Ricky Konkolewski pushed the right buttons as his first season progressed with the Westerville North High School girls soccer team.
The Warriors played for their first Division I district championship since 2007, but fell to top-seeded Watterson 3-0 on Oct. 27 at Olentangy Orange.
North, the 20th seed, finished 9-10-1 overall but had won seven of eight games entering the district final.
"Watterson was strong everywhere and did a great job of not making any mistakes," Konkolewski said. "They scored with seven minutes left in the first half and then they played a little more defensively in the second half, giving us even less opportunities. When we pressed at the end, that's when we gave up the other two goals."
Junior goalkeeper Abby Markley had five saves.
The Warriors defeated seventh-seeded and host Gahanna 3-1 on Oct. 23 in a district semifinal as senior forward Mikayla Martin, junior midfielder Hanna Cripe and sophomore midfielder Makayla Parry all scored.
"In the beginning of the season, coach had us running a 3-2-5 and he has had success with that in the past," Martin said. "After a few games, we went back to a 4-4-2, which was what we were using last year. We learned that again and things started to click."
North tied Olentangy Liberty for third (2-3) in the OCC-Buckeye Division behind champion Olentangy (5-0).
Parry (special mention all-league) finished with six goals and two assists, and Cripe (first-team all-league) had five goals and four assists. Martin (first-team all-league) had four goals, and freshman forward Alison Rothmann had three goals and one assist.
Senior midfielder Trinity Hassey (second-team all-league) had six assists, and Markley was honorable mention all-league.
Konkolewski said his six-player senior class was the glue that held his team together.
"The seniors were really the ones to believe in 'never giving up' and we never did, even at 2-8-1 a month prior to the district final," he said. "They told us to keep fighting, and we did. We would finish the season winning seven of our last eight games prior to losing to Watterson. In the end, we had a great season."
Girls runners close season at regional
The girls cross country team completed its season by finishing 15th (397 points) of 16 teams in the Division I regional Oct. 27 at Pickerington North behind champion Hilliard Davidson (38).
The top five teams and top 20 individuals advanced to state Saturday, Nov. 3, at National Trail Raceway.
Freshman Paige Miracle led North by finishing 42nd (20 minutes, 37.6 seconds), followed by freshman Lilia Monzalvo (93rd, 21:41.5), junior Audrey Smith (107th, 22:02.7), senior Eva Bernhardt (109th, 22:05.4), junior Grace Blanchong (116th, 22:19.8), senior Erica Mobley (119th, 22:26.6) and junior Samantha Dages (131st, 23:23.8).
Top performers expected back for the boys include junior Dillon Lauer, sophomore Isaiah Hutcherson and freshmen Brent Daubenmire and Matthew Rollins.
Football team finishes with loss
Although Rondale Smith finished the season with another strong performance, the football team otherwise was shut down in a 42-0 home loss to Liberty on Oct. 26.
Smith, a senior running back, rushed for 119 yards on 24 carries and ended his season with 241 carries for 1,265 yards and 14 touchdowns.
North totaled just 142 yards in the loss and committed the game's only two turnovers, both fumbles, to finish 3-7 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Buckeye. The Warriors lost their final five games and seven out of eight after a 2-0 start.
Patriots quarterback Mitchell Okuley accounted for three touchdowns on runs of 3 and 12 yards and an 18-yard scoring pass to Chase Miley. Okuley completed 11 of 15 passes for 110 yards as Liberty led 35-0 at halftime.
Both teams ran 46 plays.
North wide receiver James Fernandez caught all four of quarterback Auri Dover's completions for 35 yards.
The Patriots shared the OCC-Buckeye championship with Olentangy and Orange as all three teams went 4-1 in the league.
-- Dave Purpura