As was the case a year ago, Olentangy Liberty's boys soccer and girls volleyball teams celebrated Division I district championships on the final Saturday in October.
However, the paths that both took to get there included bigger challenges than last season.
The volleyball team had no trouble once it got to the postseason, as it won all three of its district tournament matches without losing a set, but the regular season included overcoming injuries and not winning a league title.
For the boys soccer team to advance to the regional, it needed an unexpected goal late in the second overtime of its district final.
Volleyball squad easily makes regional
On Thursday, Oct. 31, the volleyball team will play Orange in a Division I regional semifinal at Worthington Kilbourne.
The winner plays DeSales or Watterson in a regional final Saturday, Nov. 2, at Kilbourne, and the regional champion plays Canton GlenOak, Painesville Riverside, Solon or Akron Hoban in a state semifinal Nov. 8 at Wright State.
Liberty, which is 18-7, lost to Orange 25-22, 22-25, 21-25, 25-20, 15-13 on Sept. 3 and 25-18, 25-18, 25-16 on Sept. 19 in OCC-Buckeye Division matches. It also fell to DeSales 25-18, 25-16 on Aug. 24 and 25-20, 25-22, 21-25, 17-25, 15-13 on Oct. 8, and lost to Watterson 25-22, 25-19, 19-25, 25-21 on Oct. 1.
"We've been peaking kind of towards the end of the season and have been coming into practice wanting to go far in the tournament," junior setter Logan Flaugh said.
The fifth-seeded Patriots beat 19th-seeded Lancaster 25-8, 25-15, 25-18 in a district semifinal Oct. 24 at Whitehall as Claranne Fechter had 13 kills and 15 digs and Sydney Novy had five serving aces.
Then on Oct. 26 in a district final at Whitehall, Abi Sebenoler had 12 kills and Flaugh surpassed 1,500 assists for her prep career as Liberty beat 15th-seeded Westerville Central 25-15, 25-17, 25-14.
"We served aggressively, passed and played scrappy defense," coach Jen Chapman said. "We blocked well as a team and spread the ball around to all of our hitters."
Boys soccer team advances to regional
The second-seeded boys soccer team and 11th-seeded Upper Arlington went into overtime in a scoreless tie Oct. 26 in a district final at Marysville.
The Patriots then had sophomore defender Parker Cameron pick up his second yellow card of the game, causing an automatic ejection and forcing his team to be down a player for the rest of the game.
With 4 minutes, 13 seconds left in the second overtime, Luke Sensky took a free kick from about 30 yards that went off the fingertips of UA goalie MacGuire Scholl and trickled into the back of the net for the game's only goal.
"I hit it on frame and was just lucky enough for it to go in," Sensky said.
Liberty, which beat 22nd-seeded Pickerington Central 3-1 in a district semifinal Oct. 22 at home, was 15-2-1 before playing in a regional semifinal Oct. 30 against Westerville Central.
The winner faces St. Charles or Kilbourne in a regional final Saturday, Nov. 2, at a neutral site, with the winner to play Cincinnati St. Xavier, Cincinnati Moeller, Liberty Township Lakota East or Cincinnati Elder in a state semifinal Wednesday, Nov. 6, at a neutral site.
"A lot of kids on our team are seniors, so it's a big deal for us to win," Sensky said. "It took a grind and took everybody's effort all game, but we got the job done and got away with this win."
Runners prep for state meet
The girls cross country team earned a fourth-place regional finish for the second year in a row and will make its sixth consecutive appearance in the Division I state meet Saturday, Nov. 2, at National Trail Raceway.
The girls will be joined at state by senior Jack Humenay of the boys team.
On Oct. 26 in the regional at Pickerington North, the girls scored 183 points as Hilliard Davidson (36) won. The top five teams and top 20 individuals moved on.
"It was really tough with the rain, but we pulled through," senior Linnea Kunesh said. "It's my senior season, so I had to go out and finish strong."
Junior Audrey Piero led the girls with a 22nd-place finish (19:33.8) and Kunesh was 30th (19:47.8), followed by sophomore Allison Westfall (39th, 20:10.9), junior Elizabeth Okonak (61st, 20:31.3), sophomore Sarah Gilbert (72nd, 20:41), senior Lauren Buddie (76th, 20:42.5) and sophomore Rachel Ziel (117th, 21:46).
"We were seeded third coming in and felt like if we all put in a good performance that we'd get in," Piero said. "I got a time that I liked, but it was a very tough battle."
The boys were eighth (238) behind champion Gahanna (100) as Humenay finished 12th (16:16.6).
"I was happy with how I did," said Humenay, who will compete at state for the third time. "I felt really, really good for two-thirds of the race and the last one-third was extremely tough."
Senior Caleb Ogle was 42nd (16:54.7), followed by juniors R.J. LaRosa (63rd, 17:14.1) and Tanner Sutton (75th, 17:23.2) and seniors Judd Ogle (90th, 17:35.7), Caleb Warrick (98th, 17:45.2) and Matthew Onate (102nd, 17:50.1).
Much of field hockey team to return
The fifth-seeded field hockey team saw its season end Oct. 22 with a 2-0 loss at fourth-seeded New Albany in a district semifinal.
Center midfielder Faith DiMantova, forward Dani Worrell, defenders Sam Frantz and Maggie Quillin and goalkeeper Keegan Grabow were senior starters for the Patriots, who finished 12-6.
"Of the six losses, two were in overtime and one was on a goal with 15 seconds left, so it was disappointing that at least one or two of those close losses didn't go our way," coach Greg Siehl said.
Freshman forward Lucy Keeler emerged to lead the team in goals with 15.
DiMantova had nine goals and 15 assists, and junior forward Reese McClelland had seven goals and 12 assists.
Juniors Kelsey Eckhert (midfielder) and Grace Hughes (midfielder) and sophomores Lauren Belt (defender), Alli Hamilton (midfielder), Anna Pione (forward) and Carlie Quillen (midfielder/defender) also were key players.
Others eligible to return include juniors Anna Bohrer (forward), Ali Caskey (for-ward/midfielder), Jordan Lindsey (midfielder/defender) and Rahegan Webb (defender).
"We also are looking forward to getting an infusion of talent from the (junior varsity) team, which finished its season with a 13-1-2 record," Siehl said.