While earning district runner-up finishes each of the past four seasons, the Watterson field hockey team has had varying degrees of experience among its key players.
The Eagles hope to make another postseason run later this fall, but if that occurs, it will be with one of their youngest rosters.
Watterson has only two seniors but is hoping a talented sophomore class grows up quickly over the next few weeks.
After opening COFHL-East Division action Aug. 21 with a 6-1 win over Hartley, the Eagles improved to 2-0 overall and in league play with a 4-1 victory over Lancaster on Aug. 26.
"We're actually super young," 23rd-year coach Janet Baird said. "I have a couple returners, but I only have two seniors. I kept four freshmen last year, so they're all back. I'm always optimistic."
The seniors are Emily Dixon (attacker) and Olivia Iceman (defender).
Junior Caroline Dunham has taken over at goalkeeper for Maria Pardi, who was part of an eight-member 2019 graduating class.
Sophomore Molly Griffith was expected to lead the midfield but got injured late in the preseason. Her status going forward is uncertain.
Juniors Alex Picolo and Anne Marie Ruess and sophomores Aubrey Bower, Grace Cantwell, Zoe Coleman and Makenna Twombly are other key attackers.
Also on the team are juniors Lauren Neutzling (defen-der), Cailin O'Reilly (attacker), Maddie Phillips (midfielder), Audrey Schroeder (attacker), Anna Sears (midfielder) and Claire Sugar (defender), sophomores Bella Eramo (defen-der), Camille Gregory (midfielder) and Fiona Isbell (midfielder) and freshmen Ava Gruver (midfielder) and Ellie Pardi (defender).
Football team to face Marion Local
The football team will face one of the state's most decorated programs Friday, Sept. 6, when it plays Maria Stein Marion Local at Ohio Dominican.
The contest represents the home opener for the Eagles, who have played most of their home games for many years at Hagley Field.
Marion Local has won 10 state championships, second-most in Ohio history behind Cleveland St. Ignatius' 11. All of the Flyers' titles have come since 2000.
"We've played a couple games at Ohio Dominican, and it's a very nice facility," coach Brian Kennedy said. "We're in a situation where we can't play games at home. Hopefully in the long-term, we can stay at ODU."
Watterson plays four home games at Ohio Dominican this season.
Marion Local went 13-2 and was the Division VI state runner-up last season while playing a schedule that included a mix of Divisions IV, V, VI and VII opponents. The Flyers opened Aug. 30 against Woodburn (Indiana) Woodlan.
Marion Local has just one returning starter on offense in senior Brandon Fleck, who figures to be a key running back along with senior Grant Meier.
Meier is one of six returning starters on defense for the Flyers, who enter their 21st season with Tim Goodwin as coach.
Junior Kyle Muhlenkamp was one of the preseason candidates to take over as the Flyers' starting quarterback after serving as backup last season.
Watterson went 5-5 last season but won its final three games and tried to build on that finish when it opened Aug. 30 at Lancaster.
The game against the Golden Gales marked the return of junior quarterback Jake Hoying, who suffered with a season-ending injury in Week 7 last season.
"(Hoying has) another year in the system," Kennedy said. "To me, he's an elite quarterback, so I'm excited to see what he can do. We've got a lot of guys back in skill positions."
Runners looking to have strong season
By the end of last season, the cross country teams were putting together the types of finishes that coach Matt McGowan was envisioning for a program that had just two seniors.
Now in his 32nd season heading the program, McGowan believes a similar type of finish to last season is possible for both the girls team, which won the CCL title a year ago, and for the boys squad, which reached the Division II regional meet.
"The goal is always to run our best at the end of the season and compete for the top spot at the CCL championships," McGowan said. "The girls have won four of the last five years. ... The boys have finished behind St. Charles in the CCL. Last year with one senior, one junior, one sophomore and four freshmen, the boys team qualified for the regional championships. That's our goal, and hopefully we can improve on last year. The girls team always tries to be at the top of the CCL and be competitive in the districts and try to get a girl or two or the team to move on to the regionals."
On Aug. 24, the boys team opened with a 10th-place finish (232 points) in the 20-team Newark Catholic Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion behind champion Fredericktown (112) and the girls placed second (98) of 16 teams behind Fairfield Union (69).
Freshman Eden Brush led the girls team with a 13th-place finish (21 minutes, 24.9 seconds).
Seniors Bridget Dougherty and Sarah Heink, juniors Brooklyn Brush and Averie Cunningham and sophomores Riley Connors and Leah Hetteberg also are among the Eagles' top runners.
Others looking to contribute include juniors Emily Vais and Tessa Whittaker and sophomore Chloe Demboski.
Junior Will Garey placed third (16:51.6) in the Newark Catholic Invitational to lead the boys team. Sophomore Cris Kubatko, who finished sixth (17:01.1) at the event, is another key returnee.
Other top runners include seniors Zac Kubatko and Jimmy Racher, junior Johnny DiOrio and sophomores David Druhan, Max Latshaw, Kyle Swackhammer and Jake Vanausdle.
The Eagles finished 13th (372) at regional last season as Garey led with a 61st-place finish (17:48.5).
Below are the coming schedules for the Watterson field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
*Sept. 5 -- At Columbus Academy
*Sept. 9 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange
Sept. 9 -- Bexley at Westchester
Sept. 11 -- DeSales at Darby Creek
Sept. 10 -- Big Walnut at Bent Tree
Sept. 11 -- DeSales at NorthStar
*Sept. 5 -- At St. Charles
Sept. 7 -- At Granville
*Sept. 10 -- At Ready
*Sept. 7 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange
Sept. 9 -- At Columbus School for Girls
*Sept. 10 -- At Hartley
*Sept. 5 -- At Hartley
*Sept. 10 -- At Ready