Some of the most intense moments of the last two seasons haven't caused Olentangy Liberty boys golfer Grant Smeltzer to flinch.
After earning co-medalist honors in the Turnberry sectional last season with a 72, Smeltzer shot a 71 at district at Apple Valley and then won a one-hole playoff for medalist honors while advancing to the Division I state tournament.
Smeltzer, who also was a key player as a freshman when the Patriots were state runners-up, has built off last year's postseason run with a strong regular season.
"It was a gradual progression, learning after each round," he said. "Also, the pressure of it being late in the season where you win or you go home, you have to be able to pull that off under pressure."
Smeltzer has been a more consistent player since averaging 78 while earning second-team all-OCC-Buckeye Division honors last season.
After ending last year with a 14th-place tie at state with a 160, Smeltzer was in contention for league medalist honors this season before settling for second (73.25 average) behind Westerville Central's Josh Qian (72.0).
His first-team all-league performance helped Liberty go 19-1 in the four-round OCC-Buckeye tournament and earn its fifth consecutive league title.
It wasn't all that many years ago that Smeltzer remembers shooting in the low 100s in youth tournaments.
"Grant seems so relaxed this season and able to manage his game so well," coach Ryan Snivley said. "A trend started in the offseason where he couldn't finish his last two holes without getting off track and getting bogeys or worse. He was really conscientious of this starting the season and it happened in the first couple of rounds, but he has been able to put it behind him recently and finish strong.
"Grant loves the game and is very competitive internally. He will work towards his goal no matter what it takes. He takes pride in his preparation to be a great player."
Also in league play, junior Hunter Corbin averaged 75 to earn first-team all-league honors while sophomore Ben Armbruster averaged 77.5 and junior Andrew Blosser averaged 78 to both make the second team. Freshman Jack Snyder shot 71 on Sept. 11 in the final round at Darby Creek to finish second, but that was his only league event. Sophomores Jack O'Donnell and Noah Wingart also competed in league matches.
Liberty shot a 290 in the final round to finish first ahead of Orange, which had a 310 and placed second at 17-3.
"We've played pretty consistently," Smeltzer said. "We've had some bad rounds, but have brought it all together as a team. Overall most of my rounds were in the 72-74 area. Most of them I've started pretty strong and finished a little rough."
Liberty is preparing for the postseason, which begins with a sectional Oct. 1 at Darby Creek.
"We have five to seven guys that can step up at any moment, and luckily we have balanced that well recently to come away with some solid team scores," Snivley said. "Our guys believe in themselves, which is great, and it's fun to watch them play."
Field hockey team building chemistry
The addition of talented freshmen to a group of returnees that includes senior midfielder Faith DiMantova and junior forward Reese McClelland has boosted the field hockey team.
"Blending in a number of new players ... took a little time, but we seem to be hitting our stride now after starting off a little inconsistently," coach Gregory Siehl said. "There is still improvement to another level to be had. I don't think we've played our 'A' game yet, so I'm excited to see what higher level we can reach."
Liberty was 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the COFHL-West after losing 5-0 to Thomas Worthington on Sept. 16. The Patriots also played Worthington Kilbourne on Sept. 18.
Through seven games, freshman forward Lucy Keeler had 10 goals and two assists, McClelland had five goals and eight assists and DiMantova had four goals and 10 assists. Senior forward Dani Worrell (4 goals, 3 assists) and junior forward/midfielder Ali Caskey (3 goals, 1 assist) also have been contributors.
Senior goalkeeper Reese Grabow and a defense led by senior Samantha Frantz and sophomores Lauren Belt and Carlie Quillen helped the Patriots give up just four goals over their first seven games.
Junior midfielder Kelsey Eckhert, sophomore midfielder Alli Hamilton and sophomore forward Annie Pione also have been key players, according to Siehl.
Runners to build from Ohio Wesleyan titles
The boys and girls cross country teams both are coming off titles in the Ohio Wesleyan Invitational as they prepare for out-of-town meets.
On Saturday, Sept. 21, the boys will travel to the Jackson (Michigan) Invitational and the girls will compete in the Strongsville Invitational.
The boys finished with 28 points on Sept. 14 at Liberty Park to win the 12-team Ohio Wesleyan Invitational.
Senior Jack Humenay won in 15 minutes, 57.3 seconds and junior R.J. LaRosa was third (16:29.2). Junior Tanner Sutton (sixth, 16:38.4) and seniors Caleb Ogle (eighth, 16:40.2), Jacob Feldmaier (10th, 16:41.5), Judd Ogle (15th, 16:50.6) and Matthew Onate (18th, 17:05.7) rounded out the team's top seven.
The girls scored 43 points to win the title as nine teams competed. Senior Linnea Kunesh was runner-up (19:22.4), followed by junior Audrey Piero (fifth, 19:43.9), sophomore Sarah Gilbert (eighth, 19:59.3), juniors Elizabeth Okanak (11th, 20:22) and Haley Kruest (17th, 20:47.2), sophomore Allison Westfall (21st, 20:59) and senior Lauren Buddie (28th, 21:19.4).
Below are the coming schedules for the Liberty cross country, field hockey, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 21 -- Boys: Jackson (Mich.) Invitational; Girls: Strongsville Invitational
Sept. 21 -- At Granville
*Sept. 25 -- At Dublin Coffman
Sept. 21 -- Howlett Invitational at Worthington Hills
Sept. 23 -- OCC Shootout at Little Turtle
Sept. 21 -- Marysville Invitational at Darby Creek
Sept. 23 -- Hope Classic at Darby Creek
Sept. 24 -- Coffman at Worthington Hills
Sept. 21 -- Home vs. Whitehouse Anthony Wayne
*Sept. 24 -- At Westerville North
Sept. 19 -- At Hilliard Bradley
*Sept. 24 -- Home vs. Westerville North
Sept. 24 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome
*Sept. 25 -- At Orange
*Sept. 19 -- Home vs. Orange. The Patriots lost to the Pioneers 25-22, 22-25, 21-25, 25-20, 15-13 on Sept. 3.
*Sept. 24 -- At Westerville South. The Patriots beat the Wildcats 25-11, 25-18, 25-7 on Sept. 5.