The Westerville North girls soccer team saw its season end with a 3-0 loss to Dublin Coffman in a Division I regional semifinal Oct. 29 at Westerville Central, but second-year coach Ricky Konkolewski saw much more than that.
He saw a team that put in the work necessary to win North's first district championship since 2007 and build the framework to put the Warriors on the short list of top central Ohio programs.
"It's always tough being a coach when you have 16 to 20 crying girls, but I told the seniors that they didn't have a winning record as freshmen and they were around .500 for the last two years and all of sudden they blew the doors off this season," said Konkolewski, whose team finished 15-4-1 overall. "I felt like this class put Westerville North up on the map, where we hadn't been seen in 10 to 15 years."
The 15 wins were the most for the Warriors since 2003, when they went 16-4-2. As the fourth seed, they defeated 10th-seeded Hilliard Bradley 1-0 on Oct. 26 at Olentangy Orange to win a district championship.
North finished third (3-2) in the OCC-Buckeye Division behind Orange (5-0) and Olentangy (4-1).
In the regional semifinal, Coffman's Addie Vaccari scored with 11 minutes, 28 seconds left in the first half to help the Shamrocks seize control of the contest.
Senior goalkeeper Abby Markley had 10 saves for North.
"Coffman does a really good job of capitalizing on your mistakes," Konkolewski said. "We made some mistakes and they did just that.
"We felt if we could come out in the second half like we did in the first half, we had a chance to come back. But Coffman pressed us, and we couldn't find ourselves."
Defender Allie Balasico (2 goals, 2 assists), midfielder Hannah Cripe (third-team all-district, first-team all-league; 3 goals, 13 assists), defender Nia Hassey (special mention all-league), defender Emily Kellar, Markley (second-team all-league), defender Melissa Szwaranskyj and midfielder Alyssa Wright (honorable mention all-league; 7 goals, 6 assists) are seniors who started in the regional semifinal.
"(The seniors) put an incredible amount of work from the beginning of the summer all the way through the end," freshman midfielder Cori Bohan said. "They were incredible teammates and players."
The Warriors expect to return their top scorer in junior forward Makayla Parry (first-team all-district and all-league). She had 12 goals and seven assists.
Sophomore forward Alison Rothmann (second-team all-league) had eight goals and three assists.
Bohan and freshman defender Patricia Moore also started in the regional semifinal. Sophomore midfielder Sophie Bordron was a key substitute.
"Now we're one of the few teams that have gone to back-to-back district finals, so there's going to be a lot of pressure for the younger girls to handle those expectations and fill those shoes," said Konkolewski, who was named district Coach of the Year.
Football team loses season finale
The football team was held to 86 yards of offense and four first downs in a 35-0 loss at fifth-ranked Olentangy Liberty on Nov. 1.
North rushed for only 14 yards on 17 attempts and was outgained 286-86.
Both teams committed two turnovers.
Brennan Albertini and Nolan Watkins each had an interception for the Warriors, who finished 1-9 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Buckeye. North has lost 28 consecutive league games dating to the 2014 season.
Quarterback Wyatt Buxton completed 13 of 24 passes for 72 yards with an interception. Auri Dover caught four passes for 27 yards and Coby Darlington made two catches for 26 yards.
Brennan Rowe rushed for 55 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries to lead the Patriots, who led 14-0 at halftime and pulled away with 21 points in the third quarter. Quarterback Jackson Roberts was 14-for-24 passing for 193 yards and two touchdowns.
-- Dave Purpura