The Columbus Academy field hockey team is heading back a familiar setting.

The top-seeded Vikings secured a spot in the state tournament with a 3-0 win over fourth-seeded New Albany in a district final Oct. 26 at Olentangy Liberty.

“One of the goals was to win district and return to (state),” said Academy coach Anne Horton, whose team won its 23rd district title. “It’s one step at a time at this point.”

The Vikings improved to 18-0-1 and will play Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame in a state semifinal Oct. 31 at Upper Arlington, with the winner facing Thomas Worthington or Shaker Heights in the state final Nov. 2 at UA.

New Albany, which lost to Academy 4-0 on Sept. 18, finished 14-5.

Academy dominated play in the first half but could not get a shot past New Albany goalkeeper Bella Thompson, who finished with 12 saves. The Vikings finally broke through with 18 minutes, 31 seconds remaining in the second half with a goal by Regan Cornelius.

Earlier in the day, Cornelius qualified for the Division II state cross country meet by finishing 21st (19:41.1) at regional at Pickerington North.

Abby Yakam scored a little more than a minute later and Carolyn Vaziri closed the scoring on a penalty stroke with 4:08 left.

“The pressure doesn’t disappear,” Horton said. “I was concerned that (New Albany) would do what they did. They really packed it in (defensively) and it was up to us to find a way to break through. Sometimes it takes a little longer to do that.”

Academy goalie Alex Phelps did not face a shot, and the Vikings had a 17-1 advantage in penalty corners.

“We held them scoreless for 42 minutes, so that’s a win in my book,” New Albany coach Marissa Weldon said. “Bella had a phenomenal game. She was so strong back there. Her communication has really improved this season and that helped us a lot this game. She stepped up as a leader in goal.”

Thomas Worthington 2, Watterson 1 (OT)

The second-seeded Cardinals were on the ropes against the third-seeded Eagles late in the second half, but found ‘new life’ in overtime.

Freshman Cate Isaacson scored the winning goal with 2:32 left in overtime to lift Thomas past Watterson in a district final Oct. 26 at Liberty.

“Watterson was going to throw the kitchen sink at us and they did,” Cardinals coach Terri Simonetti Frost said. “We had new life. I just felt good about it.”

The Cardinals improved to 16-1-2 and will play Shaker Heights in a state semifinal Oct. 31 at UA. They lost to the Raiders 2-0 on Sept. 20.

Watterson goalie Caroline Dunham went to the ground trying to clear the ball, leaving Isaacson open in front of the cage. Isaacson scored off a pass from Bella Avila to send Thomas to state for the fifth consecutive season.

“We’ve got some work to do Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but we found a way,” Simonetti Frost said. “To have no seniors … we have three returners that have been in this game … and to do what we just did is pretty miraculous.”

Fellow freshman Tate Beegle scored for the Cardinals in the first half before Watterson’s Alex Picolo tied the game early in the second half. Picolo’s goal was just the third given up by Thomas this season.

The Eagles had four penalty corners in the last five minutes of regulation, but couldn’t convert.

“We wanted to create opportunities because we didn’t really do that in the first half,” said Watterson coach Janet Baird, whose team finished 13-5. “We had good opportunities, but (we didn’t) finish.”

—Michael Rich