Olentangy High School girls basketball coach Kate Cummings chuckled as she tried to put her team's early identity into words.
"I'm not even sure we've found ourselves yet," she said. "We've had multiple injuries. We didn't have one scrimmage where we had every one of our girls on the court. We're just now getting girls coming back so we just haven't gotten a great look at everybody yet. We will, but it will take time."
Olentangy returns one starter in 5-foot-9 sophomore point guard Meg Spohn from last year's team that went 11-13 overall and 5-5 in the OCC-Buckeye Division. That team's leading scorer, junior forward Jessica Nation (10.6 points), now is at Berlin, and an additional 19.4 points per game was lost to graduation between guards Molly Delaney and Grace Pennington.
Pennington, who now plays at Olivet Nazarene, made a program-record 46 3-pointers last season.
Nonetheless, the Braves were 2-0 before playing Caledonia River Valley on Nov. 27. They won the Skeeter Classic at Urbana last weekend, defeating Casstown Miami East 44-40 on Nov. 23 and Mechanicsburg 63-46 in the championship game the next night.
Cummings replaced Mike Daniels, who stepped down after going 22-25 in two seasons and now coaches at Buckeye Valley.
"The biggest thing for us is working really hard to be fundamentally sound," Cummings said. "I want us to take the defensive side of the ball very seriously. That's the way we're going to give ourselves the best opportunity to win. We're not going to be a high-powered offense. As long as we play good defense and rebound well, we'll give ourselves a chance."
This is Cummings' first stint as a high school head coach. A 1988 Gahanna graduate who played college basketball at Rio Grande, she was 311-231 in 18 seasons at Ohio Dominican (1995-2006) and Findlay (2006-13).
Since that time, she has coached fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade girls basketball in the Olentangy Youth Athletic Association and was the seventh-grade coach last year at Shanahan Middle School, Olentangy's feeder school.
Other returnees are senior guard Lauren Tarpey (5-7), who occasionally will relieve Spohn at point guard but will primarily be a shooting guard, and 5-10 junior forward Bailey Cummings, one of the coach's three daughters.
Center Olivia Margolies, a 6-2 center who has signed to play volleyball at Ohio University, has returned to the team after skipping her junior season. She averaged 10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds as a sophomore and has made an immediate impact this season, leading the team in scoring in both games last weekend.
Margolies had 21 points against Miami East and 18 against Mechanicsburg.
Rounding out the roster are senior Olivia Conley (5-8, forward), sophomores Dani Beidelman (5-9, forward), Kennadie Doup (5-8, guard/forward) and Helena Ronnebaum (5-7, guard) and freshman Bridget Stafford (5-4, guard).
Olentangy plays its first six games on the road before beginning its home schedule Dec. 14 against Westerville South.
The Braves begin OCC-Buckeye play Tuesday, Dec. 4, at Liberty. Olentangy finished fourth in the league last year behind champion Westerville South (10-0).
"Westerville South is still a powerhouse and Liberty is stacked. They can score like nobody's business," coach Cummings said. "But we're not focused on the league. We're concerned about progressing as a program. If we keep getting better, we know we can compete."
Hockey team returns scoring, experience
The hockey team began the season with a 5-2 loss to Thomas Worthington on Nov. 17 at Chiller North, but fourth-year coach Mike Ross remains convinced the Braves again will challenge for the Capital Hockey Conference-White championship given that four of last year's top five scorers return.
Two of them, senior defenseman Dakota Falk and senior forward Kyle Gavin, scored against Thomas.
Olentangy is 3-1-0-1 entering a Thursday, Nov. 29, game against Dublin Coffman in the first round of the Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin.
"It's going to help us that everybody is familiar with each other," Ross said. "For us, not a lot has changed. We know what we have to do to be successful. We're not going to be a team that comes out and overwhelms our opponents. We must be very disciplined and do the little things right. We'll have to compete every shift, every night. If we're able to do that, then I like our chances."
Senior forward Gabe Zipser led Olentangy in goals (17) and assists (18) a year ago as the Braves went 18-11-2-1 overall and 10-6 (20 points) in the league. Sophomore forward Landon Johnson had 14 goals and Falk and Gavin each scored 12.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Tommy Bell (forward), Ryan Cooney (defenseman), Noah English (forward), Brendan Johnston (forward), Justus Kuhtenia (forward), Ethan Miner (defenseman), Will Robey (defenseman), Cameron Stevenson (forward) and T.J. Vogel (defenseman), juniors Dominik Rusnak (goaltender) and Alec Rieser (defenseman) and sophomore Mitch Berger (forward).
In last weekend's Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin, Olentangy defeated Centerville 9-2 on Nov. 23 and Berlin 4-1 on Nov. 24, lost to Cleveland Heights 3-2 in a shootout later in the day Nov. 24 and beat Cleveland Benedictine 5-2 in the Varsity Red Division third-place game Nov. 25.
The Braves finished second in the CHC-White last year behind Cincinnati Moeller (25, 12-3-0-1).
"We've set our expectations high this year, at least I have," Ross said. "With our talent, there's a lot we can achieve."
Athletes announce college choices
In addition to Olivia Margolies, 11 more student-athletes announced their college decisions Nov. 14.
Lex Brookshire will run women's cross country and track and field at the University of Indianapolis, Ben Brewster will play baseball at Point Park, Cameron Casto will golf at Tiffin, Caden Kaiser will play baseball at Ohio State, Emily Margolies will play volleyball at Ohio University, Sean Marks will play basketball at Ohio Dominican, Connor McCulty will play baseball at Walsh, Bridget Parker will swim at Dartmouth, Maggie Samijlenko will play volleyball at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Jacob Sherman will wrestle at Kent State and McKenzie Sklar will play lacrosse at Kent State.
Nov. 23 -- Casstown Miami East in Skeeter Classic at Urbana
Nov. 24 -- Mechanicsburg in Skeeter Classic at Urbana
Nov. 27 -- at Caledonia River Valley
*Dec. 4 -- at Olentangy Liberty
*Dec. 7 -- at Westerville South
Dec. 11 -- at Delaware
*Dec. 14 -- vs. Westerville North
Dec. 15 -- at Dublin Coffman
*Dec. 21 -- at Westerville Central
Dec. 29 -- vs. Logan
*Jan. 4 -- at Olentangy Orange
Jan. 5 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
Jan. 8 -- vs. Upper Arlington
*Jan. 11 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
*Jan. 18 -- vs. Westerville South
Jan. 22 -- vs. Big Walnut
*Jan. 25 -- at Westerville North
Jan. 29 -- at Grandview
*Feb. 1 -- vs. Westerville Central
Feb. 5 -- at Hilliard Davidson
*Feb. 8 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
*Nov. 17 -- Thomas Worthington at Chiller North
Nov. 23 -- Centerville in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin
Nov. 24 -- Cleveland Heights and Olentangy Berlin in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin
Nov. 25 -- Cleveland Benedictine in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller Dublin
Nov. 29 -- Dublin Coffman in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin
Nov. 30 -- Newark in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin
Dec. 1 -- Dublin Jerome in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin
Dec. 2 -- TBD in Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin
*Dec. 7 -- St. Charles at OhioHealth Ice Haus
*Dec. 9 -- Gahanna at Chiller Easton
*Dec. 15 -- Columbus Academy at Chiller Easton
*Dec. 16 -- Dublin Coffman at Chiller North
*Dec. 22 -- Upper Arlington at Chiller North
Dec. 28-30 -- Holly-Daze Invitational Tournament at Bowling Green State University and The Cube
*Jan. 2 -- New Albany at Chiller North
Jan. 5 -- Dublin Scioto at Chiller Dublin
Jan. 6 -- Watterson at Chiller Dublin
Jan. 11 -- Olentangy Berlin at Chiller Easton
Jan. 12 -- Olentangy Orange at Chiller North
Jan. 13 -- Olentangy Liberty at OhioHealth Ice Haus
Jan. 18-20 -- Pioneer Classic at Chiller North
Jan. 25 -- Thomas Worthington at Chiller North
Jan. 26 -- Dublin Jerome at Chiller Dublin
*Jan. 27 -- DeSales at Chiller Easton
Feb. 2 -- Springboro at Chiller North
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy boys basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Nov. 30 -- At Westerville North
Dec. 4 -- Home vs. Mifflin
Nov. 30 -- Lexington at Delaware Lanes
Dec. 1 -- Red and Blue Classic at HP Lanes
*Dec. 3 -- New Albany at Delaware Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Nov. 30 -- Dublin Jerome at Dublin Community Recreation Center
Dec. 1 -- Olentangy Invitational