During last year's Division I sectional at Denison Golf Club at Granville, the Watterson boys golf team turned in a 327 that left it 11 strokes away from advancing to the district tournament.
A strong senior class and a talented sophomore have the Eagles believing they might be able to close the gap on the competition when they hit the postseason.
Six of the team's top seven players last fall have returned.
"Last year, we were close to making it out of sectionals and I can't help but believe we can make it to district this year," 12th-year coach Olin Melaragno said. "We'll be formidable in our league. We're going to take it a step at a time."
Watterson begins CCL action Thursday, Aug. 15, with the league's preseason tournament at Apple Valley. The other league round is Sept. 22 at Apple Valley.
Sophomore Carson Trafford and senior Fred Gilbert should lead the way.
At sectional last season, Gilbert shot a 78 to tie for 11th and end up a three-way playoff for the final individual district berth. Olentangy Berlin's Brady Casto won the playoff on the third hole.
Trafford carded a 79 at sectional and averaged in the mid-70s during tryouts.
The other returnees are seniors Ryan Newcomb, Michael Reis, Max Ritchey and Patrick Sellers. Reis shot 82 at sectional last season.
Ritchey is in just his third season competing in the sport but has taken a big step forward the past few months, according to Melaragno.
Freshman Deacon Pinson also is expected to be a key player for the Eagles, who have 14 players in the program.
The only key player not back is Chris Finissi, a 2019 graduate who missed time late last season with an injury.
"Tryouts (went) extremely well," Melaragno said. "I have 10 back so I'm really excited about that. I'm also disappointed at the same time because last year we had 16 and this year we've only 14. I've talked to a couple other coaches and their participation numbers are down, too."
Girls golf team hopes to surprise
Mike Crotty was named girls golf coach during the offseason, replacing Debbie Weis, who stepped down after four seasons.
Thus far, Crotty, who serves as president of the Central District Girls Golf Coaches Association and coached Thomas Worthington from 2014-17, has been impressed with the Eagles.
"I'm very thankful to have the job," he said. "This year we're going to surprise a lot of people. If we don't this year, we will for sure next year."
The Eagles' roster consists of one senior, two juniors and eight sophomores.
Senior Sammy Politz carded a 90 at the Division I sectional last season at Westchester as Watterson shot 366 to finish fourth, falling one spot shy of advancing to district.
Sophomore Anna Stauffer, who shot a 96 at sectional, also is a key returnee.
Junior Victoria Alves and sophomores Sophia Roncone and Amelia Walker are expected to be other regulars in the lineup.
Junior Katherine McGrath and sophomores Hannah Ashmore and Brooke Davenport are battling for playing time.
Watterson finished third in the CCL last year at 4-4 behind co-champions DeSales and Columbus School for Girls (7-1) and began league action Aug. 14 with the CCL preseason tournament at NorthStar. The other round of the league tournament is Oct. 5 at NorthStar.
The biggest loss from last season is 2019 graduate Lizzy Steffensmeier, who shot an 81 to finish 11th at sectional.
"Central Ohio is loaded in girls golf," Crotty said. "I have 11 girls this year and have got some good players. All of these players are going to work heavily on putting, and we're going to be tough."
Tennis program building depth
The girls tennis team is hoping to benefit from strong participation numbers this fall.
There initially were 25 players who came out for the program, with eighth-year coach Susan Weil opting to keep eight on varsity.
The Eagles opened Aug. 9 by beating Dayton Chaminade Julienne 3-2 and faced Upper Arlington on Aug. 14.
Watterson is the defending CCL champion and begins league action Sept. 3 at home against Ready. CSG, which won the league two seasons ago, is no longer in the CCL.
"We had a lot of girls that played different sports in the past come out because they'd heard tennis is fun," Weil said. "We'll have eight on varsity and eight on j.v. and we're feeling pretty good about it."
Junior Caroline Goodlive returns at first singles after reaching the second round of a Division I sectional in singles.
Seniors Margaret Baur, Caroline Bouchard, Layne Geswein and Abby Giesler also have returned.
Geswein lost in a quarterfinal at sectional in singles last year and likely will play third singles, while Baur and Giesler likely will see significant time at first doubles.
Bouchard spent most of last season at second doubles.
Senior Erin McClatchy is expected to be the regular at second singles. She didn't make the team as a freshman but played j.v. as a sophomore before attending Wellington last school year.
Junior Isabella Roscoe, who previously had competed for the girls golf team, and freshman Katherine Braidech are new to the team.
Below are the coming schedules for the Watterson field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
*Aug. 21 -- At Hartley in opener
Aug. 15 -- CCL preseason tournament at Apple Valley
Aug. 17 -- Cincinnati Moeller Invitational at Walden Ponds
Aug. 20 -- St. Charles at The Lakes
Aug. 19 -- Canal Winchester at West-chester
Aug. 20 -- Newark Catholic at The Links at Echo Springs
Aug. 16 -- At Worthington Christian in opener
Aug. 19 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto
Aug. 17 -- At Thomas Worthington in opener
Aug. 20 -- Home vs. Delaware
Aug. 17 -- Columbus School for Girls Invitational
Aug. 17 -- Home vs. Cincinnati Ursuline Academy