Upper Arlington boys soccer coach Kevin Donovan and his players knew they would have to get creative this season in order to replace 2019 graduate Fernando Dapino, a forward who accounted for 17 of the Golden Bears' 32 goals last year.
Part of Donovan's planning involved moving two-year starting defender Joe Cannon into the attacking midfield, a move that has paid off throughout the regular season.
Despite not playing in his natural position, Cannon's 10 goals through 14 games led a balanced offense. UA was 9-4-1 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Central Division before finishing league play Oct. 8 at Dublin Coffman.
According to Donovan, 16 players had at least one goal or one assist through 14 games.
"I always wanted to play up top and coach wanted me to play a higher position in the midfield. It's just (a position) I wanted to play," said Cannon, a senior. "In club, I also play center back. It's not natural for me. I just chose to play it.
"(On) defense, you have more time and you're defending more, of course, but on attack you're going after people. It's the total opposite of somebody coming at you."
Perry Stevenson had six goals and Anthony Reisman five through 14 games. Matthew Acock and Alex Woods had three each.
UA had 32 goals through 14 games, equaling its total from all of last season.
"If we could figure out how to collectively get into the attack, we'd be fine," Donovan said. "We have the goals spread around. It's a little different now for teams when they prepare for us. We don't have the elite forward, but we have a bunch of talented players who can chip in and get it done. That's exactly what we needed going in, to get them to collectively score. It's why we are where we are."
Their diversity also encourages Donovan and gives opposing defenses more to stop.
"Joe is a ball winner by trade. You can put him wherever and he'd be successful," Donovan said. "Perry is probably our most dynamic one-on-one attacking player. He likes running at people and he's got a left foot, so he's harder to deal with.
"Anthony's off-the-ball movement is good so he gets into nice spaces. Alex Woods gets his goals because he is fast and he just works. He's in the right spot at the right time."
Before Oct. 8, UA was tied with Coffman for second place in the OCC-Central, one game behind Hilliard Davidson (4-0).
A strong defense that had allowed just 13 goals through 14 games and five in a 10-game stretch before Oct. 3 also has powered the Bears. Almost half of those goals came in a 6-2 loss to Olentangy Liberty on Aug. 20, UA's second game of the season.
Evan D'Herete, Nate Erre, Alex Kennedy, Sam Milburn and Zack Yoakam all have started in the back.
"There are some games I wish we could have back that we've lost 1-0 or 2-1 or something," Erre said. "We've just been really solid with a lot of communication. Our team chemistry back there is really good."
UA, which finishes its regular season Thursday, Oct. 10, at DeSales, earned the 11th seed in the 52-team Division I district tournament and will play host to 50th-seeded Franklin Heights in the first round Tuesday, Oct. 15. The winner will visit 10th-seeded Olentangy Berlin in the second round Oct. 17.
"We have talented younger guys who are just scrappy. They don't want to be scored against," Donovan said. "They have such a willpower. Defending is their mindset. At the end of the day, you just have to want to keep teams out of the net."
Tennis team advances three to district
The girls tennis team will be represented by singles player Megan Basil and the doubles team of Ella Hazelbaker and Wendy Shi in the Division I district tournament Thursday, Oct. 10, and Saturday, Oct. 12, at Reynoldsburg.
Basil was seeded second and placed second in UA's home sectional that concluded Oct. 5, going 4-1 and losing to top-seeded Caroline Sproule of Olentangy Orange 6-1, 6-3 in the final.
Seeded first in doubles, Hazelbaker and Shi went 2-2 and placed fourth, falling to Orange's Kortney Reed and Erin Storrer 6-4, 6-4 in the third-place match.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district.
Shi overcame a sprained left foot suffered during a 4-1 win at Coffman on Sept. 5 to team with Hazelbaker in doubles for the first time in the postseason.
"I think it was the plan at the beginning of the year, but then I got hurt and we weren't sure if I'd be able to play," Shi said. "I'm good at volleys and at poaching, especially when (Hazelbaker) is back and I'm up at the net."
Also competing but failing to advance were singles players Emma Wang (2-1) and Ellis Mizer (1-1) and the doubles team of Noah Mizer and Ava Richard (1-1).
At district, the top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the state tournament Oct. 18 and 19 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
UA was 16-1 before playing host to Pickerington North in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I district final Oct. 8. The winner advanced to state Oct. 20 at Reynoldsburg.
Golf teams advance to district
The girls golf team dominated a Division I sectional Oct. 1 at Mentel Memorial, claiming three of the top four places individually on the way to a 45-shot victory.
Julia Rabadam shot a 70 to earn medalist honors to lead UA to a team score of 297 and first place ahead of runner-up Olentangy Liberty (342) as 12 teams scored. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 8 at New Albany Links.
Also scoring for the Bears were Emily Hummer (71), Reagan Nolan (76) and Lizzie Murray (80).
Hummer and Nolan placed second and fourth, respectively, out of 60 golfers.
At district, the top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advance to state Oct. 18 and 19 at Ohio State's Gray Course.
In a boys sectional the same day at Denison Golf Club, Jud Turner's round of 74 led UA to third place (310) 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 Joe Mollica (77), Daniel Goldberg (78) and Will Cohen (81).
At district, the top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advance to state Oct. 18 and 19 at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington cross country, field hockey, girls soccer, girls volleyball and boys water polo teams:
Oct. 12 -- OCC-Central meet at Hilliard Davidson
Oct. 17 -- Home vs. eighth-seeded Olentangy Orange or 13th-seeded Hartley in second round of district tournament. The Golden Bears are seeded seventh.
*Oct. 10 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman
Oct. 16 -- At 14th-seeded Canal Winchester in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays host to 34th-seeded Licking Heights in second round Oct. 19. The Golden Bears are seeded 17th.
*Oct. 10 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman. The Golden Bears lost to the Shamrocks 25-13, 25-16, 25-23 on Sept. 17.
Oct. 17 -- Home vs. 19th-seeded Lancaster or 41st-seeded Westland in second round of Division I district tournament. The Golden Bears are seeded 17th.
BOYS WATER POLO
Oct. 11-12 -- Erie Challenge at Erie (Pa.) McDowell
Oct. 16 -- Home vs. St. Charles