New Albany assistant cross country Greg Flecher spent a few minutes after the season-opening New Albany Invitational on Aug. 19 trying to convince junior Victor Orsinelli that he can reach the 16-minute mark this season.

Orsinelli had just finished second in a personal-best 17 minutes, 8.8 seconds on a humid 90-degree day and initially he was skeptical of Flecher's optimism.

"It's definitely something I am shooting for, but it's not something I was thinking about entering the (season)," Orsinelli said. "I was waiting to see how the races would play out first, but I will shoot for it if coach says so."

Last year, 16 minutes would have put Orsinelli second in the Division I regional meet and sixth at state. Advancing to those meets are among the boys team's top goals coming off a year in which it finished first in the OCC-Capital Division, fifth at district and 15th at regional.

The majority of the lineup returns, including seniors Pedro Faerman and Eric Von Zastrow, juniors Ethan McNichols and Colin Swincicki and sophomores Will Benseler and Luke Weibel. Sophomore Evan McClelland also competed with the team at regional.

McNichols was the Eagles' top runner in 10 of their 11 races last year.

New Albany began this season by winning the 10-team New Albany Invitational, scoring 35 points to edge runner-up Hilliard Darby (44). McNichols was fifth (17:32.4), followed by Swincicki (sixth, 17:37.8), Benseler (seventh, 17:39.1) and Weibel (15th, 18:24.7).

"We've been young and there's no one different up there. They're talented runners making good progress," fourth-year coach John Galbreath said. "It will come down to a good (fifth runner). Colin is always a solid fourth man, but sometimes we struggled with our fifth runner last year. Luke Weibel filled in a little bit. We're looking for somebody to push those guys."

Other expected contributors include senior Nick Reese, junior Aditya Akula, sophomores Eric Dehmer, Sebastian Ramirez and Armaan Rizvi and freshman Lleyton Axline.

New Albany finished seventh (185) of 18 teams in the Panther Division of the Pickerington Classic on Aug. 24 at Pickerington North behind the champion and host Panthers (59). It won the Canal Winchester Invitational on Aug. 28 with 51 points, 16 ahead of the runner-up and host Indians.

Younger runners also are leading the girls team.

Freshman E'Moni Saxton paced the Eagles in the New Albany Invitational, finishing sixth (20:41.9) to lead New Albany to 56 points and second of seven teams behind Bexley (21). Also scoring were sophomore Sammie Sika (10th, 21:19.7), junior Mary Carson (12th, 21:39.1), sophomore Ellie Haffer (15th, 21:46.6) and freshman Stephanie Thomas (21:47.6).

Freshman Mary Thomas (19th, 21:52.4) and senior Peyton Spychalski (24th, 22:07.6) also competed.

"Our final times and all were probably pretty close to what we'd been shooting for ... but we didn't execute early in the race or compete as well as we'll need to," seventh-year coach Herb Gregory said. "Without doing things all that well, time-wise, we didn't run all that bad. From where we finished with some things we know we can and will do better, we can go a long way."

Others competing for spots in the top seven are seniors Emily Flaherty and Lindsey Neff, junior Nicole Stewart, sophomore Carolyn Daly and freshman Regan Davies.

The girls team is seeking its fourth consecutive OCC-Capital title. Like the boys team, they finished fifth at district and 15th at regional.

"It just kind of happened that we have a ridiculously young team," Sika said. "We want to make it to district again and possibly to state if things come together."

New Albany won the 18-team Bengal Division of the Pickerington Classic with 79 points, three ahead of runner-up Marysville, and finished second (77) to Bexley (40) out of 14 teams at Canal Winchester.

Field hockey team starts fast

With its top scorer and primary goalkeeper back, the field hockey team tried to pick up where it left off last season, as it was 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-East before playing Lancaster on Sept. 3.

Forward/midfielder Brooke Mason, who scored a team-high 15 goals last year, is one of four seniors along with Lily Cole (forward), A.J. Siani (forward/midfielder) and Elan Watson (defender). Junior goalie Bella Thompson and sophomore forward Halle Galbraith, who had five goals as a freshman, also are among the returnees from a team that went 10-6-1 overall and 5-3 in the league last year.

"Our communication has been good," third-year coach Marissa Weldon said. "We've been working a lot on our passing and that's going very well, staying low to the ball and just having a lot of girls step up. When it's a 50-50 ball, the girls need to make sure they go for it and not be on their heels. We're trying to be really aggressive."

The Eagles have eight sophomores and five freshmen. One of the freshmen, forward Cassidy Clapham, scored twice in a 7-0 home win over league-foe Bexley to open the season Aug. 21.

"I knew (the younger players) were coming, but it's always a surprise when you have a bunch of committed players coming in," Weldon said.

New Albany won road games against Dublin Scioto (7-1 on Aug. 23) and Olentangy Berlin (7-0 on Aug. 24) before edging visiting Worthington Kilbourne 2-1 in league play Aug. 28.

Rounding out the roster are juniors Bridget Driscoll (midfielder) and Olivia Pollack (midfielder), sophomores Emma Bogart (midfielder), Azra D'Souza (forward/midfielder), Lily Driggs (forward), Jula Freyer (midfielder), Catherine Gurd (mid-fielder/defender), Meghan Kallner (midfielder/defender) and Rebekah Sestak (forward) and freshmen Abigail Chattos (defender), Faith Johnson (forward), Noa Kauffmann (goalie) and Laura Mason (forward).

Football team prepares for Irish

The football team will finish a season-opening two-game homestand Friday, Sept. 6, when it plays host to Scioto.

New Albany, which opened Aug. 30 against Westerville South, defeated the Irish 37-21 on the road last year as part of a 2-0 start.

Scioto opened at home against St. Charles on Aug. 30. The Irish finished 7-3 last season and return a handful of key players, including running back Pete Hrelec, defensive linemen Aidan Ekis and Donovan Hardin and linebackers Gage Hannan and Sam Roper.

Hrelec rushed for 833 yards and nine touchdowns on 169 carries last year.

Chad Ray is Scioto's new quarterback, taking over for 2019 graduate Kyron Rogers. Ray played tight end last year.

This is the second consecutive year New Albany and Scioto have faced off after not having met in the regular season since 2007.

Golfers close in on league titles

The boys golf team will try to clinch its ninth consecutive OCC-Capital championship during the fourth and final round of the league tournament Wednesday, Sept. 11, at Apple Valley. Victor Appell, Jack Curtis and Caleb Delaney all shot 78 in the third round Aug. 28 at Turnberry, and Jacob Brooks shot 79 to give New Albany a team score of 313, three strokes ahead of Big Walnut. The Eagles are 12-0 in league play. Big Walnut is second at 9-3.

"They are super consistent. I know what I'm going to get and anything above that is a bonus," coach Ryan Hosack said. "We haven't had that one round where I've felt like all three or four of them have put together a great round. We've usually been in that 315-320 range and I think we have the potential to get down below 310."

The girls team remained undefeated both in the OCC-Central and on the season entering the week. New Albany improved to 124-0 overall and 15-0 in the league by shooting a 294 in the third round of the league tournament Aug. 28 at Mentel Memorial.

Madison Spiess shot a 71, followed by Kary Hollenbaugh (72), Gwynnie Lee (74) and Anna Ritter (77).

The final round was Sept. 4 at Blacklick Woods.

Entering the New Albany Invitational on Sept. 3, the Eagles were 311-0 since the start of last season.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the New Albany cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Sept. 7 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial

FIELD HOCKEY

Sept. 9 -- At Dublin Jerome

*Sept. 11 -- At Hartley

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 5 -- Granville at Denison Golf Club

Sept. 7 -- St. Charles Invitational at Brookside

Sept. 9 -- Wooster Invitational at Wooster Country Club

Sept. 10 -- St. Charles at New Albany Country Club

Sept. 11 -- OCC-Capital at Apple Valley

GIRLS GOLF

Sept. 8 -- Mason Invitational at Golf Center at Kings Island

BOYS SOCCER

Sept. 6 -- Louisville (Ky.) St. Xavier at Capital

Sept. 7 -- At Dresden Tri-Valley

*Sept. 10 -- Home vs. Newark

GIRLS SOCCER

*Sept. 10 -- At Newark

GIRLS TENNIS

*Sept. 5 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights

Sept. 10 -- At Upper Arlington

Sept. 11 -- Home vs. Watterson

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Sept. 5 -- At Big Walnut

Sept. 9 -- At Olentangy Liberty

*Sept. 10 -- Home vs. Groveport

*League contest