Cassie Alcala is no stranger to the Division I state girls tennis tournament, and the Pickerington High School North junior is aware that at least some of the field might remember her as being last year's runner-up in singles.
Alcala has used a 6-0, 6-0 loss to Rocky River Magnificat's Anna Roggenburk in last year's final as motivation ever since, and hopes she has improved enough to take the next step and win the program's first state championship.
The state tournament opens Friday, Oct. 19, and concludes Saturday, Oct. 20, at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
"I am just glad to make it back. That's been motivation all year. I've just tried to stay at that level and make sure I play my best," Alcala said. "I've worked a lot on my serve. It's an area I've tried to grow in and I hope it serves me well throughout the state tournament. It's definitely been about consistency. I want to get more first serves in and have more power on my second serve. There was a lot of wind (during the district tournament), which threw me off a little bit, but my serve got me through."
Alcala went 4-0 in the district tournament that concluded Oct. 13 at Reynoldsburg, defeating Dublin Jerome's Lalasa Nagireddy 6-1, 6-3 in the final.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to state.
Alcala swept through the first two rounds Oct. 11, defeating Olentangy Liberty's Anna Gardner 6-0, 6-0 in the first round and qualifying for state with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Lancaster's Hope Rooker before beating Jerome's Katherine Wang 6-1, 6-2 in a semifinal Oct. 13.
"It's tough to get back (to state). A lot of good players never make the state tournament, let alone the final," coach Brian Hoff said. "She knows it's not going to automatically happen again. Last year, she was a little bit under the radar and this year, that's certainly not the case. Everybody knows who she is. There's a big target on her back and she has to be prepared to get everybody's best match."
Also competing at district but failing to advance were the doubles team of Maggie Haas and Kim Nguyen, who went 1-1 and lost to defending state champions Maddie Atway and Dani Schoenly of Liberty 6-0, 6-1 in a state-qualifying match, and the doubles team of Sophia Anderson and Corrina Moesle, who went 0-1.
Alcala has won six of her nine postseason matches by a 6-0, 6-0 score.
Duvall, Moore lead runners at OCC meet
Matt Duvall and Harper Moore of the boys cross country team finished fourth and fifth, respectively, at last year's OCC-Ohio Division meet, and in this year's meet Oct. 13 at Lancaster they again finished back-to-back.
Only this time, Duvall and Moore led everybody to the finish line.
Duvall won in 15 minutes, 56.5 seconds and Moore was second in 16:25.2, leading the Panthers to 56 points and a third-place finish behind Gahanna (41) and Pickerington Central (54) and ahead of Lancaster (68), Reynoldsburg (147) and Grove City (189).
"I'm pretty happy to win. I wanted to win, but knew it was going to be a battle with a couple guys," Duvall said. "We're feeling pretty good for postseason. (Oct. 13) wasn't our day, but I know we'll bounce back and recover with district coming up. Obviously, (these were) not the times that we wanted, but no one comes in expecting a really good time here. It's more about place."
Also scoring for the Panthers were Spencer Moledor (ninth, 17:01.5), Daniel Newman (21st, 17:30.7) and Nick Whitehead (23rd, 17:35.2).
The girls team finished fourth (98) in the league meet behind Lancaster (42), Gahanna (49) and Central (67) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (126) and Grove City (159).
Emma Rittman was seventh (20:10.4), followed by Brianna Bowden (18th, 21:28.5), Emily Harness (19th, 21:39.4), Allie Westall (26th, 22:06.4) and Ryona Gilmore (32nd, 22:39.1).
"I felt like it was a pretty easy course besides the hills and the tension between everyone," Rittman said. "It was a great honor to end in such a good place."
The boys team will compete in the Division I, district 3 meet Saturday, Oct. 20, at Hilliard Darby, where the top six teams and top 24 individuals advance to the regional meet Oct. 27 at North.
The girls team is in district 1, from which the top five teams and top 20 individuals qualify for regional.
Boys soccer team's Harr sets record
Will Harr of the boys soccer team stands alone in the program's record books.
The senior forward scored his 20th goal of the year - the Panthers' single-season record -during a 4-0 win over Grove City on Oct. 9. The win was North's 14th in a row and sealed its third consecutive OCC-Ohio championship.
Harr added two more goals against the Greyhounds to raise his season total to 22.
North is 15-1 overall and finished 5-0 in the league.
Seeded fourth in the 48-team Division I district tournament, the Panthers took a first-round bye and will play host to 29th-seeded Chillicothe or 39th-seeded Licking Heights in the second round Saturday, Oct. 20. The winner plays 14th-seeded Canal Winchester, 19th-seeded Grove City or 31st-seeded Westerville North in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the home of the better seed. The district final is Oct. 27.
North defeated Canal Winchester 2-0 on Sept. 4 and Westerville North 10-0 on Aug. 30.
Girls soccer team awaits tourney opener
The girls soccer team will seek to extend its unbeaten streak to eight games when it plays host to 18th-seeded Dublin Scioto on Thursday, Oct. 18, in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
North is 11-1-3 overall and finished 4-0-1 in the OCC-Ohio, tied for first with Gahanna, after a 4-0 win over Grove City on Oct. 9. Two nights later, the Panthers played Jerome to a 1-all tie.
The second-round winner will play 17th-seeded Central or 19th-seeded Grove City in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 23, at the home of the better seed. The Panthers defeated Central 2-0 on Sept. 13.
The district final is Oct. 27.
Volleyball team earns home tourney match
After going .500 during the regular season both overall and in the OCC-Ohio, the girls volleyball team will get a home match in the Division I district tournament.
Seeded 19th of 49 teams, North took a first-round bye and plays host to 18th-seeded Logan or 25th-seeded Chillicothe in the second round Thursday, Oct. 18.
The winner will face fifth-seeded Worthington Kilbourne, 46th-seeded Westland or 48th-seeded Mifflin in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 24, at Franklin Heights. The district final is Oct. 27.
North defeated Chillicothe 25-11, 25-22 in the Marysville Spike-Off Invitational on Aug. 18 and beat Westland 25-14, 25-14, 25-11 on Aug. 21.
The Panthers are 11-11 overall and finished 5-5 in the OCC-Ohio.
North split its final two regular-season matches last week, defeating Reynoldsburg 25-14, 25-6, 25-17 on Oct. 9 before losing to Grove City 25-21, 21-25, 21-25, 26-24, 15-13 on Oct. 11. The loss enabled Grove City and Central to share the league title as both went 8-2.
Girls golf season ends at district
Considering the girls golf team shot a 329 during the Pickerington North Fall Classic on Oct. 6 at Cooks Creek, tying its best 18-hole score of the season, coach Nathan Weibush expected a similar round three days later in the Division I district tournament on the same course.
The Panthers were disappointed in their score of 366, which placed them eighth behind champion New Albany (298) as nine teams scored. The top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Friday, Oct. 19, and Saturday, Oct. 20, at Ohio State's Gray Course.
Sophomore Cassie Tasney shot an 87, followed by seniors Caroline Kane (89) and Zhanner Davis (94) and freshman Kendall Burton (96). Junior Allyson Rosen shot a 98.
"It's the same five we've had for the last couple of weeks, but for whatever reason, we didn't get low (at district)," Weibush said. "There were a couple of shots we had to take penalty strokes on, so you combine that with a double- or a triple-bogey when you usually take par, it adds up.
"They worked hard this year. We certainly belong in the conversation about the 10 best teams in central Ohio and I think we will next year as well."
Boys golfers fall short at district
A rough start to the Division I district tournament Oct. 9 at Apple Valley doomed the boys golf team's chances of advancing to state, but coach Steve Schill takes some solace in that three of his top five golfers are expected to return.
Freshman Carson Bellish shot a 77 and junior Tomasz Douangsy added a 78 to help North to a score of 320 and a sixth-place finish behind champion Jerome (293) as 12 teams scored. The top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Friday, Oct. 19, and Saturday, Oct. 20, at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
"We had high hopes. We just got off to a bad start. It's always the fear up here," Schill said. "You don't know how they're going to handle the nerves and we got off to a bad start. For me, taking something out of (Oct. 9) is seeing once we made the turn, we played more like what we were hoping to play like. I have three boys coming back next year. We're taking something out of here that we can build toward."
Also scoring for the Panthers were junior Elijah Hale (81) and senior Danny Heitmeyer (84). Senior Danny Corrigan shot an 88.
St. Charles (309) earned the second state berth.