Senior Michayla Gussler is having fun playing the field in her final season with the Thomas Worthington girls soccer team after spending most of her career as a goalkeeper.

"I'm tall and like to win the ball out of the air, so that's why I'm playing the field for this team," said Gussler, a Stanford commit. "It's pretty fun. I started out playing the (No.) 9 (position), but it was just a total switch, everything was backwards. So, playing the (No.) 10 (position), I can still see our forwards in front of me, which is nice."

The Cardinals are going through a difficult stretch. They haven't scored in their past four games and have scored just four goals in their past nine contests.

"We seem to lose our composure a little bit in our structure and the way we play when teams sit back on us," said coach Jeff Sever, whose team is 6-7-3 overall and finished 1-3-3 in the OCC-Cardinal Division. "We just need to find a way to find that first goal and just be confident."

Thomas sandwiched a pair of scoreless draws against Hilliard Darby on Oct. 3 and Kilbourne on Oct. 7 in league play around a 1-0 loss to New Albany on Oct. 5.

"This is what the (Division I district) tournament is going to look like," Sever said about opposing defenses. "The good news is that we have a strong defense. The challenge is now we have to figure out how we're going to score that one goal."

The Cardinals are seeded 18th in the district tournament and will play host to 19th-seeded Darby or 37th-seeded Central Crossing in the second round Saturday, Oct. 19. The winner plays sixth-seeded Watterson, 32nd-seeded Logan or 33rd-seeded Lancaster in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the home of the better seed.

"I think we're more of a defensive team," Gussler said. "I think we if we keep pushing forward, it'll fall."

Forward/midfielder Claire Sever leads the Cardinals with 11 goals to go with three assists and Gussler has a team-high four assists.

"(Gussler) really controls the middle of the field," coach Sever said. "Sometimes she gets a little ambitious. But when she controls the middle of the field, there are a lot of options that we have that we can choose from in terms of runs or runs off of her."

Boys runners win league title

The boys cross country team had four runners place in the top 15 to secure the OCC-Cardinal championship Oct. 12 at Hilliard Davidson.

The Cardinals scored 59 points in the league meet to finish ahead of Dublin Jerome (72) and Dublin Scioto (94), Kilbourne (97), Hilliard Bradley (108), Olentangy Berlin (125), Darby (135) and Delaware (182).

Senior Zubin Jha placed fourth (16 minutes, 3.2 seconds) out of 74 runners, behind champion Elliott Cook (15:22.8) of Jerome.

"It was cold and tough conditions, but everybody's going to deal with that," Jha said. "I don't think I handled that the best, but I'm just happy that our team stepped it up and got the win. I'll just refocus for (this) week."

Also scoring for the Cardinals were Noah Silliman (seventh, 16:07.6), Jack Caine (11th, 16:42.8), Andres Mira (15th, 16:52.1) and Benjamin Smith (21st, 17:02.5).

"Nobody goes through a season without having a down week," coach Bill Darling said. "If that's a down week for (Jha), we'll take it. He still did his job and finished with a very good number next to his name."

Thomas won its third league title in four years. Last season, the Cardinals were runners-up (65) to Kilbourne (55).

"We got beat last year and that's been motivation all year," Jha said. "So it's nice to get a little revenge."

The Cardinals will compete in the Division I, district 3 meet Saturday, Oct. 19, at Darby. The top six teams and top 24 runners advance to regional Oct. 26 at Pickerington North.

Girls runners also capture league title

Carina Napoleon and Lydia Miller really like running together.

And on Oct. 12, the pair stuck close, motivating each other to second- and third-place finishes out of 71 runners and helping the girls cross country team win the OCC-Cardinal championship at Davidson.

The Cardinals scored 51 points in the league meet to finish ahead of Kilbourne (64), Berlin (79), Darby (91), Jerome (99), Scioto (161), Delaware (204) and Bradley (217).

"Having a training partner to run with every day, she pushes me and we push each other," Miller said. "It's just always nice to know that you have a teammate so close to you. When you're feeling bad in a race, your teammate is right there with you pushing through together, so it's definitely a big encouragement."

Napoleon finished the league meet in 18:29.6 and Miller had a time of 18:45.4. Darby's Daniella Santos won the title in 17:40.5.

"We've become best friends running together and training and pushing each other," Miller said. "It's so awesome to have such a deep friendship through running."

Also scoring for the Cardinals were Abby Moulton (11th, 20:06.8), Michelina Guerra (16th, 20:20.6) and Naya Roebke (19th, 20:24.9).

"It was really cold," Napoleon said. "It was the first time we've raced in (this kind of) weather. I was excited for our team to win, too."

Thomas will compete in the Division I, district 2 meet Saturday, Oct. 19, at Darby. The top six teams and top 24 runners advance to regional.

sports@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSports

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Thomas field hockey, boys soccer, girls volleyball and girls water polo teams:

FIELD HOCKEY

Oct. 14 -- Played 17th-seeded Dublin Scioto in second round of district tournament. Winner plays 10th-seeded Dublin Jerome or 14th-seeded Dublin Coffman in district semifinal Oct. 22. The Cardinals are seeded second.

BOYS SOCCER

Oct. 17 -- Home vs. 23rd-seeded Westerville Central or 36th-seeded Hartley in second round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays fourth-seeded Pickerington North, 35th-seeded Delaware or 38th-seeded Whetstone in district semifinal Oct. 22 at home of better seed. The Cardinals are seeded 21st.

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Oct. 16 -- Played 16th-seeded Olentangy in second round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays second-seeded Watterson or 46th-seeded Independence in district semifinal Oct. 22 at Central Crossing. The Cardinals are seeded 36th.

GIRLS WATER POLO

Oct. 18, 19 -- State tournament at Cincinnati Princeton