Scott James was dealt a serious blow during the second game of his first season as coach of the Bexley girls soccer team.
Senior forward Caroline Bunker, a Lynchburg recruit who was expected to be a key offensive threat for the Lions, suffered a season-ending injury to her left knee. That left James looking for other options.
Bexley started 2-2-1 and lost its MSL-Ohio Division opener to Grandview 2-1 on Aug. 28. However, it rebounded to win six consecutive games before losing to Hartley 2-1 on Sept. 24.
"We lost Caroline in the second game of the season, (a 2-1 win over Pickerington Central on Aug. 20), and it took us a couple of games to get an offensive identity," said James, whose team was 8-4-1 overall and 4-2 in the MSL-Ohio after losing to Columbus Academy 1-0 on Sept. 28. "We had a lot of girls pick things up after the loss of Caroline.
"After losing a player and a person like Caroline, it's difficult. Losing her leadership is tough, but she still has been to most of our games and provides a lot of insight to the players."
Junior Aly Cox and sophomores Grace Heilman and Ava Joseph have been among those to pick up the slack. Through 13 games, 13 players had scored, led by Heilman (8 goals), Joseph (4) and Cox (3).
"We have had a lot of kids step up for us, including Aly Cox, Grace Heilman and Claire Heilman, as well as Ava Joseph and Sofie Sheridan, both of whom came up from j.v.," James said. "We have seen some of our younger kids take things into their hands."
Senior Anne Clubb helps anchor the back line along with classmate Joni Dunker.
"The atmosphere that coach brings to the team has been great and we have also had a lot of younger girls step up as well as the seniors," Clubb said. "I really think the younger girls have made a bigger impact than they have in the past.
"I would say after Caroline was injured, we looked at others to step up for us. Grace Heilman and Ava Joseph have done that. Even though they are sophomores, they have made a huge impact on the team."
The defense has played a large part in the Lions' success. Sophomore goalkeeper Kate Jude had five shutouts through 12 games and had given up just one goal four times.
"Our defense has been incredibly strong," James said. "We have good center backs in Anne Clubb and Joni Dunker, and they have done a great job of stopping any offensive threat coming through. Kate Jude has just been amazing in goal.
"I think we're doing a good job of positioning and keeping the ball away from opponents. We like to grind teams as much as possible and that wears down opponents as the game goes on."
Clubb said the defensive unit has been a work in progress, but continues to improve every game.
"A lot of our girls graduated on defense, but this season we have definitely transformed a lot of our midfielders to defense," said Clubb, whose team played a league contest against Buckeye Valley on Oct. 2 and does not compete again until playing at Wellington on Oct. 10 in an MSL-Ohio game. "We have had a lot of leadership in the back and that leadership has helped limit the number of goals we have given up this year.
"We also changed our lineup to a 4-4-2 instead of a 4-3-3, and we have dominated in the midfield. Quinn Kane and Laney Hoehnke have been getting (the ball) out wide to the outside and getting it to the block when we get across midfield."
Tennis team prepares for Academy sectional
Senior doubles players Ellie Levy and Katie Benedict are seeded second to lead the girls tennis team into a Division II sectional Thursday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 5, at Academy.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district Oct. 10 at Academy and Oct. 12 at Reynoldsburg.
Seniors Maxine Giller and Ilsa Evans are seeded fourth in doubles.
"My No. 1 doubles team of Katie Benedict and Ellie Levy has really been dominant as of late," coach Shelby Cheses said. "I'm really hoping that they can continue that into the postseason.
"They have been playing first doubles for me for the past four years, and it's been fun to see their growth from year to year. It's going to be hard to see them end their tennis careers along with our other seniors Maxine Giller, Ava Grossman and Ilsa Evans."
Junior Stefanie Lehman is the fourth seed in singles. Junior Sydney Elliott and freshman Leah Baumann also will play singles.
Bexley was 12-4 overall before playing Dublin Scioto on Oct. 1. It finished third (5-2) in the MSL-Ohio behind Academy (7-0) and Wellington (6-1).
Field hockey team has balanced scoring
The field hockey team has scored 10 goals -- from 10 players - in its last five games.
The Lions are 6-5-1 overall and 2-2-1 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-East. They play at Columbus School for Girls on Thursday, Oct. 3, in a league contest and play host to Watterson on Monday, Oct. 7.
Dasi Bandler, Allison Bernstein, Angelina Coles, Audra Fleming, Lillian Gyurcsik, Andi Meyer, Juliette Schiff, Caroline Whitlatch, Adelaide Zamensky and Tessa Ziegler all scored in the five-game stretch.
Below are the coming schedules for the Bexley boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 1 -- Competed in Division I sectional at Denison Golf Club. The top four teams and top four individuals not on those teams advanced to district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.
Oct. 2 -- Competed in Division I sectional at Blacklick Woods. The top three teams and top three individuals not on those teams advanced to district Oct. 8 at New Albany Links.
Oct. 5 -- Home vs. Bellbrook
*Oct. 3 -- At Grandview. The Lions defeated the Bobcats 25-19, 23-25, 25-20, 25-15 on Sept. 10.
*Oct. 7 -- Home vs. CSG. The Lions defeated the Unicorns 25-16, 25-21, 25-15 on Sept. 12.