Surrounded by an eight-member senior class that included several key players, Isabella Ginocchi thrived last season for the Watterson girls soccer team.
Now a senior, Ginocchi has been asked to do more, particularly on offense, this season, considering that she's the player a large number of freshmen and sophomores are looking up to.
"I wouldn't say it's been that much different, but I've definitely had to step up," said Ginocchi, a midfielder. "We lost an important goal scorer, so I had to step up and take on that role. I feel like we have a lot of young people this year, so I've had to definitely lead more this year."
Emma Schossler, a 2019 graduate, scored 21 goals and was named first-team all-state last season when the Eagles went 18-2-2, won the CCL title and reached a Division I state semifinal.
Ginocchi, who was second-team all-state last season, scored at least one goal in five consecutive games between Sept. 10 and 24.
Watterson beat Hartley 7-0 on Sept. 26 to wrap up the CCL championship, finishing 4-0 in league play, and defeated Olentangy Berlin 5-1 on Sept. 28 to take a 7-3-3 overall record into its game against Upper Arlington on Oct. 1.
"We kind of got off to a rough start, but we're getting better," Ginocchi said. "We lost a lot of people from last year, so it's been a bit of an adjustment, but we're doing well. We're gradually just getting better each and every game. I feel like we're all super close. We all want to win, so as we keep playing, we definitely feel like we're getting it and catching our edge."
Ginocchi, who has committed to play for Ohio University, had eight goals through 13 games for the Eagles, who posted 1-all ties against two of the area's top teams in Pickerington North (Sept. 14) and Dublin Coffman (Sept. 17) and beat Ready 8-0 on Sept. 19 and Gahanna 4-1 on Sept. 21.
Coffman was ranked eighth and North was 12th in last week's Division I state poll.
The district tournament drawing is Sunday, Oct. 6, with first-round action beginning Oct. 16. The Eagles have regular-season games remaining Tuesday, Oct. 8, at home against Hilliard Davidson and Oct. 10 at Olentangy Liberty.
"We're playing tough teams and we're getting better," coach Scott Dempsey said. "We have to keep reminding ourselves as a coaching staff that we've got 11 freshmen and sophomores playing whereas last year we had (eight) seniors, so it's a little bit of a growing period for the players, but they're adjusting well.
"Ginocchi was (second-team) all-state last year as a junior, she was a club All-American this year for (Ohio Premier) and she's a special player. She's a second-year captain and a four-year letterwinner, and she's stepping up and doing what players like that are supposed to be doing."
Boys soccer team eyes postseason
In the final season of Chad Smith's first tenure as coach in 2014, the boys soccer team won just three games during the regular season but went on to reach a Division II state semifinal.
Watterson competed in Division I last year but is back in Division II in Smith's return season, and the Eagles are hoping to put together another tournament run following an up-and-down regular season.
"Leading up to the tournament, we're really focusing on building chemistry, continuing to fine-tune our skills and getting healthy," Smith said. "We're very excited to start tournament play."
Watterson lost to Reynoldsburg 2-0 on Sept. 28 and was 3-9 overall and 1-2 in the CCL before concluding league play Oct. 1 against Hartley.
The drawing for the 20-team district tournament is Sunday, Oct. 6, with first-round action beginning Oct. 14.
Watterson beat Westerville South 2-0 on Sept. 21 as senior defender Grant Twombly and sophomore forward Trent Maisano scored and junior goalkeeper Liam Brockman made 11 saves.
Smith has been pleased with the performance of his defense, which includes senior Max Graham and juniors Anthony Fultz and Colin Robinson.
"The boys are working very hard and our chemistry is improving," Smith said. "Still a lot of work to do. ... (We) seem ready for the final push."
Girls tennis team set for sectional
The girls tennis team is set to compete in a Division I sectional being held Thursday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 5, at Pickerington Central.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament Oct. 10 and 12 at Reynoldsburg.
Junior Caroline Goodlive is the third seed in singles and will open against Westerville South's Mary Pedrozo or Marion Harding's Destiny Moaney.
Also in singles, senior Layne Geswein opens against Pickerington Central's Alexis Heren and freshman Katherine Braidech opens against Harding's Tyler Simmers.
Seniors Abby Giesler and Margaret Baur will comprise one doubles team and senior Caroline Bouchard and junior Isabella Roscoe will comprise the other.
Watterson beat Wellington 3-2 on Sept. 26 and was 7-7 overall before playing Olentangy Berlin on Sept. 30. The Eagles went 3-0 in the CCL, winning all three matches by a 5-0 score, to finish ahead of DeSales (2-1), Hartley (1-2) and Ready (0-3).
Below are the coming schedules for the Watterson field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 5 -- Home vs. Hudson
Oct. 1 -- Competed in Division I sectional at Denison Golf Club. The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.
Oct. 1 -- Competed in Division I sectional at Royal American. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 8 at New Albany Links
Oct. 8 -- Home vs. Whetstone
Oct. 8 -- At Hilliard Davidson
Oct. 3, 5 -- Division I sectional at Pickerington Central. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district Oct. 10 and 12 at Reynoldsburg.
Oct. 5 -- Home vs. Grove City and Cincinnati Seton
Oct. 8 -- At Dublin Coffman