Sophie Ballou was confident enough in her talent that she hoped she would be the focal point of the Upper Arlington High School girls lacrosse team's offense this season.

Still, the senior attacker wasn't exactly sure what to expect given that the Golden Bears lost 321 goals to graduation among its top five scorers from a year ago when UA won its fourth consecutive Division I state championship.

"We had so many older girls last year that I really didn't know how this year would go for me," Ballou said. "It definitely gave me the opportunity to step up as a captain and be a leader."

Ballou, whose 25 goals a season ago were best among the returnees, had a team-high 64 goals and six assists through 18 games this season. Top-seeded UA was 14-2-2 overall before playing host to 11th-seeded Miamisburg in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 tournament May 14 at Tremont Elementary.

Ballou and coach Wendy Pinta agree she hasn't racked up those numbers because of her power.

"She's had all the makings of a strong attacker for a number of years and the past couple seasons, she's been more of a supporting player with some strong and dominant attackers we've had. Sophie is a finesse attacker," Pinta said. "She can execute a backdoor cut like nobody's business. I'd call our attackers other than Sophie power attackers, but that's just not her style of play. She's just quick and fast. She can thread the needle in terms of catching and cutting and can dodge between traffic. The timing thing, she has that down."

Ballou said her style is a complement to her team's powerful group of midfielders.

"Coach is absolutely right," Ballou said. "The midfielders are the power shooters on our team. That takes a lot of strength. A lot of my goals come from free-position shots, but that still means I have to get down toward the goal and maybe get a shooting space violation called."

Ballou scored a career-high eight goals May 3 in a 15-all tie at Cincinnati Sycamore and followed that up with six goals in an 11-10 win at Dublin Jerome on May 7.

The Bears finished the regular season May 11 with an 11-10 win over Rockford (Michigan). Ballou had three goals, including the team's last two, as UA trailed 3-0 early in the game and 6-4 at halftime.

The UA-Miamisburg winner will play ninth-seeded Centerville or 10th-seeded Hilliard Darby in a regional quarterfinal Friday, May 17, at the home of the better seed. That winner will take on third-seeded Thomas Worthington, sixth-seeded Pickerington Central, 12th-seeded Beavercreek or 13th-seeded Hilliard Davidson in a regional semifinal Tuesday, May 20. The regional final is May 23.

UA defeated Central 18-4 on April 4, Marysville 20-1 on April 9, Thomas 12-6 on April 13 and Davidson 17-2 on April 24.

"We're working hard and we can do even better," said Ballou, who will attend Ohio University and major in health sciences. "A lot of girls have stepped up all year. We've been running our plays well and we'll see where we go."

Track teams finish third in league

Ellen Sneed's wins in the high jump (5 feet, 9 inches) and long jump (15-9 1/2) and a first-place finish from Cassidy Baran in the 400 meters (1 minute, .06 of a second) led the girls track and field team in the OCC-Central Division meet held May 9 and 11 at Davidson.

Runner-up finishes from Caroline Beery in the pole vault (10-6) and Adrienne Wachtman in both the discus (111-9) and shot put (36-4) helped UA score 114 points and finish third behind the host Wildcats (189) and Coffman (123) and ahead of Marysville (74), Central Crossing (15) and Westland (8).

The boys team scored 93 points and finished third behind Coffman (151) and Davidson (150) and ahead of Marysville (67), Central Crossing (54) and Westland (6).

Mason McHugh won the pole vault (11-6), Isaac Perry finished second in both the 110 hurdles (15.43) and 300 hurdles (39.45) and Charlie Nowinski was runner-up in the 3,200 (9:54.24).

Both teams are competing in the Division I district meet this week at Hilliard Darby.

The girls are in district 1, which began May 14, continues Thursday, May 16, and concludes Saturday, May 18, while the boys are in district 2, which began May 14, continued May 15 and concludes May 18.

The top four finishers in each event advance to regional Wednesday, May 22, and May 24 at Pickerington North. At regional, the top four finishers in each event advance to state May 31 and June 1 at Ohio State.

Baseball team moves on from title

The baseball team gave itself a little time to celebrate winning the OCC-Central championship, its first league title since 2003, but coach Sam Clark wanted the Bears to move on to their next goal of winning a Division I district championship.

"It's an awesome achievement and something to be proud of," Clark said. "At their five- or 10-year reunions, I hope they're talking about this and how proud they are of that accomplishment, but for the next few weeks, it doesn't mean anything. District is our biggest goal right now."

Seventh-seeded UA was 17-9 overall before playing host to 29th-seeded Westerville South in the second round of the district tournament May 15 and finished 13-2 in the OCC-Central.

After clinching the league title May 6 with a 15-2 win over Westland, the Bears lost to Davidson 13-0 on May 7 and Marysville 6-3 on May 8 before edging Coffman 3-2 in eight innings on May 10.

The second-round winner will play 10th-seeded Coffman or 30th-seeded Pickerington Central in a district semifinal Monday, May 20, at a neutral site. That winner will face fourth-seeded Olentangy Liberty, 12th-seeded Dublin Scioto, 21st-seeded Canal Winchester, 31st-seeded Marion Harding, 32nd-seeded Reynoldsburg or 47th-seeded Columbus West in a district final Wednesday, May 22. The district champion advances to a regional semifinal May 30 at Coffman.

UA also defeated Coffman 9-3 on April 29 and 5-4 on April 30.

"When I got here in July, we set three goals right away - to win the league, to get 20 wins and win a district championship," Clark said. "We've taken care of one and now we have the chance to do the other two."

Six tennis players advance to district

Two singles players and two doubles teams will represent the boys tennis team in the Division I district tournament Thursday, May 16, and Saturday, May 18, at Reynoldsburg.

In UA's home sectional held May 9 and 11, Paige Kompa and Will Reynolds went 4-0 to win the doubles championship, defeating teammates Emerson Dean and Nathan Yu 6-3, 6-2 in the final. Hunter Triplett went 3-1 in singles, defeating teammate Nick Gruss 6-4, 6-3 in the third-place match.

The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district.

Also competing but failing to advance was singles player Lance Li (0-1).

At district, the top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to state May 24 and 25 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.

Softball squad reaches district final

A six-run inning, highlighted by a three-run home run from Olivia Carlton and a solo homer from Kaylee Ballou, powered the 13th-seeded softball team to an 11-7 upset of fourth-seeded Groveport in a Division I district semifinal May 13 at Pickerington Central.

Becca Turner added a solo home run in the third as UA improved to 17-10 and advanced into a district final Friday, May 17, at Central against top-seeded Westerville Central or 20th-seeded Darby.

UA opened the postseason with a 10-3 second-round win over 22nd-seeded New Albany on May 8 at Tremont Elementary. Turner hit a solo home run in the fourth inning and pitcher Maxine McCraw struck out five and allowed six hits.

The district champion will play Coffman, Delaware or Grove City in a regional semifinal Wednesday, May 22, at Ohio State. The regional final is May 25 at Ohio State.

The Bears split their OCC-Central games with Coffman, winning 10-1 on April 18 and losing 13-2 on May 1.

Boys lacrosse team starts postseason

After splitting its two Midwest Scholastic Lacrosse Coaches Association tournament games last weekend at Fortress Obetz, the top-seeded boys lacrosse team played host to 14th-seeded Kettering Fairmont in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 tournament May 14 at Wellington.

UA was 13-5 before playing Fairmont. The Bears lost to Cincinnati St. Xavier 7-6 on May 10 but rebounded to rout Saltsburg (Pennsylvania) Kiski School 14-3 the next day behind four goals from Sam Campbell and two each from A.J. Achatz, Cooper Ellis, Nathan Junk and Luke Tzagournis.

The UA-Fairmont winner will play 10th-seeded Miamisburg or 11th-seeded Hilliard Bradley in regional quarterfinal Friday, May 17, at the home of the better seed. That winner will play third-seeded New Albany, fifth-seeded Thomas, sixth-seeded St. Charles or 15th-seeded Gahanna in a regional semifinal Tuesday, May 21. The regional final is May 24.

UA defeated Gahanna 24-1 on April 25.

Boys volleyball team preps for tourney

The boys volleyball team was 3-16 overall before participating in the OCC Challenge on May 14 at Darby, and found out its postseason path the previous night during the Division I East Region tournament draw.

The Bears are seeded 17th of 19 teams in the region and will visit fourth-seeded Jerome for a second-round match Saturday, May 18. The winner will play third-seeded Gahanna, 10th-seeded Davidson or 16th-seeded Westerville North in a regional semifinal Tuesday, May 21, at Mount Vernon.

The regional final is May 24.

UA lost to Gahanna 25-22, 25-12, 25-17 on April 9 and 25-14, 25-16, 25-13 on April 30, fell to Davidson 25-21, 25-14, 25-16 on April 11 and 25-14, 25-18, 25-12 on May 2 and lost to North 19-25, 25-22, 25-17, 25-16 on April 27.

UA lost both of its matches last week, falling 26-24, 25-13, 25-19 at Pickerington Central on May 7 to finish 3-11 in the OCC-Ohio and 25-11, 25-10, 29-27 the next night at St. Charles.

The Bears will wrap up the regular season Thursday, May 16, at Briggs.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave