The Olentangy Berlin High School boys soccer team earned the first piece of district hardware for the first-year school's trophy case, and built some tradition to go along with it.
The seventh-seeded Bears finished 7-9-4, losing to third-seeded Bexley 1-0 on Oct. 27 in a Division II district final at Wellington. The loss was tough to take, but coach Josh Diehl knows his program will be better for it in the coming seasons -- for reasons beyond receiving the runner-up trophy.
"We look at every day as an opportunity to get better," Diehl said. "Being here is a privilege. To be able to play very good teams like Columbus Academy and Bexley is humbling.
"We know it's a process. The guys have been (to a district final) as sophomores and juniors, and I'm confident they will come back even stronger next year."
Berlin does not have a senior class, meaning all of the players who competed in the district final are eligible to come back for another go-round next fall.
"The culture that we have built, along with the coaches, has been great," junior midfielder Dominic Antronica said. "We're really just a big family, and we fight for each other.
"It's great because we're starting traditions here. We're the first ones doing this. We're going to come out next season, work even harder and play for each other."
Junior Jacob Lewis and sophomore Connor Sexton combined for 15 saves in the district final.
Berlin reached the game by outlasting second-seeded and host Academy 1-0 (3-0 shootout) in a district semifinal Oct. 24. Antronica, sophomore defender Kyle Rinehart and junior defender Luke Eisenhower all scored on the first three attempts in the best-of-five shootout and the Vikings missed their first three.
"We looked forward to the challenge of playing a team like Academy after the first couple tournament games," Antronica said. "We battled a full 80 minutes and then through two overtimes. We had been practicing (penalty kicks) all year for just that moment.
"We're fighters. There is no doubt about it. We're going to fight until the end and we're going to let teams know that."
Antronica was first-team all-district and all-OCC-Cardinal Division. Rinehart was second-team all-league, Eisenhower was special mention all-league and sophomore midfielder Ryan Miller was honorable mention all-league.
Sophomore forward Brenden Greenhalge led the Bears with eight goals and Antronica had four. Junior forward Connor Kindell, sophomore midfielder Harrison Bialos and sophomore forward Austin Corley all had three goals.
"With young players and young people in general, you can use adversity as a really good teaching tool," Diehl said. "For the players to do everything from the very beginning, it has allowed these guys to build a lot of character. I'm not surprised we got this far (in the postseason), but I'm really proud that they did."
Boggess reaches state in girls cross country
Junior Meghan Boggess will represent the girls cross country team in the Division II state meet Saturday, Nov. 3, at National Trail Raceway.
Boggess finished 17th (20 minutes, 2.8 seconds) in the regional Oct. 27 at Pickerington North. The top six teams and top 24 individuals qualified for state.
Sophomore Katie Balthaser was 33rd (20:39.1) for the Bears, who finished 10th (243 points) behind state-qualifiers Zoarville Tuscarawas Valley (89), Minerva (96), Fairfield Union (97), Buckeye Valley (135), Jonathan Alder (147) and Bexley (166). Also competing were junior Rebecca Koppelman (72nd, 21:38.7), sophomore Rachel Fillman (77th, 21:43.3), junior Megan Schlabig (95th, 22:13.5) and sophomores Madison Lapid (104th, 22:38.4) and Taylor Stark (116th, 23:09.4).
The boys team was one spot from advancing, finishing eighth (172) behind state-qualifiers Heath (64), Chillicothe Unioto (89), Thornville Sheridan (101), Jonathan Alder (148), Bexley (172), Ironton Rock Hill (198) and Minerva (215).
Sophomore Corey Rinehart led the Bears by finishing 36th (17:26.2) as the top 28 individuals advanced. Also running were sophomore Jack Dunlop (57th, 17:45.0), juniors Jacob Reitz (58th, 17:45.5), Grant Schrieber (67th, 17:54.1) and Pietro Pozzi (93rd, 18:10.8), freshman Calvin Davies (119th, 18:32.7) and junior Ethan Harsh (143rd, 18:53.6).
Girls soccer team loses in district semi
The seventh-seeded girls soccer team finished 6-13, losing at top-seeded Granville 7-1 in a Division II district semifinal Oct. 23.
Junior forward Sydney Walker (second-team all-league) led the offense with 11 goals and one assist, and junior midfielder Cara Susey had three goals and four assists. Junior midfielder Olivia Neidhardt (honorable mention all-league) had four goals, and sophomore midfielder Sara Cain added three goals and two assists.
Junior goalie McKinley Hoffmann (first-team all-league) had 232 saves, and junior Haley Cera (special mention all-league) was a top defender.