soccer team wrapped up a 16-0 regular season with a 1-0 win at St. Charles on Oct. 13, a matchup between two state-ranked teams and two of the top three seeds in the Division I district tournament.
New Albany, which was ranked fourth in last week's state poll, earned its fourth win in six days by edging the eighth-ranked Cardinals. The Eagles beat Canal Winchester 2-0 on Oct. 8 and Franklin Heights 9-1 the next night to finish 5-0 in the OCC-Capital for their third consecutive league title, and then defeated Upper Arlington 4-1 on Oct. 11.
The Eagles have outscored their opponents 69-6 this season.
Seeded second of 48 teams for the district tournament, New Albany took a first-round bye and will play host to 24th-seeded Groveport or 34th-seeded Westland in the second round Saturday, Oct. 20. The winner will play 11th-seeded Jerome, 40th-seeded Walnut Ridge or 46th-seeded Watterson in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 24, on the better-seeded team's home field.
The district final is Oct. 27.
The Eagles, who are seeking their second district title in three years, defeated Groveport 3-0 on Sept. 25 and Jerome 3-1 on Sept. 27.
Girls soccer team wraps up title
The girls soccer team clinched its second OCC-Capital championship in three years with a 12-0 win over Franklin Heights on Oct. 9 and then had nine days to prepare for its Division I district tournament opener.
New Albany, which finished the regular season at 9-3-4 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Capital, is seeded eighth of 44 teams and will play host to 27th-seeded Delaware or 32nd-seeded Logan in a second-round game Thursday, Oct. 18.
With a win, New Albany would play host to 15th-seeded Westerville Central or 34th-seeded Watkins Memorial in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 23. The winner will advance to a district final Oct. 27.
Of those teams, New Albany defeated Central 4-0 on Aug. 30.
Field hockey team hopes for tourney run
Seeded eighth for the 18-team district tournament, the field hockey team played host to 13th-seeded Olentangy in a second-round game Oct. 16.
New Albany finished the regular season at 9-5-1 overall and 5-3 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-East. The Eagles split two games last week, beating Granville 2-0 on Oct. 9 before losing 10-0 at Columbus Academy the next night.
Brooke Mason led New Albany during the regular season with 14 goals. Lauren Sokol had eight.
The New Albany-Olentangy winner will visit second-seeded Thomas Worthington or 17th-seeded Lancaster for a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 23. The winner advances to a district final Oct. 27.
Girls volleyball team hopes to keep winning
The girls volleyball team will seek its fifth consecutive win when it begins the Division I district tournament Thursday, Oct. 18, at 13th-seeded Watkins Memorial or at home against 23rd-seeded Darby.
New Albany, which is seeded 22nd of 49 teams, finished the regular season at 13-9 overall and 7-3 in the OCC-Capital. The Eagles won their final two league matches last week, defeating Canal Winchester 25-17, 25-18, 25-21 on Oct. 9 and Franklin Heights 25-8, 25-4, 25-6 on Oct. 11 to finish second in the league behind Big Walnut (10-0).
The second-round winner will play seventh-seeded Grove City, 20th-seeded Westerville Central or 42nd-seeded Columbus West in a district semifinal Oct. 25 at Franklin Heights.
Doubles team falls short at district
The girls tennis team fell short of a Division I state tournament appearance for the second season in a row but expects to return the majority of its lineup.
Seniors Valentina DiLor-enzo and Alexandra Vitellas went 1-1 at district Oct. 11 at Reynoldsburg, losing to Upper Arlington's Evelyn Holman and Wendy Shi 6-2, 6-3 in a state-qualifying match. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to state.
DiLorenzo and Vitellas opened with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Dublin Scioto's Maddy Baughman.
The duo had won the championship in a sectional that concluded Oct. 6 at Reynoldsburg.
New Albany went 11-3 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Capital, winning its 12th league title in 13 years.
Boys golf season ends at district
A season that featured the boys golf team's eighth consecutive OCC-Capital championship finished in the Division I district tournament for the fourth time in five years.
Senior Logan Spiess shot a 78 on Oct. 9 at Apple Valley to lead New Albany to a score of 323 and eighth place behind champion Jerome (293). The top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state.
Also scoring for the Eagles were junior Jacob Brooks (79), senior Griffin Green (81) and junior Jack Curtis (85). Junior Caleb Delaney shot a 95.
St. Charles (309) earned the other team berth to state.
New Albany was seeking its first representation at state since Spiess tied for ninth in 2016.
The Eagles went 20-0 in the OCC-Capital and have not lost in league play since the 2013 season.