Despite being ranked first in the state and coming off back-to-back state runner-up finishes, Upper Arlington girls water polo coach Dan Peterkoski kept his optimism guarded through the first month of the season.

The Golden Bears are 12-2-1 heading into the Ohio Cup Saturday, Sept. 14, and Sunday, Sept. 15, at Thomas Worthington, thriving on the kind of play Peterkoski has instituted during a 15- season tenure highlighted by six state championships.

"We're finally getting back to what I would consider our style of polo, which is a little bit faster transition-oriented game and then trying to mix in, when necessary, the half-court offense when we need it," Peterkoski said. "We have a group of girls now that has played together long enough where they are starting to understand what we want and are starting to play a little bit more sound from the principles that have made us successful."

The Bears return several of their top players, including senior goalkeeper Adrienne Wachtman and junior Caroline Colombo, from last season when they finished 19-9 and lost to the Cincinnati Mavericks 11-8 in the state final.

Colombo had a team-high 120 goals last year as well as 66 steals and 33 assists and was ThisWeek's Girls Water Polo Athlete of the Year. She had 33 goals as a freshman.

Wachtman is splitting time in goal with classmate Cat Fernandez.

After splitting four games in the McDowell Cup that concluded Aug. 31 at Erie (Pennsylvania) McDowell, UA came home and routed Thomas Worthington 13-1 on Sept. 4.

The Bears were ranked first in the state last week by OhioWaterPolo.com.

"We were young the last couple years. With that growth as a group ... right now, they're young still and have had a lot of playing time," Peterkoski said. "The mental maturation and physical maturation mean they'd have time to get stronger and develop skills. The talent has been there and it's starting to show more."

Rounding out the roster are seniors Abby Hendershot, Grace Houser, Katie McKenzie, Erin Reardon and Tatum Shank, juniors Sophia Elliott, Carley Hart, Addie Jay, Lydia Muldoon and Lilli Swanson, sophomores Maya Khelashvili, Kezia Lietzau, Stella Petras, Caroline Porterfield and Samantha Schaefer and freshmen Ceci Croci, Naomi Maurer, Caitlyn Moloney, Ruchika Raj, Caroline Redder and Ashley Schuler.

"The chess game right now is figuring out which group of six is going to play best versus certain teams, when we need to be smaller and faster or more physically able to sustain a physical game," Peterkoski said. "We still have a long way to go. There are still a lot of areas we need to improve in. If that happens, we should be in a good spot to potentially compete for a state championship."

Dean, Meyer among boys team's leaders

Senior Jake Meyer has led the boys water polo team's offense so far, as he had 46 goals through 15 games, ahead of senior Hunter Dean's 38 and 26 from junior Avery Voss.

UA was 11-4 before playing St. Charles on Sept. 11, coming off a 4-1 weekend in the Ohio Cup that concluded Sept. 8 at Thomas.

Last season, Meyer had 76 goals and Voss scored 62 as the Bears went 25-9 and defeated Cincinnati Princeton 16-15 in the third-place game at the state tournament.

"(Meyer) is really strong in the middle and shows a lot of leadership," third-year coach J.J. Spangler said. "He has somewhat exceeded our expectations. He's really done a good job in and out of the pool of asking his teammates to do what's necessary to get to where we want to be at the end of the season. In the water, he's done a great job asserting himself, mostly offensively, but he's made some good defensive plays."

Senior Antonio Ventresca is among the leaders on defense in front of senior goalie Trevor Westin. Westin, who also plays tennis, split time last year with 2019 graduate Ben Staton and made 149 saves on 270 shots (55.2 percent).

"He's a superb athlete on his own," Spangler said of Westin. "Tennis helps his reaction time and getting to the ball. It's an interesting layover of sports."

The rest of the roster consists of senior Brandon Vanderhorst, juniors Andy Armstrong, Blake Burkle, Jimmy Colombo, Deniz Erdal, Jackson Gooding, Alex He, Hayden Jay, Keegan Jones, Thomas Ray, Jakob Schul and Ethan White, sophomore Garrett Widman and freshmen Gavin Christensen, Caden Colombo, Grant Gooding, Grant Kennedy, Joe Miller, Ryan Nichols, Clark Pabst, Patrick Ray and Jack Trace.

In the Ohio Cup, UA recorded wins over Cincinnati Princeton (13-3), Dayton Oakwood (16-2), Toledo St. Francis (11-6) and the Naperville (Illinois) Vultures (12-7) and lost to Dexter (Michigan) 7-3.

Girls golfers finish second in league

For the second consecutive season, the only roadblock standing between the girls golf team and the OCC-Central Division championship was New Albany.

UA went 16-4 in the four-round league tournament to finish second behind the defending Division I state champion Eagles (20-0) and ahead of Dublin Coffman (12-8), Marysville (8-12), Hilliard Davidson (3-17) and Canal Winchester (1-19).

In the final round Sept. 4 at Blacklick Woods, Emily Hummer and Reagan Nolan each shot a 76 to lead UA to a team score of 311 and second place behind New Albany (286) and ahead of Coffman (320), Marysville (379), Davidson (398) and Canal Winchester (409).

Also scoring were Julia Rabadam (77) and Lizzie Murray (82).

Hummer had a 73.8 average in the league tournament, fourth behind New Albany's Madison Spiess (71), Kary Hollenbaugh (71.7) and Anna Ritter (72.8), to earn first-team all-league honors.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis, girls volleyball, boys water polo and girls water polo teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Sept. 14 -- Ohio Wesleyan Invitational at Liberty Park

FIELD HOCKEY

Sept. 14 -- Home vs. Hilliard Lynx and Toledo St. Ursula

*Sept. 16 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 16 -- Olentangy Liberty Invitational at Kinsale

GIRLS GOLF

Sept. 12 -- Dublin Coffman and Olentangy Liberty at Players Club at Foxfire

Sept. 14 -- Arrowhead Invitational at Highland Meadows

BOYS SOCCER

Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne

*Sept. 17 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson

GIRLS SOCCER

Sept. 12 -- At Thomas Worthington

Sept. 14 -- At Granville

*Sept. 17 -- At Hilliard Davidson

GIRLS TENNIS

Sept. 12 -- At Dublin Jerome

Sept. 16 -- Home vs. Columbus School for Girls

*Sept. 18 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson in makeup from Aug. 27

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Marysville

*Sept. 17 -- At Dublin Coffman

BOYS WATER POLO

Sept. 13-14 -- Toledo St. Francis Invitational at Bowling Green

GIRLS WATER POLO

Sept. 14-15 -- Ohio Cup at Thomas Worthington

*League contest