Kina Ehlers is only a sophomore, but she is the most experienced postseason player for the Big Walnut girls tennis team.
The Golden Eagles will compete in a Division I sectional Thursday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 5, at Pickerington Central, from which the top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament Oct. 10 and 12 at Reynoldsburg.
"I'm really excited to see what this year brings," said Ehlers, who went 2-1 at sectional last season, falling one win shy of advancing to district. "I was very nervous last year, especially in the first match. I guess you could say I was being safe, and in the second match, I got back into the groove."
Ehlers, who went 8-9 at first singles during the regular season, is one of three sophomores who will compete at sectional for the Golden Eagles. Also playing singles at sectional are sophomores Abbie Crandell and Addy Smith.
Juniors Karen Ambrose and Lindsey Stevens will team up to play doubles at sectional, as will juniors Ciara Matos and Avery Wagner.
"They've all played since middle school, and a lot of them got time last year playing some varsity," coach Ryan Balaz said. "This year, they've been playing at different spots and with higher expectations against better players."
Balaz has watched his young team progress over the course of the season. The Golden Eagles lost to Westerville South 3-2 on Sept. 25 to complete the regular season at 6-13 overall. They lost five other matches by the same score.
"We're getting more balls in play and not making what you'd call easy mistakes," Balaz said. "Teams were having to earn points rather than having balls in the net or hit out. It resulted in closer matches."
Big Walnut went 4-1 in the OCC-Capital Division to place second to New Albany (5-0).
"The girls have played hard throughout the year, and they've done everything the coaches have asked," Balaz said. "This has been one of the most fun seasons I can remember just because of their attitudes and the way they all get along. The team chemistry has been great."
Football team preps for league opener
The football team opens its OCC-Capital schedule Friday, Oct. 4, at Newark.
While the Wildcats were 0-4 before playing Central Crossing on Sept. 27, four of the league's six teams had winning records heading into Week 5, including Canal Winchester and Groveport both at 4-0.
Franklin Heights and New Albany both were 3-1 entering Week 5.
Big Walnut was 2-2 before playing Marysville on Sept. 27.
"It's obviously a super-tough league," quarterback Jagger Barnett said. "A lot of teams are playing well. Groveport is looking very strong this year, and we know going into this league that no game is going to be easy."
The Golden Eagles had trouble moving the ball and stopping visiting Olentangy Orange in a 34-3 loss on Sept. 20.
The Pioneers piled up 412 total yards as quarterback Spencer Hawkins threw two touchdown passes and scored on a 6-yard run.
Big Walnut managed just 142 total yards against Orange, including only 61 in the first half. Tyler Crotinger ran for 66 yards on 17 carries and Barnett completed seven of 18 passes for 39 yards.
In Newark's 51-20 loss to Lancaster on Sept. 20, quarterback Jaden Woods completed 12 of 23 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns, both to wide receiver Collin Street, and rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
Golf teams to begin postseason
The postseason gets underway this week for the boys and girls golf teams.
The boys will compete in a Division I sectional Tuesday, Oct. 1, at Darby Creek, with the top four teams and top four individuals not on a qualifying team advancing to the district tournament Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.
The girls will participate in a Division I sectional Wednesday, Oct. 2, at Blacklick Woods, with the top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team advancing to the district tournament Oct. 8 at New Albany Links.
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut cross country, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 2 -- Backwoods Invitational at Thornville Sheridan
Oct. 5 -- Les Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington
Oct. 1 -- At Worthington Kilbourne
*Oct. 3 -- At Franklin Heights
Oct. 5 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange
Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Kenton
*Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
Oct. 5 -- At Hartley
*Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights. The Golden Eagles defeated the Falcons 25-9, 25-14, 25-6 on Sept. 12.