New Albany field hockey players walked away from their first loss of the season, a 4-0 home setback to Columbus Academy on Sept. 18, undeterred from the lofty goals they have set.
The Eagles won their first nine games, outscoring those opponents 42-4, and entered the week needing three victories in their next six contests to set the program record for wins.
While admitting the season has gone almost as well as she could have hoped, coach Marissa Weldon thinks the reasons are simple.
"We had potential. We just play to our strengths and keep coming back game after game, play up to our potential and never play down," Weldon said. "For the most part, we've done that. We've had a few slipups, but they've been rare. The program has come a long way. We've learned a lot from our losses in the past. We had a lot of games last year that we lost 1-0 or 2-0. I asked the girls how they wanted to finish the season. Pulling out those close games has been huge."
With Brooke Mason having scored a team-leading 13 goals through 10 games, New Albany was 9-1 overall and 5-1 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-East Division before playing Watterson on Sept. 23.
Lily Cole had eight goals, Cassidy Clapham had seven and Halle Galbraith had six to help lead a balanced offense that has slightly altered its approach after the Eagles went 10-6-1 overall and 5-3 in the league last season.
"This is a big deal," Mason said. "For me, playing on the left a little more, going in and out with my left forward, Halle Galbraith, has been a really big help for me to be able to hit it down the sideline and cross the field. That's definitely something we worked on since last year, when we made a lot of small passes. This year, we've tried to make big passes down the field."
Goalkeeper Bella Thompson made a season-high 12 saves against Academy, which pulled away with three goals in the second half. The Vikings beat the Eagles 10-0 last year.
"We had opportunities on offense; we just had to finish inside the circle. When you play a team like Academy, you have to bring your 'A' game," Weldon said. "The girls brought their 'A' game and a lot of effort. ... We held our own for a while."
Thompson, who plays behind a defense led by Abigail Chattos and Elon Watson, credits her success to Weldon's coaching and offseason play with the Field Hockey Life club organization. The Eagles had not allowed more than one goal in any game entering the week and had recorded five shutouts.
"I've seen a lot of different kinds of shots from a lot of different players," Thompson said.
New Albany won 11 games in both 2015 and 2016 and has reached district semifinals three times, including last season, but never has advanced further in the postseason.
"We have to take it game by game. We don't want to think too far ahead," Mason said. "We know what we have to accomplish and make sure we go in with the right mindset in order to accomplish what we need to do."
Cross country teams taking shape
Girls cross country coach Herb Gregory expects his messages to his team over the next few weeks to revolve around consistency, although he is thrilled with much of what he has seen so far this season.
"We have lots of room to grow, but we've excelled so far," Gregory said. "It's been great to have this depth. It's helped us out big time in a few of our meets. The girls train together and they've developed well together. We have a lot of girls in the running for a few spots and that competition has helped everybody."
E'Moni Saxton, a freshman, was the team's top runner in four of its first six meets but has been hampered by an ankle injury in recent weeks. Her 19 minutes, 58.6 seconds Aug. 28 in the Canal Winchester Invitational, where she placed third, is the team's top time of the season.
Other top runners have been Mary Carson, Mary Schultz, Sammie Sika, Peyton Spychalski and Stephanie Thomas. They have been pushed by a group that includes Carolyn Daly, Regan Davies, Meredith Given, Ellie Haffer and Lindsey Neff.
New Albany finished fifth (153 points) of 16 teams in the Bob Reall Invitational on Sept. 21 at Lancaster as the host Golden Gales won (88). Thomas was 18th (20:50.3), followed by Schultz (24th, 21:14.3), Spychalski (32nd, 21:40.5), Sika (39th, 21:55.5) and Neff (40th, 22:02.4).
The boys finished third (117) out of 13 teams behind champion Worthington Kilbourne (88).
Victor Orsinelli was seventh (16:59.3). Also scoring were Ethan McNichols (19th, 17:33.9), Colin Swincicki (26th, 17:52.1), Luke Weibel (30th, 17:59.5) and Armaan Rizvi (36th, 18:24).
Lancaster also will play host to the OCC-Capital meet Oct. 12.
Orsinelli led the boys team in its first three races and four of its first six. He has the team's best time this season with a 16:33.6 in the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 7 at Watkins Memorial.
Enich named girls lacrosse coach
Athletics director Richie Wildenhaus turned to one of the girls lacrosse team's all-time greats to help maintain the program's elite status.
Elaina Enich, a starting attacker on the Eagles' 2013 Division II state championship team who went on to play at Cincinnati, was named coach Sept. 16.
Enich succeeds her former coach, Dave Ferguson, who retired in July after going 146-40-1 in nine seasons. The Eagles have been Division I state runners-up each of the past two seasons.
New Albany went 19-4 overall and 7-0 in the OCC-Buckeye last year, falling to Upper Arlington 12-10 in the state final.
Enich was the Eagles' offensive coordinator the past two years. She had 87 goals and six assists as a senior in 2013, was named ThisWeek's Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year and also was the first two-time All-American in program history.
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. 28 -- Jim Murray Memorial Invitational at Buck Creek State Park
Sept. 30 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington
Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Thomas Worth-ington
Sept. 26 -- Grove City and St. Charles at Pinnacle
Oct. 2 -- Division I sectional at Turnberry. The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.
Sept. 26 -- Lexington at New Albany Country Club
Oct. 2 -- Division I sectional at Blacklick Woods. The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 8 at New Albany Links.
Sept. 26 -- At Upper Arlington
*Oct. 1 -- Home vs. Groveport
Sept. 26 -- At Westerville Central
Sept. 28 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange
Sept. 26 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman
Sept. 30 -- Home vs. Olentangy Liberty
Oct. 1 -- At Pickerington North
*Sept. 26 -- At Groveport. The Eagles defeated the Cruisers 25-16, 25-14, 25-7 on Sept. 10.