Abby Markley didn't have to look far to find her inspiration on the soccer field.
The senior goalkeeper for the Westerville North girls team looked up to her sister, Jen Markley, a 2016 graduate who played goalie and midfielder for the Warriors and now is a senior midfielder at Case Western Reserve.
Markley's desire to be like her older sister has helped her become one of the top goalies in central Ohio. She allowed just five goals and had five shutouts through seven games, helping the Warriors to a record of 5-1-1 before opening OCC-Buckeye Division play Sept. 10 against Westerville Central.
"My sister had a great work ethic and she put in a lot of hard work," Markley said. "I always watched her and wanted to be as good as she was. She was out there doing extra touches and everything she could to make herself better. I always thought that I could do that and wanted to do it. I wanted to be the best at it.
"I do extra goalie practice with my club coach, my dad Jeff Markley. On weekends, I'll do a few extra hours of goalie training and just keep working out on my own to keep my strength up."
Second-year coach Ricky Konkolewski said her work ethic has separated Markley from the pack in goal.
"Abby goes beyond what we do in practice," he said. "She keeps going outside practice to make herself better.
"When I got here, I knew we had graduated a three-year starter (Bethany Worm) in goal. I knew right away when I saw Abby that we would set up our back line around her. She is a leader on the field and is one of the most underrated keepers in the Central District."
Markley said a good goalie needs to have several traits to be successful, but one of the most important is being unflappable.
"Reaction time is a big thing, having good feet and good agility and verticals," she said. "Your legs have to be strong to be able to go to one side or the other, and you have to be strong mentally when you have (penalty kicks).
"During PKs, you have to make yourself as big as possible. You have to open wide and make sure that you look intimidating and have a wide stance to throw them off. You pick a side and kind of hope they go that way. If they are good, they won't give up too much (in terms of which direction they will shoot), but watching them can be helpful."
Markley said the position can be stressful, so it's not for every player.
"It's definitely a stressful position, being the last line of defense," she said. "If you are mentally strong, you have to push it out and play your game and do what you can.
"You have to be a little weird to be a goalie. Who wants to sacrifice your body to stop a ball if you don't need to? You have to be a little different."
Markley has sacrificed her body for the game, including suffering a broken nose in a 2-0 loss to Big Walnut last fall.
"I come out one-on-one and (the Big Walnut player) blasted the ball straight into my face and then my defender followed her and kicked me in the face," Markley said. "I couldn't breathe out of my nose right for the next year, but the ball didn't go in (goal)."
North started 2-8-1 last year but won seven of its next eight contests entering a Division I district final against Watterson, where it lost 3-0 to finish 9-10-1. Markley said the Warriors could be in the midst of another special season.
"I think we have a better connection this year," she said. "We get along and we have the same vibe and are on the same page. We work well together and we have a better environment as a whole."
Burton sets up offense for volleyball squad
Senior setter Lynn Burton has been leading the girls volleyball team, which was 2-7 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing Olentangy Liberty on Sept. 10.
Burton led the Warriors with 110 assists and 13 aces through nine matches. Emily McGeorge led with 57 kills and had 11 aces.
Clarke Gilchrist had a team-leading 35 blocks to go with 52 kills and 12 aces. Ameena Freeman had a team-best 112 digs with 10 aces.
Boys soccer team experiences turnaround
After going 1-12-4 last season, the boys soccer team was 4-3-1 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Buckeye after losing to Central 1-0 on Sept. 9.
Goalie Logan Dowling had six saves against the Warhawks.
The Warriors defeated Northland 1-0 on Aug. 20, Hilliard Darby 2-0 on Aug. 22, Gahanna 2-0 on Aug. 29 and Central Crossing 5-1 on Sept. 5.
Below are the coming schedules for the North boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 12 -- Delaware at Oakhaven
Sept. 18 -- Canal Winchester at Westchester
Sept. 12 -- Hilliard Davidson at Royal American
Sept. 16 -- DeSales at NorthStar
Sept. 17 -- Westerville South at Royal American
*Sept. 17 -- At Olentangy
*Sept. 17 -- Home vs. Olentangy
Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Lancaster
Sept. 16 -- Home vs. Big Walnut
Sept. 17 -- At Granville
Sept. 18 -- At Watkins Memorial
*Sept. 12 -- At South
Sept. 16 -- Home vs. Columbus Academy
*Sept. 17 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange