With his entire starting lineup back from last season, Columbus Academy boys golf coach Craig Yakscoe expects his team to contend for a third consecutive Division II state title.
The Vikings captured their ninth state championship last season, finishing with a two-day total of 625 to outdistance runner-up Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin (634). It was their third state title in five years.
Senior Ali Khan led the way, tying for second with a 154.
"After winning the last couple of state titles, everybody is shooting for them," said Yakscoe, who is in his sixth season. "I'm sure they have that expectation again. If they just play, it will happen. We have some great players. This is a pretty special group of kids that have really embraced the game and work hard at it."
Khan and senior Matthew Cammeyer were first-team all-state, and senior Kahmar Byers was second-team all-state.
"This is a really fun time of the year," said Khan, who again played in numerous summer events. "You're back with your friends, playing with the team, so it's a good time. We talk about the state titles and we see what we did wrong and what we can improve on, but we also look at what was good and what we can take away from it."
Also back are seniors Griffin Mitchell and Anay Reddy and sophomore Russell Ahmed.
Senior Shaan Arora, sophomore Aditya Reddy and freshman Stephen Ma are expected to contribute.
"We're all returning and we have a new freshman (Ma) coming in who has been playing strong," Khan said. "I feel this will be our best year and we'll have a strong showing in the postseason."
Academy began defense of its MSL-Ohio Division title by finishing first in the league's preseason tournament Aug. 6 at Westchester. The Vikings (291) finished ahead of Bexley (310), Wellington (320), Buckeye Valley (334) and Worthington Christian (343) as Mitchell earned medalist honors with a 71.
Cammeyer and Ahmed were part of a three-way tie for second (73), Byers tied for fifth (74), Khan was 13th (78) and Ma tied for 15th (81).
"This is a fun time of the year," Yakscoe said. "I just have to keep them playing, keep them focusing on their own game and doing their thing. It will be good to see what these guys can do this year."
Academy will compete in the MSL-Ohio midseason tournament Saturday, Aug. 17, at Turnberry.
Last season, Khan, Byers, Cammeyer and Mitchell were first-team all-league and Ahmed and Anay Reddy were second-team all-league.
Girls golf team begins first year
Maggie Freytag is coaching the school's first girls golf team.
The roster is comprised of freshmen Eva Baker, Quinn Black, Morgan Crain, Eliza Freytag, Grace Luo, Frances Lefkowitz-Pizzuti and Cami Seymore.
"Several of them have golf experience," said coach Freytag, who is Eliza's mother. "We have some new players, but they're all super excited to play and they're all doing so well. I'm really excited."
The Vikings competed in the MSL-Ohio preseason tournament Aug. 6 at Airport and finished fifth (411) behind Columbus School for Girls (353), Bexley (362), Buckeye Valley (399) and Worthington Christian (400). Wellington did not have enough golfers for a team score.
"There had been talk about it the last couple of years, but it never seemed to come to fruition," said Yakscoe, who is overseeing the program. "One of the players and their parents came to me sometime in the spring and asked if we could consider a girls team and it grew from there."
Girls tennis team aims for more success
The girls tennis team is looking to make return trips to the Division II individual and team state tournaments.
Junior Sydni Ratliff, who reached her second consecutive state singles final last season, has missed the preseason as she competes in the USTA Billie Jean King 18 and 16 national championships in San Diego.
Coach Tom Haddow, who is in his fifth season, hopes Ratliff eventually will join the Vikings.
Also back is junior Lauren Motta, who teamed with sophomore Carmen Merkel to finish 1-1 in doubles at state. Merkel is not competing for Academy this season, instead opting to play for Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Florida.
Senior Alex Graham also returns after helping the Vikings finish 15-1 overall last season and win the MSL-Ohio at 5-0.
"It's going to be a good year, so it will be a good one to end on," Graham said. "I've met some of my best friends through tennis, so all the girls are really close. The coaching is great."
Junior Carolyn Tsung, a transfer from Wexford (Pennsylvania) North Allegheny, is expected to contribute.
Other players are junior Sophie Sommer, sophomore Miya Tawari and freshmen Anna Chang, Naomi Chen and Emily Motta.
"We haven't had the whole team here," Haddow said. "Once we get everyone here, it could look like a decent team again."
Marc Wurtzman, who coaches the boys team, has joined the girls program as an assistant.
Academy opens Thursday, Aug. 15, at Pickerington North and begins defense of its league championship Aug. 22 at Grandview.
Last season, the Vikings competed in their second consecutive Ohio Tennis Coaches Association state team tournament, defeating Dayton Oakwood 3-1 in the third-place match after losing to Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown 3-0 in a semifinal.
Below are the coming schedules for the Columbus Academy boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 17 -- MSL-Ohio midseason tournament at Turnberry
*Aug. 15 -- Buckeye Valley and Worthington Christian at Oakhaven
*Aug. 19 -- Wellington and Columbus School for Girls at Raymond Memorial
Aug. 17 -- At Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy
Aug. 21 -- Home vs. Zanesville Rosecrans
Aug. 16 -- Home vs. Fairbanks
Aug. 15 -- At Pickerington North
Aug. 21 -- Home vs. Olentangy Berlin
Aug. 17 -- At Centerburg with Delaware Christian and Harvest Prep
April 20 -- Home vs. Grove City Christian