The Canal Winchester girls soccer team's road to its second OCC-Capital Division championship in three years wasn't the smoothest, but the Indians entered the Division I district tournament with a chance to straighten out an up-and-down season.
The Indians defeated visiting Newark 2-0 on Oct. 10 to clinch its share of the OCC-Capital title, splitting the championship with Big Walnut. The Golden Eagles' 10-0 win over Groveport that same night meant both teams finished 4-0-1 in the league.
With its clinching win coming seven days after a long-awaited 1-0 victory at New Albany, coach Alex Wentz and some of his players considered the title "redemption."
"We wanted a little bit of redemption," Wentz said. "We had a tough, gritty game against New Albany that we won. 'One team, one mission' is our motto and that mission was a league title."
Big Walnut and Canal Winchester both defeated New Albany this season, ending the Eagles' chances at a third OCC-Capital title in four years. The Indians had been 0-1-2 against New Albany in league play since 2016.
Canal Winchester was 7-4-5 overall before playing host to 17th-seeded Upper Arlington in the first round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 16. The Indians are seeded 14th of 45 teams.
"It's what we've been building up to the entire season, to win the league going into the tournament," said senior defender Sydney Byrd, who announced her commitment to Wisconsin-Green Bay before the Indians' game against Newark.
Byrd's group has played a big part in the Indians' success. Canal Winchester allowed only 14 goals during the regular season, posting seven shutouts and four more games in which it allowed one goal.
Byrd is a four-year starter in the defense, along with classmates Cassie Kolonchuk and Angela Postage and sophomore Payton McKinlay in front of senior goalkeeper Keely Snode. Byrd and Postage are center backs, while Kolonchuk and McKinlay play on the outside.
"Keely is a strong keeper and she does a good job of saving us with the tough shots she faces," Byrd said. "We have a strong back line, an experienced back line. Payton is so good at one-on-one. We just want shutouts every time out.
"Our back line is very good at not only holding our line, but all of us are strong one-on-one defenders. If somebody happens to miss, the other girls do an amazing job covering."
Snode said her offseason was dedicated to fine-tuning her skills.
"My goal at the beginning of the season was to not let more than two goals in in any game and most of the time, that's happened," said Snode, who had 10 saves against New Albany, equaling her season high from a 2-1 loss at Pickerington North on Sept. 3. "Overall, my game has just grown. I have worked really hard. My (work against) goal kicks has gotten a lot better and my shot-stopping has been there. Communication has been good."
The Canal Winchester-UA winner will play host to 34th-seeded Licking Heights in a second-round game Saturday, Oct. 19. That winner will face seventh-seeded Dublin Jerome, 16th-seeded Gahanna or 39th-seeded Groveport in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the home of the better seed.
The district final is Oct. 26.
The Indians lost to Gahanna 1-0 in their season opener Aug. 16 and routed Groveport 9-0 on Sept. 17 in league play.
"We've been gritty," Wentz said. "The girls work well together. The defense has stepped up and the offense has a little more rhythm. It's been a more well-balanced attack. There are a lot of talented players across the front line and the midfield. It will be tough for teams to defend us when a lot of girls are contributing."
Butler, Klamorick lead runners in league meet
Girls cross country runners Allena Klamorick and Bonnie Butler finished second (19 minutes, 41.4 seconds) and third (20:18.9), respectively, in the OCC-Capital meet Oct. 12 at Lancaster, leading the Indians to third place.
Canal Winchester scored 63 points to finish behind New Albany (36) and Big Walnut (38) and ahead of Newark (99) and Groveport (145).
Klamorick finished 35.3 seconds behind winner Colbi Borland of Big Walnut.
Also scoring for the Indians were Brooklyne Redmon (20th, 22:14), Marissa Klamorick (29th, 23:25) and Esthela Marquez (32nd, 23:40).
In the boys race, Drew Kotwis finished sixth (17:25.21) to lead the Indians to second place (60) behind New Albany (23) and ahead of Newark (67), Groveport (103) and Big Walnut (134).
Michael McKeon was 10th (17:46.63), followed by Reece Klamorick (11th, 18:00.13), Ian Lewis (15th, 18:12.13) and Brett Smithers (18th, 18:19.62).
The boys team will compete in the Division I, district 1 meet Saturday, Oct. 19, at Hilliard Darby, from which the top five teams and top 20 individuals advance to regional Oct. 26 at Pickerington North.
The girls team is in district 2, from which the top six teams and top 24 individuals qualify for regional.
Volleyball player passes milestone
Junior setter Emi Waller recently recorded her 1,200th career dig, less than a week after classmate and teammate Avery Huntzinger registered her 1,000th career assist.
Waller passed the milestone during a 25-23, 25-22, 25-17 victory over Williamsport Westfall on Oct. 5. She had 326 digs this season and 1,225 for her career before the Indians finished OCC-Capital and regular-season play Oct. 10 with a 25-8, 25-23, 20-25, 25-20 home win over Newark.
Huntzinger earned her 1,000th assist during a 25-16, 25-14, 25-27, 25-23 win over Chillicothe Zane Trace on Sept. 30.
Canal Winchester was 15-7 overall before playing host to 24th-seeded Pickerington Central on Oct. 15 in the first round of the Division I district tournament. The Indians, who finished 7-3 in the OCC-Capital, are seeded 18th of 49 teams.
The winner will play host to 39th-seeded Briggs in a second-round match Thursday, Oct. 17. That winner will face top-seeded Olentangy Orange, 31st-seeded Westerville North or 35th-seeded Whetstone in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 23, at Central Crossing.
The district final is Oct. 26.
Below is the coming schedule for the Canal Winchester boys soccer team:
Oct. 15 -- Played fifth-seeded Dublin Scioto in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays sixth-seeded Hilliard Davidson in second round Oct. 17. Second-round winner plays 13th-seeded Dublin Coffman, 18th-seeded Westerville North, 26th-seeded Hilliard Darby or 51st-seeded Briggs in district semifinal Oct. 22. The Indians are seeded 28th.