Led by junior Josh Qian, the Westerville Central boys golf team has aspirations of returning to the Division I district tournament.
Qian, who again played in national events over the summer, tied for seventh at district a year ago with a 75 as the Warhawks finished 12th. He hopes to qualify for his first state tournament this season.
"The goal is the same as every year, we want to make it to state, but there are a lot of good teams this year so we're going to have to play well," Qian said. "I have to putt better. I'm hitting the ball pretty well right now."
Junior Quinn Gallagher (87, tied for 61st) and sophomore Ryan Dollenmayer (83, tied for 47th) also competed at district last season. Qian led the OCC-Buckeye Division with a 72.75 average and was league Player of the Year.
"I'm excited about this year," seventh-year coach Kyle Baker said. "We still have a young crew. Our first three guys are returning varsity players. We're still young, but they have a lot of experience varsity-wise. I'm looking forward to having a young team with young leaders."
Qian opened this season on a positive note, shooting a 72 to earn co-medalist honors with St. Charles' Vince Campagni in the Thomas Worthington Preview on Aug. 5 at Delaware Golf Club.
"Josh is really solid," Baker said. "He had a really good summer, so I'm excited for him just to see how he continues to build and play. He's set a precedent of competition for our team and the other guys are trying to catch him, which I believe is making the other guys much better. I really like that. Our team gets along really well. It's a really fun group of guys."
The Warhawks finished seventh (321) of 14 teams behind champion St. Charles (294).
Central opened the four-round OCC-Buckeye tournament Aug. 6 at Turnberry by finishing third (326) behind first-place Olentangy Orange (301). Qian was third (73), while Dollenmayer finished 11th (80) and Gallagher tied for 12th (82).
Other golfers are senior Heath Jeffers and sophomore Brady Urian.
"We're really trying to ramp up the competition in the program, so I'm looking forward to how the j.v. guys do and I hope that they push the varsity for the last few spots," Baker said. We're just waiting for Oct. 1 and sectionals and we'll play the five best players."
Last season, Central went 8-8 in the league to finish third behind champion Olentangy Liberty (14-2).
"We have one of the strongest divisions," Baker said. "There are some really good teams in there. Olentangy is very good. Olentangy Orange is very good and Liberty returns a ton of guys. ... Our guys can compete, they want to compete and they want to play against the best."
The Warhawks finished third (312) in the second round of the league tournament Aug. 12 at Apple Valley behind first-place Liberty (298). Qian tied for third (74) and Dollenmayer tied for ninth (77).
Dollenmayer, Gallagher and Qian are golfing for a worthwhile cause this season, as their birdies and pars will benefit Freedom a la Cart, an organization that provides assistance for victims of human trafficking.
"My first three guys have gotten some sponsorships and obviously they're looking for more," Baker said. "I'm really proud of the guys. Everything that they do this year is playing for much more. They're playing for themselves, their community, their school. They're playing for this charity. It's really cool and it's very mature of some young guys."
Girls golf team returns solid group
The girls golf team should be led by senior Grace Welty, who shot an 85 in a Division I sectional tournament last season.
Senior Anna Borders (99) and juniors Zoei Tee (103) and Katelyn Neil (106) also competed at sectional.
"It's a bit of a different year because we lost five seniors from last year," sixth-year coach Aaron Starkey said. "It's a different complexion of this team this year, but the best thing we have going for us is our core is back. Grace is the one I'm relying on the most. This is her second year as my No. 1. She's been one of the better players for me."
The Warhawks opened the four-round OCC-Buckeye tournament Aug. 8 at New Albany Links by finishing third (375) behind first-place Liberty (353). Welty earned medalist honors with a 78 and Neil shot an 85.
The second round was Aug. 14 at Mentel Memorial.
Other golfers are senior Paige Dieter, junior Alexis Jacobson and sophomore Lucia Parrill.
Last season, Central went 11-9 in league play to finish third behind champion Orange (20-0).
"I'm curious to see what the complexion of our division will be this year because I know Westerville South had some girls they picked up," Starkey said. "Westerville North has some girls they picked up, so I'm expecting them to be a little more competitive. ... I'm curious to see where we wind up and how things shake out, but I like the experience that we have coming back to the table."
Burks expected to lead girls tennis team
Junior Levi Burks returns to the girls tennis team after going 0-1 in her first Division I district tournament last season.
Second-year coach Brad Baker expects Burks to improve on that effort.
"Levi has been (playing) first singles since she was a freshman," Baker said. "She made district last year, so we're looking to improve on that. We'd like to get a little deeper."
Also back are senior Madison Lane at second singles and junior Vivian Baker, the coach's daughter, at third singles.
Sophomore Audrey Rupp and freshman Sidney Choo are expected to play first doubles. Sophomore Kaylie Gibson should play second doubles, with juniors Hannah Lyons and Dilara Sen and sophomores Alyssa Boyd and Annabel Krueck vying for the other spot.
The Warhawks opened Aug. 13 against Big Walnut and begin OCC-Buckeye play Aug. 22 at North. Last season, they went 12-6 overall and 2-3 in the league to finish fourth behind champion Orange (5-0).
"We're going to be looking at where can we make our improvements and things like let's not lose every court, let's get Levi a little deeper into district, maybe I can get another kid into district, that would be a success," Baker said. "I want the program to be recognized. When someone plays Central, we just want to be part of the conversation where we have a great tennis program."
Below are the coming schedules for the Central boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 17 -- Cincinnati Moeller Invitational at Walden Ponds
Aug. 19 -- Olentangy at Oakhaven
Aug. 20 -- Hilliard Davidson at The Ridge
Aug. 16 -- At Upper Arlington
Aug. 19 -- Home vs. Watkins Mem-orial
Aug. 16 -- Home vs. Bexley
Aug. 20 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne
Aug. 15 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central
Aug. 16 -- Home vs. Hartley
Aug. 20 -- At Gahanna
Aug. 16 -- Home vs. Central
Aug. 20 -- At UA