Avery Schone could sense the tension heading into the Big Walnut High School girls soccer team's Division II regional semifinal against Chillicothe Unioto.
The Golden Eagles had defeated the Shermans 1-0 in a regional semifinal last season before capturing the program's first regional championship. The rematch Oct. 30 at Bloom-Carroll marked a chance to repeat history.
"We were nervous going into it because we knew our season was at stake, but I also feel like we were ready to play," said Schone, a junior midfielder. "I think that game was just testing our ability to get rid of those nerves."
While coach Chris Allen said it wasn't the Golden Eagles' best effort, the result was all that mattered.
Behind two goals from Kimberly Serna and four saves by goalkeeper Payton Carter, Big Walnut defeated Unioto 2-0 -- its 12th shutout of the season -- to improve to 13-2-4. The Golden Eagles played New Concord John Glenn in a regional final Nov. 3 at Lakewood, with the winner advancing to face Cincinnati Indian Hill or Kettering Alter in a state semifinal Tuesday, Nov. 6, at a neutral site.
That winner faces Bay Village Bay, Wapakoneta, Mentor Lake Catholic or Richfield Revere in the state final Friday, Nov. 9, at Mapfre Stadium.
Indian Hill ended Big Walnut's season a year ago with a 4-0 victory in a state semifinal.
Serna has earned much of her playing time this season coming off the bench, but the junior forward was in the starting lineup for Big Walnut's 1-0 victory over top-seeded Granville in a district final Oct. 27 at Westerville North and again against Unioto. She has been part of an offense that continues to improve its ball possession and pace of play.
Big Walnut, which was seeded second in the district, captured its third consecutive district title.
"Starting the season, we had issues where we started slower," Allen said. "It was really good for us to start at a higher level and be able to dictate things and disrupt things for Granville so they couldn't get into a rhythm. That was really good for us."
Against Granville, Avery Maxeiner scored and Carter made seven saves.
Last season, Big Walnut defeated the Blue Aces 1-0 in a shootout in a district final.
"Since I've been a part of this team, they've really become one of our rivals," senior midfielder Grace Bodker said of Granville. "It's always fun to play against them."
Girls volleyball team falls in district final
For much of the season, the girls volleyball team put away opponents in straight sets. In fact, Big Walnut did so in every victory but one.
The second-seeded Golden Eagles battled fifth-seeded Hartley for five sets in a Division II district final Oct. 27 at Licking Heights but lost 23-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-23, 15-8 to finish 20-5 overall.
"It was such a close match," coach Ron Lehman said. "The last set, I don't know what happened. We were in it. I think it was 9-8 and we gave up six points in a row."
Big Walnut, which also lost in five sets to Olentangy (Aug. 28) and Sparta Highland (Aug. 25) during the regular season, had swept ninth-seeded London 25-17, 25-18, 25-19 in a district semifinal Oct. 25 at Licking Heights.
The Golden Eagles, who won 11 of their final 12 matches, captured their 15th league title in 19 seasons by going 10-0 in the OCC-Capital Division to finish three matches ahead of runner-up New Albany (7-3).
Big Walnut did not lose a set in league play.
"We played some really tough matches at the beginning of the year that were close," Lehman said. "But obviously, our league wasn't that strong, so the last matches we played we weren't really pushed in."
The Golden Eagles must replace a strong six-player senior class next season, led by setter and outside hitter Machaela Podraza, an Ohio State recruit who was named OCC-Capital Player of the Year and first-team all-district.
Senior middle hitter Kaley Rammelsberg also was first-team all-league and all-district.
Junior middle and outside hitter Kassie Bowmar was second-team all-league and all-district, and senior outside hitter Kelsie Imertreijs was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Senior setter Sammi Bickley was honorable mention all-league, and senior outside hitter and defensive specialist Emily Vance was special mention all-league.
Borland preparing to run at state meet
Colbi Borland of the girls cross country team will compete in her second consecutive Division I state meet Saturday, Nov. 10, at National Trail Raceway.
The state meet had been scheduled for Nov. 3 but was postponed a week by the OHSAA because of "flooding conditions on the course."
Borland, a junior, advanced to state by finishing 17th (19 minutes, 33.4 seconds) of 133 runners in the regional meet Oct. 27 at Pickerington North, behind champion Gracie Sprankle of Olentangy Liberty (18:23.1). The top 20 runners advanced to state.
Last season at state, Borland finished 59th of 173 runners in 19:14.5.
Football team closes season with loss
The football team closed its season Oct. 26 with a 27-7 loss at Canal Winchester to finish 3-7 overall and 2-3 in the OCC-Capital.
Andy Van Houten scored a rushing touchdown for the Golden Eagles late in the game.
Canal Winchester finished 9-1 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Capital, winning its first league championship since 2012 when it was in the MSL-Buckeye.
Tyler Toledo rushed for 114 yards on 13 carries and Darren Davis ran for 25 yards and three touchdowns on nine carries for the Indians, who led 20-0 at halftime.