With one notable exception, Olentangy girls basketball coach Kate Cummings expects the Braves to bear similarities to last year's team that went 10-12 overall and 4-6 in the OCC-Buckeye Division.
The Braves must figure out how to compensate for the graduation of forward Olivia Margolies, who averaged team highs of 12.1 points and 9.5 rebounds and now plays volleyball at Ohio University. However, Cummings is confident that increased depth and versatility will play a large part in determining the team's fortunes.
"I think we have a lot better depth and I like the effort and energy they're bringing every day. That's a good indicator to me of how hard they worked since last season and of our overall talent," said Cummings, whose second season began Nov. 23 at Dresden Tri-Valley. "We'll still be really young with two freshmen and four sophomores, and maybe even younger than we were last year because those girls are going to play a lot. We played one freshman and three sophomores for entire games sometimes last year. This year is going to be better (for the returning players) because of the experience they got last year."
Olentangy returns four players who started all or some of last season in senior Bailey Cummings (5-foot-10, forward) and juniors Dani Beidelman (5-8, forward), Kennedie Doup (5-8, guard/forward) and Meg Spohn (5-8, point guard).
Spohn, a two-year starter, averaged 7.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 steals last year.
Cummings missed the first several weeks of last season with a high ankle sprain but became a regular starter upon her return.
Sophomore guard Bridget Stafford (5-5) also returns after seeing considerable time off the bench last year.
"I feel like they're much better at team basketball," coach Cummings said. "They're making the next pass and getting their teammates into good positions. We're trying to emphasize what everyone does well. Bridget is a good 3-point shooter. Dani's 10-foot jump shots are strong. I have seen a lot of unselfish basketball."
Olentangy has one other senior in forward Karmen Long (6-0), a move-in from Westerville Central. Long led the Warhawks last year, averaging 10.1 points and 7.6 rebounds and was named second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Rounding out the roster are sophomores Danielle Arhin (5-8, forward), Cami McCulty (5-5, guard) and Isabelle Walters (5-5, guard) and freshmen Reagan Richeson (5-7, forward) and Jonna Spohn (5-6, guard).
The Braves begin OCC-Buckeye play Tuesday, Dec. 3, at home against Liberty.
"We want to play a two-tempo style. We want to push in transition, but if we don't get a look we like, we can pull up and pass the ball and get opportunities we do want," coach Cummings said. "With our depth, I think we can play eight or 10 girls a night."
Top scorer, goalie back for hockey team
While the hockey team returns its top scorer from last season in junior forward Landon Johnson as well as senior goaltender Dominik Rusnak, the Braves began the season Nov. 24 against Thomas Worthington with more questions than answers.
Johnson, a third-year varsity player who scored 26 goals as a sophomore, was among five players who missed the preseason because of the football team's postseason run. Olentangy played Toledo Central Catholic in the Division II, Region 7 final Nov. 22.
The other hockey players on the football roster were junior Anthony DiMarzo (defenseman), sophomores Tommy Kipfer (forward) and Trevor Maynard (defenseman) and freshman Grant Keller (forward).
Olentangy's other returning players from a team that went 19-13-0-3 overall and 10-6 with 20 points in the Capital Hockey Conference to win the White Division title are senior Alec Rieser (defenseman), junior Mitch Berger (forward) and Kipfer.
"We've had a strong nucleus of older players every year I've been here, but the redistricting (when Berlin opened) took a lot of the guys who would be juniors and seniors for us now, so we're sort of starting from ground zero," said fifth-year coach Mike Ross, whose team graduated 12 players last season. "We have a lot of youth and inexperience, but they're all eager to learn. A lot of it is just brand new to them. These guys will be going up against a lot of players that are bigger and stronger than them. There's a learning curve."
Other players expected to contribute include juniors Angelo Carroll (goalie) and Cole Van Riper (defenseman), sophomores Nick Biehl (sophomore) and Kiernan Latshaw (forward) and freshmen Andrew Kiefer (forward) and Essence Wyse (goalie).
"We'll have to be a disciplined team and a smart team. We won't go out and overpower anybody or win a lot of games 5-4," Ross said. "We have to be strong in our defensive zone and really all over the ice. We have to stick to our system."
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy boys basketball, girls basketball, hockey and swimming & diving teams:
Nov. 30 -- At Mifflin
Dec. 4 -- At Briggs
Nov. 29 -- Home vs. Delaware
*Dec. 3 -- Home vs. Liberty
Nov. 29 -- Garfield Heights Trinity in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North
Nov. 30 -- Berlin and Cleveland Heights in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North
Dec. 1 -- TBD in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North
SWIMMING & DIVING
Nov. 29 -- Dublin Jerome at Dublin Recreation Center
Nov. 30 -- Watkins Memorial at Mount Carmel Fitness Center