The Watterson High School girls soccer team's opponent in a Division I regional final, Pickerington North, had represented central Ohio at the state tournament five of the past 11 seasons.
The Panthers' track record is one that coach Scott Dempsey has significant respect for.
The Eagles took a step toward building what they hope is their own tradition of success by capturing their first regional title since 1998 with a 2-1 overtime win over North on Nov. 3 at Dublin Jerome.
"Obviously, we played earlier in the season, and that whole game was very nip and tuck as well," Dempsey said, referring to the Eagles' 2-1 win over Panthers on Sept. 15. "It's two really good teams that play a very good brand of soccer. Obviously, we were fortunate enough to get a couple goals in (after halftime). It's a cruel game sometimes because I think both teams deserved to win. Twenty years is a long time (in between regional titles)."
Watterson was 17-1-2 before playing Beavercreek in a state semifinal Nov. 6 at Springfield. The winner plays Twinsburg or Strongsville in the state final Friday, Nov. 9, at Mapfre Stadium.
Beavercreek beat Mason 3-0 in a regional final Nov. 3 to improve to 22-0. Strongsville was 18-0-3 and Twinsburg was 21-0 before meeting in a state semifinal Nov. 6.
In its win over North, Watterson fell behind 1-0 with 13 minutes, 40 seconds left in the first half and finally tied the score on a goal by Audrey Shea off a corner kick by Sammy Francis with 3:50 remaining in regulation.
Emma Schossler scored the winning goal with 7:16 left in overtime.
"It means a lot," Shea said. "It's a big step to (make it to state). We weren't supposed to be here, but we defied the odds and we're here now. We brought the intensity up and we got one (goal) and tied it up, and I think that motivated us to get the win."
Watterson beat Jerome 3-1 in a regional semifinal Oct. 30 at Westerville Central.
Schossler and Gabriella Rotolo both scored during the game's first five minutes and Rotolo headed in the third goal with 14 minutes left.
Volleyball team takes big step forward
The girls volleyball team lost 25-19, 25-19, 25-21 to Olentangy Orange in a Division I regional semifinal Nov. 1 at Worthington Kilbourne to finish 19-8 overall.
The Eagles, who went 6-2 in the CCL to share the league championship with DeSales and Hartley, advanced to the regional tournament for the first time since 2011 by beating Olentangy 18-25, 25-15, 20-25, 25-23, 15-13 in a district final Oct. 27 at Whitehall.
"The speed in which (Orange) set the ball really was our struggle," coach Stephanie Grieshop said. "It came down to ball control, and they won that battle. I think we played great. Our serving was what we wanted it to be, but in transition, they were quicker than us."
The Eagles are losing five seniors, led by Kate Griffin (setter/outside hitter), Grace Jenkins (outside hitter/middle hitter), Kari Mercer (defensive specialist/libero) and Veronica Merkle (setter/middle hitter).
A group of sophomores led by Olyvia Kennedy (right-side hitter/outside hitter) and Sydney Taylor (libero/outside hitter) will be tasked with continuing what was started this season.
Sophomores Gina Grden (middle hitter/outside hitter), Sophie Mangold (setter) and Margo Lawson (defensive specialist/libero) and freshman Sierra Peterson (right-side hitter) also were key contributors.
Others eligible to return include sophomores Anna Jannot (defensive specialist) and Hope Uptegraph (defensive specialist).
"It's bittersweet," Grieshop said. "Our run was long and (the girls) were hoping for more, but at the end of the day, this is a great starting point for the sophomore class. We have a freshman on the floor, too, so I expect nothing less than big expectations from those girls next year.
"The seniors were great. What was impressive was how their leadership grew throughout the season. They had great discussions this time last year in what they wanted the program to look like and they worked very hard to get it to where it was."