The St. Charles golf team got a taste of playing in the Division I state tournament last fall, and that sample made the Cardinals hungry in the offseason.
The drive to succeed and the added benefit of having an indoor facility at the Joey Castrodale Golf Center on the school's west campus have helped the Cardinals start the season strongly.
"That experience at state definitely helped this group," said coach Brian Unk, who is in his sixth season. "It helps playing at sectional and district because central Ohio has some of the best players and teams in the state."
Four of the five St. Charles participants at state have returned after the Cardinals finished seventh (664) of 12 teams behind champion Dublin Jerome (625) at Ohio State's Scarlet Course. Senior Vince Campagni tied for 30th (167), followed by junior Jason Zehala (tied for 33rd, 168), senior Michael Shyu (tied for 38th, 170) and junior Reece Yakubov (tied for 50th, 176).
"(Playing at state) was a good learning experience for us as a team," Campagni said. "I think we're playing great as a team. We have been playing solid rounds all season. We want to keep getting better because our goal is to get back to state."
The Cardinals opened by shooting a 294 to win the 14-team Thomas Worthington Preview on Aug. 5 at Delaware Golf Club as Campagni tied Westerville Central's Josh Qian for medalist honors with a 72.
Campagni and junior Jake Lowis both shot 69 to lead St. Charles (279) to the title in the 20-team Mount Vernon Invitational on Aug. 9 at Chapel Hill.
The Cardinals also won the 18-team Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit Invitational on Aug. 14 at Brookledge with a 296. Campagni shot 71 and junior Luke Gutman added a 72.
"Our schedule is pretty front-loaded," Unk said. "We played 11 of the first 12 days of the season, trying to get in as many events before school starts. We have been in the Cleveland, Cincinnati and Akron areas trying to play against as many good teams as we can."
The Cardinals also won the CCL preseason tournament Aug. 15 at Apple Valley with a 289, ahead of Watterson (302), Hartley (330) and DeSales (353).
Sophomore Brandon Nowery was medalist with a 69. Nowery transferred from Worthington Christian, but could only play in the first 10 matches because of OHSAA transfer rules. The CCL preseason tournament was his final outing of the season.
The league postseason event is Sept. 22 at Denison Golf Club.
Senior Liam Eldred rounds out the roster.
"I think when we're firing on all cylinders, we're as good as anyone," Unk said. "The hard part is keeping that consistency. We have to keep our high level of concentration and focus."
Seniors to determine fate of soccer squad
The soccer team is counting on 16 seniors to lead the way in its pursuit of a third consecutive Division I district championship.
The Cardinals finished 15-4-2 overall last season, losing to Olentangy Liberty 2-1 in overtime in a regional final. They also won their third CCL title in four years by going 4-0 in the league.
"We have 16 seniors on roster, so it's a veteran type of team," said coach Chris Vonau, who is in his fourth season. "We have some guys with a lot of experience and some without, but they are buying in pretty quickly so we're looking to reload."
Vonau expects the Cardinals' top scoring threats to be senior forwards Finn O'Reilly and Ben Saas as well as senior midfielder/forward Hayden Hospel. Senior Will Byorth (second-team all-league) returns to lead the defense, where he'll get help from seniors Tyler Cunningham (defender/forward), Ryan Gora (defender/midfielder) and Josh Remeis (defender/midfielder).
"I like the fact that we have been tested over the past few years and they have a lot of experience under their belts," said Vonau, whose team opened Aug. 20 against Hilliard Bradley. "They have a lot of grit. We also have a lot of flexibility in terms of positioning, which helps from a coaching standpoint."
Junior Jake Koehler is expected to replace 2019 graduate Joe Marchionda at goalkeeper. Senior defenders Nick Kotte and Brendan McGinn and juniors Joe Roberts (defender) and Brady West (midfielder) also should play key roles.
"We should be strong with our set pieces again," Vonau said. "I'd put us up against anyone in terms of set-piece efficiency. We have some guys like Tyler, Finn, Nick and Brendan who have a lot of aerial ability."
The Cardinals open CCL play Sept. 5 against Watterson.
Below are the coming schedules for the St. Charles cross country, golf, soccer and water polo teams:
Aug. 24 -- Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North
Aug. 24 -- Hunting Valley University School Invitational at Windmill Lakes
Aug. 24 -- Home vs. Springboro
Aug. 23-24 -- Ann Arbor (Mich.) Pioneer Early Bird Invitational