After having no seniors last winter, the Olentangy Liberty High School boys swimming and diving team began this season with a much more experienced roster, and with that has come higher expectations.
"The big focus the guys have set for themselves is that we want to be more competitive in the bigger (invitationals)," second-year coach Peter Krosnosky said. "We're kind of taking the (mindset) that you can win all of your games and not be successful in the postseason or you can struggle a little and do better when the (postseason) comes."
The return of sophomore diver Jack Matthews and a six-member senior class should help the Patriots in their pursuit of success after they won the OCC-Buckeye Division title last year and followed with a fourth-place sectional finish and a 10th-place district finish.
Matthews was Liberty's only boys Division I state qualifier last season, finishing third with 513.7 points.
Other returning divers include juniors Michael Boothman and Cameron Friedauer, who were seventh and 11th, respectively, at district last season.
Returning after competing at district last winter are seniors Matthew Patterson (100-yard backstroke), Christopher Tracewell (200 freestyle, 500 free) and Alexander Wisler (50 free, 100 free) and juniors John Bently (100 free, 200 free), Andrew Gehring (100 butterfly), Eli Grubbs (200 individual medley), Isaac Iversen (100 breaststroke), Max Miller (100 breast) and Nick Sells (100 fly, 200 IM).
Junior Blake Overly and freshman Gavin Weis are others looking to contribute.
The other seniors are Jamie Hessing, Jack Hiltner and Riley Yant.
On Dec. 1, Liberty lost to Upper Arlington 101-85 in its opener as Bently won the 50 free (21.65) and 100 back (55.21), Grubbs won the 100 breast (1:06.16), Wisler won the 100 fly (53.55), Boothman was first in diving (219) and the 200 medley relay won in 1:40.52.
Saczawa, Beavers lead girls swim team
The girls swimming team returns one Division I state qualifier from last season in junior Kate Saczawa.
Another top returnee is senior Hannah Beavers, who has committed to Toledo.
"The girls team is going to have a very different relay roster and it's going to be kind of fun to see who of the new kids steps up," Krosnosky said. "The girls team did take on a lot of new athletes."
Liberty tied for 10th at state last season as Saczawa finished third in the 100 back (55.6) and 11th in the 50 free (23.88). She also swam on the 200 free relay that was seventh (1:36.61) and the 400 free relay that was 14th (3:34.95).
Beavers was a district qualifier in the 100 back and 100 fly, and senior Michaela Neal was a district qualifier in the 200 IM.
Other key returnees include seniors Hailey Blythe and Grace Skoog, junior Lydia Colvin and sophomores Sarah Beavers and Holly Gabriel.
Sophomore Olivia Lynch and freshman Kaitlyn Mathews are divers.
Sophomore newcomer Brooke Kleinschmidt and freshmen Meggie Gehring and Amelia Wells also are looking to contribute.
Graduation losses include Rachel Peroni, who is competing for Duke after finishing second at state in the 100 fly. She also was fourth in the 100 back and swam on the 200 and 400 free relays.
Senior Lila Leary, who was on both state relays, is not back with the team.
Liberty lost to Upper Arlington 139-47 on Dec. 1.
"Our plan is to still hopefully qualify relays and individuals to the state meet and make sure that (Saczawa has) got some company," Krosnosky said.
Pifher settling in for girls squad
Junior forward Teegan Pifher started to find her groove once OCC-Buckeye action began for the girls basketball team.
During a 54-31 victory over Olentangy on Dec. 4 to open league play, the Patriots outscored the Braves 30-12 over the final two quarters as Pifher scored 13 points.
Liberty was 3-2 overall after losing to Dublin Coffman 68-50 on Dec. 8 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland and returns to league play Thursday, Dec. 13, at home against Westerville South. Coffman was a Division I district runner-up and South was a regional runner-up last season.
"The bench was jumping off their feet and the energy and enthusiasm was just so high (against Olentangy)," Pifher said. "In the first half, our shots didn't really fall, but in the second half we ran through our offense and that gave us some open looks."
Pifher, who scored 15 points in a 57-25 victory over Orange on Dec. 7, was first-team all-league as a freshman but suffered a season-ending injury just three games into last season.
She also had 15 points against Coffman, which led the Patriots 38-27 at halftime.
"Last year I didn't expect the game to be taken away from me, and to be able to go back out there with my teammates has been awesome," Pifher said. "Physically I feel good. It's just been partially mentally getting back into the flow of things."
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 1 -- at Upper Arlington
Dec. 7-8 -- Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 14 -- Kenyon College diving meet
Dec. 15 -- Northwest Classic at Bowling Green
Dec. 21 -- Delaware County Classic at Ohio Wesleyan
Jan. 5 -- Pickerington Central at Liberty Township/Powell YMCA
Jan. 11-12 -- Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium in Canton
Jan. 18 -- Dublin Coffman at Dublin Recreation Center
Jan. 19 -- Columbus School for Girls Invitational (diving only)
Jan. 26 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at Thomas Worthington
Feb. 2 -- Columbus School for Girls Invitational
Below are the coming schedules for the Liberty boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 14 -- At Westerville South
Dec. 15 -- At Marysville
*Dec. 13 -- Home vs. Westerville South
Dec. 18 -- Home vs. Marysville
*Dec. 13 -- Westerville North at Sawmill Lanes
*Dec. 19 -- Westerville Central at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
Dec. 15 -- Hilliard Invitational at Hilliard Davidson
Dec. 14 -- Lakewood St. Edward at OBM Arena in Strongsville
Dec. 15 -- Parma Padua and Parma Heights Holy Name at OBM Arena
Dec. 16 -- TBA at OBM Arena
*Dec. 17 -- Dublin Coffman at Chiller Dublin
Dec. 14-15 -- Liberty Classic