Only three of the top seven runners have returned for the Columbus School for Girls cross country team after the Unicorns qualified for the Division III regional meet last season.
"We didn't have a good year for recruiting, as none of the incoming freshmen came out to join us," third-year coach Patrick Helgerman said. "Plus, we lost two varsity runners to other schools, including our No. 1 runner last year (sophomore Rebecca Tepper).
"But to balance that, we have several very talented girls back and our summer conditioning has improved. We are noticeably ahead of where we were last year conditioning-wise."
CSG placed third at district last season to advance to regional despite not having any runners who would have advanced individually. Returnees from the postseason lineup are sophomores Molly Pawlik, Lauren Sloan and Natasha Spivak.
"Natasha is a natural endurance athlete," Helgerman said. "She's a champion swimmer, she loves to run and she can run forever. Lauren is a fierce competitor with great speed and she will not be outkicked. Molly is a quiet competitor with high potential. She and Lauren work together well as a team."
Expected to join Pawlik, Sloan and Spivak in the top seven are seniors Katrina D'Arms, Sabrina Morse and Katie Pawlik and sophomore Esther Woda.
Also on the team are seniors Asia Nguyen and Nadeen Tantash and sophomores Abigail Falk, Makenna McCoy and Neva Schehl.
The Unicorns opened Aug. 17 in the OHSAA Early Season Invitational at National Trail Raceway, placing fifth (169 points) of 12 teams behind champion Morrow Little Miami (38) in their division. They were led by Spivak (10th, 17 minutes, 23.3 seconds), followed by Sloan (17th, 17:33.1), Morse (18th, 17:38.1), McCoy (94th 21:24.9) and Woda (97th, 21:32.9).
In the Galion Northmor Invitational on Aug. 19, Spivak (seventh, 23:05.24) and Sloan (20th, 24:27.9) helped CSG place fourth (118) in an eight-team field, behind the host Golden Knights (29).
Soccer team has new coach, league
The soccer team returned 12 letterwinners and is seeking to improve on last season, when it went 7-10-1 overall and 1-3 in its final season in the CCL.
CSG has moved to the MSL-Ohio Division with Bexley, Buckeye Valley, Columbus Academy, Grandview, Wellington, Whitehall and Worthington Christian and opened league play Aug. 28 against Wellington.
"These girls have a strong work ethic," first-year coach Genelle Castro said. "Regardless of ability level, this team works at 110 percent until the very end. We pride ourselves on being fit enough to play 80 minutes with ease. When other teams start to get tired, these girls don't."
Castro replaced Mindy Hammond, who guided the program for 10 seasons.
The Unicorns have six returning starters in seniors Addie Arthur (midfielder), Blair Glimcher (forward/midfielder), Fu Xiang Maynard (midfielder/forward) and Greta Schoettmer (defender), junior Eva Nicolosi (defender) and sophomore Emma Spangler (goalkeeper).
"Blair is a workhorse," Castro said. "She is extremely versatile and there were many times last season where she played up, back and in the middle within the same game. Eva is competitive, fast and extremely hard-working. She played every minute of every game last year.
"Emma is extremely solid in goal and although young, she really came into her own in the goal and became a vocal leader on the field."
Sophomore Tori Johnson and freshman Carmen Albrecht will be key players at forward, while senior Addie Arthur and sophomore Allie Renshaw will bolster the midfield.
Joining Schoettmer and Nicolosi in the back will be sophomore Carly Priest and freshman Annie Wagenbrenner.
Also on the team are juniors Leah Giller (midfielder) and Sydney Horner (forward/midfielder), sophomores Kayden Edwards (forward/defender) and Evelyn McCarthy (defender) and freshmen Lina Jeffers (defender) and Claudia Jones (defender).
The Unicorns were 2-1 before playing Fairbanks on Aug. 26.
CSG beat Central Crossing 4-0 in its opener Aug. 19 as Albrecht scored twice and Glimcher and Giller both scored a goal and defeated Groveport 4-1 on Aug. 22 before falling to Shaker Heights Laurel 3-0 on Aug. 24.
Volleyball team thinking big
The volleyball team returns plenty of experience and third-year coach Clint Gentry is optimistic about its hopes of winning the MSL-Ohio title.
"We have high expectations and our goal is to enter the MSL-Ohio with a bang and win a title this year," said Gentry, whose team finished 8-12 overall and 0-8 in the CCL last season.
"A few things have to happen for that to occur, but we are optimistic."
The Unicorns know what they have in their top returnees, who include seniors Peyton Jackson (defensive specialist) and McKenzie Stringer (setter) and juniors Emma Salamon (middle hitter) and Bella Sloan (outside hitter).
"McKenzie and Bella have really stood out early this season, as has Isabella Luckage," Gentry said.
"She is a freshman starting at libero for us, but there's a lot on her shoulders as a freshman libero. She's very important to our defense."
Other key players are seniors Eileen Boyle (right-side hitter), Emily Donat (defensive specialist) Bella Lyons (defensive specialist) and Frances Poth (middle hitter). Completing the roster are senior Khari Lamar (libero/defensive specialist) and junior Alex Rodgers (middle hitter/outside hitter).
The Unicorns opened Aug. 19 by beating West Jefferson 25-21, 25-8, 25-22. They then lost to Bloom-Carroll 13-25, 25-18, 22-25, 25-20, 17-15 on Aug. 20 and fell to 1-2 with a 25-12, 25-6, 25-15 loss to Newark Catholic on Aug. 22.
CSG began MSL-Ohio play Aug. 27 against Worthington Christian.
Below are the coming schedules for the Columbus School for Girls field hockey, golf, soccer, tennis and volleyball teams:
*Sept. 4 -- At Worthington Kilbourne
*Aug. 29 -- Worthington Christian at Blacklick Woods
Sept. 4 -- At Zanesville Rosecrans
*Aug. 29 -- At Buckeye Valley
Sept. 4 -- Home vs. Olentangy Berlin
*Aug. 29 -- At Buckeye Valley
*Sept. 3 -- Home vs. Whitehall