After having success coaching women's basketball and softball at the collegiate level, Heather Rakosik is excited about her first assignment at the prep level, leading the Columbus Academy girls basketball team.
Rakosik has inherited a team that went 10-12 overall and 1-7 in the MSL-Ohio Division last season. She wasn't able to work with her full roster until the week of Nov. 11 because some players were competing for the girls soccer and field hockey teams, both of which reached the state level.
The Vikings opened Nov. 26 against Grandview in a league game.
"I'm enjoying myself," said Rakosik, who is a physical education teacher at the middle and lower schools at Academy. "I'm definitely somebody who likes things in order so I'll feel better when all our T's are crossed and our I's are dotted, but our players are very good people and they've been working hard. They're coachable and that's what we're looking for."
The top returnee is sophomore Sophie Spolter, a 5-foot-6 guard who averaged 13 points last season and was named first-team all-league and third-team all-district in Division III.
Another key returnee is 5-6 junior guard Kayla McClendon, who is the daughter of former head coach and current assistant coach Ron McClendon.
"We're transitioning a little bit, but we're ready to get the season rolling," she said. "We're getting to know (Rakosik) a little bit more. Our main goal is to build our program up and win as many games as we can."
Also back are seniors Emma Belford (5-9, forward), Mackenzie Smith (5-7, forward) and Alex Phelps (5-6, forward) and sophomore Claudia Warstler (5-10, forward).
"We have three seniors back and they have a lot of experience," Rakosik said. "We're definitely looking for their leadership and their basketball ability to lead the group. We definitely have some able underclassmen with our juniors and we have Sophie Spolter, who was a strong player for us last year."
Other players are junior Olivia Archibald (5-2, guard), sophomores Kennedy Jackson (5-6, forward) and Diana Ulbrich (5-5, guard) and freshman Claire Cahall (5-10, forward).
A key loss to graduation was forward Shelemiah Crockett, who was honorable mention all-league last season.
Rakosik previously served as assistant women's basketball and head softball coach at Hiram and Ohio Wesleyan, as well as an assistant basketball coach at Kenyon and Defiance. She also coached softball at the Division I collegiate level for eight years, guiding Bucknell to a Patriot League title and an NCAA tournament appearance in 2010.
"I really like to put in a lot of time to the coaching part and the development of the girls even off the court," she said.
Hockey squad begins third season
Hockey coach Corey Taber is expecting continued improvement in his team's third season, and its second playing predominantly a varsity schedule.
"Last year was great (and) we accomplished a lot," said Taber, whose team finished 17-15-1 overall and 8-7 in the Capital Hockey Conference. We have a good group of guys, but we lost 10 seniors from last year, so we have a lot of new faces. (We have) younger players coming up, which is good to see."
Academy opened play in the CHC on Nov. 22 against Dublin Coffman. The Vikings also played Athens on Nov. 23 and Cincinnati Moeller on Nov. 24.
The top returnees are junior forward Campbell Gwin, who had 10 goals last season, and sophomore forward Jake Carlin, who had 10 assists.
Junior Max Crane received most of the playing time in goal last season. Sophomore Kyle Bernstorf also saw time in goal.
Other returnees are senior Philip Soderberg (forward), juniors Luke Budzik (forward), Patrick Daly (defenseman), Andrew Golden (forward) and Nate Rausch (forward) and sophomores Jack Carlin (forward), Connor Harris (defenseman), Allen Koganov (defenseman), Arden Preza (forward), Alex Sterkowicz (forward), Max Walker (forward) and Andrew Zaki (forward).
Juniors Suzy L'Hommedieu (defenseman) and Xander Wood (forward), sophomore Cassidy Jones (forward) and freshman Ethan Kim (forward) also are looking to contribute.
"We have a good core of 15 experienced players, so they are used to each other and already pretty jelled as a team and ready to go," Taber said. "We're working on growing the program."
A key loss to graduation was forward Cole Walker, who led the team in scoring during league play with 16 goals and nine assists. He was first-team all-CHC-Blue, second-team all-CHC and honorable mention all-state.
Another graduate, defenseman Gunnar Geiger, had eight goals and 12 assists and was first-team all-CHC-Blue and honorable mention all-state.
Below are the coming schedules for the Academy boys basketball, girls basketball and bowling teams:
Nov. 29 -- At Fredericktown
*Dec. 3 -- At Wellington
*Dec. 2 -- Centennial at Sequoia Pro Bowl