Pickerington North boys golfer Carson Bellish was both thrilled that he clinched an individual berth to the Division I state tournament and saddened that his teammates will be spectators rather than competitors Friday, Oct. 18, and Saturday, Oct. 19, at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
But as the Panthers' first state representative since 2014, Bellish is anxious to cap an up-and-down season on a high note.
The sophomore shot a 70 in the district tournament Oct. 8 at Apple Valley, tying Westerville Central's Josh Qian and Gahanna's Mitchell Soma for medalist honors and earning the second of two individual berths to state on the second hole of a playoff.
Bellish shot par on the first playoff hole, when Qian and Soma both bogeyed. Soma was eliminated with a bogey on the second hole.
"It feels awesome. I haven't been in a situation like this in a long time," Bellish said. "I'm really bummed the team didn't get out, but we played our hearts out. It's been a rough year for me for the most part, not shooting the numbers I'd like to, but my swing's getting a lot better."
Bellish usually has shot in the 70s, averaging 76.75 in the four-round OCC-Ohio Division tournament.
North fell one spot short of state, finishing third (308) behind Dublin Jerome (300) and Olentangy Liberty (303) as the top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced. The Panthers were hoping for their second team state berth and first since 2013, when they finished second (646), five strokes behind Jerome (641).
Also scoring for North were Elijah Hale (75), Tomasz Douangsy (77) and Colin Mulligan (86).
"It's bittersweet. I'm very happy with the way the boys played, especially happy for Carson. It's bittersweet that we're all not going," coach Steve Schill said. "To finish in third place in the Central District means a lot because of the caliber of teams that we compete against. It's bittersweet because you're that close, but it's an end for a lot of kids (Oct. 8).
"On the same side, I'm excited for Carson. He's been very consistent, but he hasn't been able to put together that special round and this goes a long way for his confidence because he beat a lot of good players."
Bellish is the first North state qualifier since Cameron Bruce finished 36th in 2014 and the fifth individual to do so in the program's 17 seasons.
"We've been fortunate to have a lot of kids go up there in the past," Schill said. "We know the golf course. We'll play a practice round and put together a game plan and hopefully he can go out and play well like he did (at district)."
Tennis team's Alcala returns to state
Not only will Cassie Alcala of the girls tennis team compete in her fourth consecutive Division I state tournament Friday, Oct. 18, and Saturday, Oct. 19, at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, but she heads there as a three-time defending district champion.
Alcala went 4-0 and finished first in the district tournament that concluded Oct. 12 at Reynoldsburg, defeating Liberty's Maddie Atway 6-3, 6-0 in the final. Alcala edged the Patriots' Dani Schoenly 6-3, 7-6 (6-3) in a semifinal.
"To be a four-time state qualifier, I feel like it's a great accomplishment. It's not something you can just say about anyone," Alcala said. "I like where my game is. My serve has come a long way. It's something that fits into my game now."
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to state.
Alcala is the only state qualifier in program history. She was state runner-up as a sophomore and went 0-1 there as a freshman and a junior.
"It's hard to ask for much more than that," coach Brian Hoff said. "She had a scare in the sectional where she lost a set and wasn't playing her best tennis. She fought her way through that and ever since that set, she has played nearly flawless tennis."
Also competing but failing to advance were the doubles teams of Sophia Anderson and Corrina Moesle, who went 1-1 and lost to Dublin Jerome's Reagan Resor and Katherine Wang 6-0, 6-0 in a state-qualifying match, and Maggie Haas and Kim Nguyen, who lost to Upper Arlington's Ella Hazelbaker and Wendy Shi 6-4, 6-4 in the first round.
North also fell short of appearing in its first Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I state tournament, losing 3-1 at UA in a district final Oct. 8. Alcala got the Panthers' only win, defeating Hazelbaker 6-1, 6-0 as North finished 20-2.
Boys runners win league title
Led by Matt Duvall's first-place time of 15 minutes, 37.1 seconds, the boys cross country team placed four runners in the top seven at the OCC-Ohio meet Oct. 12 at Lancaster to score 33 points and finish first, ahead of Gahanna (36), Lancaster (78), Pickerington Central (104), Reynoldsburg (110) and Grove City (173).
Harper Moore was second (16:01.1), followed by Aaron Moraine (sixth, 16:45.1), Spencer Moledor (seventh, 16:49.6) and Nick Whitehead (17th, 17:19.3) to give North its second league title in three years.
The girls team finished third (76) behind Gahanna (40) and Lancaster (47) and ahead of Central (92), Reynoldsburg (112) and Grove City (172).
Scoring for the Panthers were Emma Rittman (eighth, 20:30.3), Ashley Khatib (12th, 21:09.7), Brianna Bowden (13th, 21:10), Lainy Grube (16th, 21:31.9) and Emily Harness (31st, 22:44.9).
Both teams will participate in the Division I, district 3 meet Saturday, Oct. 19, at Hilliard Darby.
The top six teams and top 24 individuals advance to regional Oct. 26 at North.
Girls golf season ends at district
Despite junior Cassie Tasney's round of 83, the girls golf team finished eighth (385) in the Division I district tournament Oct. 8 at New Albany Links behind champion New Albany (305) as nine teams scored.
UA (314) earned the other state berth as the top two teams and top two individuals on qualifying teams advanced to state Friday, Oct. 18, and Saturday, Oct. 19, at Ohio State's Gray Course.
Also scoring were freshman Reagan Norton (95), senior Allyson Rosen (100) and sophomore Kendall Burton (107). The Panthers' fourth golfer who is eligible to return, junior Ella Bertke, shot a 114.
"We played our best round of the season last week at sectional (shooting a 349) and we knew this would be tough," coach Nathan Weibush said. "We're right where we belong. I thought at the beginning of the season that we could be one of the top 10 teams in central Ohio and that's how we finished."
Below are the coming schedules for the North boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 17 -- Home vs. 35th-seeded Delaware or 38th-seeded Whetstone in second round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays 21st-seeded Thomas Worthington, 23rd-seeded Westerville Central or 36th-seeded Hartley in district semifinal Oct. 22. The Panthers are seeded fourth.
Oct. 19 -- Home vs. 21st-seeded Pickerington Central or 38th-seeded Teays Valley in second round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays ninth-seeded Marysville, 20th-seeded Olentangy Liberty or 41st-seeded Marion Harding in district semifinal Oct. 23. The Panthers are seeded second.
Oct. 17 -- Home vs. 14th-seeded Grove City or 40th-seeded Logan in second round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays 11th-seeded Big Walnut, 12th-seeded Dublin Coffman or 38th-seeded Westerville South in district semifinal Oct. 23 at Central Crossing. The Panthers are seeded ninth.