It is not lost on any Groveport Madison boys soccer player or coach that a league championship is nowhere to be found on the program's banner inside the school's gymnasium.
That will change in the aftermath of the Cruisers' 4-0 victory over visiting Newark on Oct. 3 that clinched at least a share of the OCC-Capital Division title. Groveport, which will finish league and regular-season play Thursday, Oct. 10, at Big Walnut, cleared a major hurdle earlier last week when it defeated host and three-time defending champion New Albany 3-0 on Oct. 1.
"(To win the outright championship) would mean the world to me," junior midfielder Edward Olusemo said. "I've been in this program since freshman year. Honestly, I think we might have had a better team my freshman year but we didn't do this. But now, to do it with these guys, with this group, would mean the world to me."
The Cruisers were 11-2-1 overall before playing Licking Heights on Oct. 8 and are 4-0 in the OCC-Capital.
Groveport went 10-4-4 two years ago, including 7-0-2 at home, but finished fifth in the OCC-Capital at 1-3-1. Last year, the Cruisers went 9-6-3 overall and 2-2-1 in the league to place third.
Both seasons ended with second-round losses in the Division I district tournament.
Coach Tyler Gleason called Olusemo "the man of the match" against New Albany, not only because he scored twice but he won several balls in the air.
The Cruisers took the lead 62 seconds in on an own goal.
"It calmed us down, to be honest. In the beginning, we were frantic. We weren't composed or playing our type of game," Olusemo said. "When that own goal went in, everybody calmed down. We started playing our soccer. It set the tone and we had a cushion. We smelled blood and we went for it. We attacked and never looked back.
"We have a tempo. Our midfield is one of the best in the area and when our midfield gets going, I feel like there's nothing that can stop us."
According to Gleason, Groveport is improving at defending set pieces, something that occasionally has been a weakness.
"Most of the chances they had were on corner kicks and we were lights out defending corner kicks, which honestly has been a struggle for us, defending set pieces," Gleason said. "We really stepped up there. We were winning everything out of the air."
Austin Snyder scored twice against Newark, including his program-record 57th career goal.
Groveport received the 15th seed for the 52-team Division I district tournament and will play host to 25th-seeded Chillicothe or 37th-seeded Whitehall in the second round Oct. 17.
"The way (Gleason) has coached us and shaped us to be great is probably the biggest reason why we've done so well," midfielder L.J. Minah said. "We've beaten some good teams. We just have to keep going hard in every game."
Runners prepare for league meet
Not only does cross country coach Vincent Gay expect the boys team to challenge defending champion New Albany for the OCC-Capital title during the league meet Saturday, Oct. 12, at Lancaster, he thinks it could be a tight race for first place.
"New Albany and Canal (Winchester) are pretty strong and Newark always gives us a fight. You can never count Big Walnut out," Gay said. "If the boys come together and put together a complete meet, they can win it. That's my total belief. We have five boys who can run together and really put something down if they're motivated enough to do it.
"(With the) girls, we'd like top three or top four but we just want to go out there and compete. We used the past few meets to prepare for this."
The boys finished third (62 points) last year behind the Eagles (44) and Indians (51) and ahead of Newark (80) and Big Walnut (124).
The girls did not score as New Albany won its third consecutive OCC-Capital title with 63 points.
Groveport's final preparation for the league meet came Oct. 2 in the Backwoods 2-Mile at Thornville Sheridan.
Illyaas Haji finished fifth (10 minutes, 10.2 seconds) to lead the boys to 304 points and 10th place out of 26 teams as Granville won (56). The girls finished 19th (34) of 21 teams behind the champion Blue Aces (29), led by Brianna Chan's 78th-place finish (14:09.3).
Caldwell wins at tennis sectional
Freshman Jillian Caldwell earned the girls tennis team's only win in a Division I sectional tournament Oct. 3 at Upper Arlington, defeating Hamilton Township's Karli Neff 6-3, 6-2 in a first-round match before losing to Olentangy Orange's Caroline Sproule 6-0, 6-0.
Groveport did not qualify any players to district Thursday, Oct. 10, and Saturday, Oct. 12, at Reynoldsburg. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced.
Also competing but failing to advance were senior Precious Anumbondem and junior Cassie Salva in singles and the doubles teams of senior Lori Hill and freshman Mama Bintou Tunkara and senior Marie Sungu and sophomore Kristy Recob. All went 0-1.
The Cruisers finished 2-11 overall and 1-4 in the OCC-Capital.
"I thought they improved as we went on. We played some tough teams early and then saw some teams comparable to us," coach Shawn Wilson said. "Our serves got better. All the basics got better. They need to work on tightening those up before next season."
Golf season ends at sectional
Boys golf coach Joe Rinkes expects half of his team to return next season after its season ended Oct. 1 in a Division I sectional tournament at Denison Golf Club.
Senior Ricky Cooper and sophomore Price Cooper each shot a 111 to lead Groveport to 13th place (477) behind champion Dublin Jerome (294) as 14 teams scored. The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.
Also scoring were senior Riley Cartmill (125) and freshman Shephard Bray (130).
"We'll have Shephard and Price back but we'll try to recruit a couple other kids," Rinkes said. "(Bray) came on us with at the beginning of the season, late in the summer, but he's improved a lot."
Below are the coming schedules for the Groveport Madison girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
*Oct. 10 -- Home vs. Big Walnut
Oct. 16 -- At 16th-seeded Gahanna in first round of Division I district tournament. The Cruisers are seeded 39th.
*Oct. 10 -- Home vs. Big Walnut. The Cruisers lost to the Golden Eagles 25-8, 25-11, 25-23 on Sept. 17.
Oct. 14 -- At eighth-seeded Hartley in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays 27th-seeded Marysville or 30th-seeded Hilliard Davidson in second round Oct. 16 at home of better seed. The Cruisers are seeded 43rd.