As Gwynnie Lee and her New Albany girls golf teammates celebrated winning the Division I state championship last fall, she knew she belonged.
Lee earned a spot in the Eagles' state tournament lineup by edging teammate Ellie McNutt in a playoff and shot a two-day total of 166, helping New Albany to a tournament record score of 592 and a 187-0 season.
As the team basked in its achievement, Lee turned her focus to securing her place in the lineup for her senior year.
"Once I got the opportunity to play at state and realize I could really do this, that I loved that environment and being able to truly impact the team, I knew I wanted to leave a mark," Lee said.
In her fourth season on varsity, Lee has parlayed an offseason of mental and physical improvement into important contributions as the Eagles seek another title. After having shot in the 70s "maybe two or three times" last year, Lee has recorded several rounds below 80 as the only full-time senior in the lineup.
She shot a 73 in a summer tournament at Beavercreek Golf Club and added rounds of 74 twice for New Albany, during the Lakota East Invitational on Aug. 13 at Shaker Run and six days later in the Lady Elk Invitational at Yankee Trace.
Lee shot an 80 during the fourth and final round of the OCC-Central Division tournament Sept. 4 at Blacklick Woods as the Eagles shot a 286 to finish a 20-0 league season, ahead of Upper Arlington (16-4), Dublin Coffman (12-8), Marysville (8-12), Hilliard Davidson (3-17) and Canal Winchester (1-19).
Scoring were Anna Ritter (70), Anna Coccia (72), Kary Hollenbaugh (72) and Madison Spiess (72).
"One of Gwynnie's biggest strengths has been with the driver," coach Rich Ritter said. "She's hitting it much better than she did last year. Her putting has definitely improved. She is much more in control of the distance she's hitting the ball and giving herself a chance on longer putts. On top of that, she doesn't leave herself as many longer putts. ...
"She worked really hard this past offseason and she played more over the summer than ever before as well. I think that's inspirational to see somebody who wants to be a part of the team's success and knows the challenge that lies ahead given the level of player that's on the team. She's taken up that challenge and dedicated herself to doing what was necessary to improve. It's paying dividends."
Lee credited much of her improvement a 12-hour per week academy at the Golf Room in Dublin last winter that included mental and physical workouts. She participated in several GolfWeek and Southern Ohio PGA tournaments over the summer.
"It has changed my perspective for everything about golf," Lee said. "I used to get down low, I'd freak out after a bad hole and it would be game over. Now, I am able to know what it's like and swing easy and know I am capable because I've put the work in to get to where I am."
Lee is unsure whether will she play in college, where she plans to major in business and hopes to study abroad. Until then, she plans to remain a valuable part of the team as the Eagles try to achieve more history.
"We're about where I thought we would be, but we have the potential to do a lot more," coach Ritter said. "We've been a little less consistent than last year. This year has had a few more highs and lows. Everybody has had some very good moments and we have to continue to build on that."
Tennis team's plan falling into place
Girls tennis coach Marc Thomas said his team's lineup has begun to sort itself out entering a challenging stretch of the schedule.
Thalia Fuentes and Helen Wang primarily have played singles, while Isabelle Campbell, Roshni Chandawarkar, Maya Klein and Demi Shostak have been among those filling doubles spots.
The golf team's Hollenbaugh and Spiess have played singles when available.
New Albany was 5-2 overall before playing UA on Sept. 10. A 5-0 home win over Franklin Heights on Sept. 5 guaranteed the Eagles at least a share of their 13th OCC-Capital championship in 14 years.
"They've all stepped up and played well. Our top seven is pretty clear," Thomas said. "When (Hollenbaugh and Spiess) have been with us, they've been huge factors at singles, but we're fortunate to have girls who can play both singles and doubles. The big thing for us is how hard the girls have worked over the last few weeks. They're starting to see the results."
Among the Eagles' future matches are a visit to Dublin Jerome on Sept. 19 and home contests against Olentangy Orange on Sept. 23, Olentangy Liberty on Sept. 30 and Pickerington North on Oct. 1.
Those teams were ranked second, third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in Division I in OhioTennisZone.com's preseason poll.
New Albany won its first four league matches by shutout, including 5-0 at Canal Winchester on Sept. 3.
The Eagles' remaining OCC-Capital match, against Newark, was postponed Aug. 22 because of bad weather and had not been rescheduled entering the week.
"That (league) title is still our first goal. It's always important to us," Thomas said. "If we can do pretty well over the next few weeks, I hope we'll be good enough to be considered one of the top five teams in the area."
Girls soccer team starts strong
Despite dropping an OCC-Capital game to start the season, the girls soccer team rebounded in a big way, as it went undefeated in its next four games and was 3-1-1 overall before playing Newark on Sept. 10.
New Albany lost 2-1 at Big Walnut on Aug. 16 but then defeated Olentangy Berlin 4-0 on Aug. 22 and Gahanna 4-1 on Aug. 27 before tying host West Chester Lakota West at 2 on Aug. 31. Lakota West was ranked fifth nationally entering the season by USA Today.
The Eagles also defeated visiting Pickerington Central 6-1 on Sept. 3 behind three goals from Kelis Brown and one each from Faith Grisdale, Addison Scharver and Morgan Wiest.
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:
Sept. 14 -- Galion Festival at Amman's Reservoir Park
*Sept. 16 -- Home vs. Granville
*Sept. 18 -- Home vs. Columbus Academy
Sept. 12 -- Columbus Academy at Columbus Country Club
Sept. 14 -- Trojan Invitational at Findlay Country Club
Sept. 16 -- Lexington Shootout at Westbrook
Sept. 17 -- Watterson at New Albany Country Club
Sept. 14 -- Arrowhead Invitational at Highland Meadows
Sept. 12 -- At Hilliard Darby
Sept. 12 -- At Hilliard Davidson
Sept. 14 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome
Sept. 16 -- Home vs. Columbus School for Girls
Sept. 17 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington B
Sept. 18 -- Watterson at Park of Roses
*Sept. 12 -- At Canal Winchester
*Sept. 17 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights