For the second consecutive season, the Grandview Heights High School boys and girls soccer teams won Division III district championships.
The top-seeded boys team captured its fifth consecutive district title by defeating third-seeded Johnstown 2-0 on Oct. 27 at Dublin Jerome. The second-seeded girls team followed suit by upsetting top-seeded and fourth-ranked Worthington Christian 2-0 in the nightcap at Jerome.
"Winning any district title is tough, but it was really difficult this year," girls coach Mike Merna said. "We handed Worthington Christian its first loss of the season and really any of the final four teams (in the district, including Columbus Academy and Wellington), could have won this. We were all ranked in the top 12 in the state at one time or another this season. If we played it again next week, another team might likely win. It was that balanced."
Both teams reached a state semifinal last season and both lost to eventual state champion Cincinnati Summit Country Day, which has moved up to Division II in boys and girls soccer. The boys lost 3-2 and the girls were defeated 3-1.
"We didn't have that big of expectations coming into the season because we lost so many seniors from last year, but we all jelled together really well as a team," said Joel Samuels, a senior midfielder for the boys team. "We're showing how we can play together, especially for us seniors. We are ready to push on and do something good this season."
Manny Day scored his 39th goal of the season in the district final as the boys improved to 14-2-3. They are ranked fifth in the state behind No. 1 Toledo Ottawa Hills.
Ross Day had the other goal for the Bobcats, and goalkeeper Lance Trares made four saves.
"Definitely having a capable goal-scorer like Manny up top is good for us," senior defender Sam Freeman said. "He does a lot of work up there and as long as we feed him the ball, good things happen. Our defensive midfield has transformed and has given us a solid team effort."
The girls improved to 15-2-2 and became the first opponent to score two goals this season on the Warriors, who finished 13-1-5. Tia Thomas and Tayler Pierce scored, and goalie Ruby Gentile had five saves.
"When Tia got the first goal for us, it helped me relax a little," said Gentile, whose team is ranked 10th behind top-ranked Cincinnati Country Day. "We worked really hard to get here and the effort that we have put in paid off."
The girls advanced to a regional semifinal Oct. 30 against eighth-ranked Zanesville Rosecrans at Lakewood. The winner plays Albany Alexander or Wheelersburg in a regional final Saturday, Nov. 3, at a neutral site to be determined.
"We really have been playing some good soccer for the last few weeks," Merna said. "People see that we have two losses, but we were 0-2-1 after our first three games and are 15-0-1 since then. You want to be playing your best at this time of year, and we have been doing that."
The regional champion plays Country Day, third-ranked Anna, Cincinnati Madeira or Sidney Lehman in a state semifinal Tuesday, Nov. 6, at a neutral site.
The state final is Nov. 9 at Mapfre Stadium.
The girls reached their district final by defeating fourth-seeded Academy 1-0 in a shootout Oct. 24 at home. The teams were scoreless through regulation and two overtimes. They both made all five of their penalty kicks in the first shootout, and both missed their openers in the second. The Vikings missed their second shot, but Adelle Bechtel found the back of the net to give the Bobcats the win.
It was the third consecutive postseason game between Academy and Grandview to end in a shootout. The Vikings won 1-0 in 2016 in a district semifinal and the Bobcats won 1-0 last season in a district final.
The boys had a much easier road to their district final, defeating 17th-seeded Horizon Science 8-1 on Oct. 23 at home as Samuels scored twice.
The Bobcats played 10th-ranked Wellington in a regional semifinal Oct. 31 at Gahanna. The winner plays Berlin Hiland or South Webster in a regional final Saturday, Nov. 3, at a neutral site.
The regional champion plays second-ranked Cincinnati Seven Hills, third-ranked Miamisburg Dayton Christian, sixth-ranked Troy Christian or Madeira in a state semifinal Wednesday, Nov. 7, at a neutral site.
The state final is Nov. 10 at Mapfre Stadium.
"We lost some games early and we decided to move some people around," Freeman said. "From there, we have been working hard in practice and it has shown with the way we have been playing."
Three runners qualify for state
Junior Chris Miller and sophomore Derek Amicon will represent the boys cross country team in the Division III state meet Saturday, Nov. 3, at National Trail Raceway, and senior Nina Amicon will race for the girls team.
In the regional Oct. 27 at Pickerington North, Miller finished fourth in a season-best 16 minutes, 49.3 seconds and Amicon was 10th in 16:54.1.
The top 20 individuals advanced to state.
"We realized midway through the season that I race better when I go out slower," Miller said. "I wanted to be on the back of the pack then when I get to the mile-and-a-half, that's when I start pushing. It went perfectly.
"It's great to be going to state for a third year in a row. It lets me know that I'm doing things right and it will push me to get better each year."
Last fall, the boys advanced to state as a team and finished eighth as Derek Amicon was 50th (16:55.3) and Miller was 51st (16:55.7).
In the girls regional, Nina Amicon finished sixth (20:02.5) to qualify for state for the second year in a row. Last fall, she finished 53rd (20:15.4) in her first trip to state.
Junior Liza DeVere also competed at regional, finishing 46th (21:47.5).