With a revamped lineup following a 2017-18 season in which it won 21 games and finished first in the CHC-Blue Division, the Watterson hockey team struggled through much of last season.
The Eagles, who finished 9-21 overall and were last in the five-team CHC-White at 5-10-0-1 a year ago, have a much more experienced group and a brighter outlook heading into this winter.
Watterson opened Nov. 22 against DeSales at Chiller Easton and will compete in the Chiller Thanksgiving Classic on Friday, Nov. 29, through Sunday, Dec. 1, at Chiller North.
"I'm excited from what we did in the scrimmages and what we've seen in practice," fourth-year coach Jay Graham said. "We've got two pretty good lines, a third that's serviceable and a fourth that we'll mix in when we can. We've got a good five solid defensemen and a few that are getting their feet under them. Between the pipes, we're really solid."
Graham's son, senior Max Graham, is at goaltender after finishing with 14 goals and 10 assists last season while playing at forward. Ryan Roark, one of six players lost to graduation, earned all nine of the Eagles' victories in goal.
Senior forward Mason Jolly (8 goals, 3 assists) and junior defenseman Adam Pavliga (10 goals, 10 assists) are the top returning scorers.
The other seniors are Zach Kubatko (defenseman), Andrew Mershad (forward) and Ian Simone (forward).
Junior defensemen Nick Columbo and Hayden Storts, junior forward Colin Meyer and sophomore forward Luke Simone are other key returnees.
Freshmen forwards D.J. Columbo and Brandon Trout should make an immediate impact, according to coach Graham.
Junior forward Daniel Davis also should be a key player.
Others looking to contribute include juniors Tino Auddino (forward), Owen Gibson (forward), Pablo Smith (defenseman) and Reed Whetstone (forward), sophomore Lucas Chan (forward) and freshmen Andrew Burri (goalie), Collin Durham (forward) and Charlie Pelleriti (defenseman).
Watterson has moved back down to the CHC-Blue, where it joins Columbus Academy, DeSales, Dublin Scioto and Gahanna. Thomas Worthington won the CHC-Blue last season but has moved to the CHC-White.
"We're in the Blue Division and I think we'll definitely challenge to win the Blue and challenge the (CHC)-White teams," coach Graham said.
Girls basketball team to have 'new' look
Girls basketball coach Tom Woodford said that both he and his players have done a lot of "self-talk" regarding where things stand following a season in which the Eagles finished 23-3 overall, shared the CCL title with Hartley at 6-1 and were a Division I district runner-up.
Although the Eagles have a strong key returnee in 5-foot-6 senior guard Paige Woodford, the coach's daughter, much of the roster will feature players who are seeing significant varsity action for the first time.
"We're still trying to find our way," said coach Woodford, who is in his 19th season. "We're trying to find our identity, which is going to be different than last year, which was different than the year before that. We're kind of focusing on what is right here in front of us, working through core values and our base stuff. This is such a new group and there are so many new pieces. The kids that have experience need to know how to fit in with the new kids."
Watterson, which won a district title in 2004 and also was a district runner-up in 2003, '09 and '17, opened Nov. 22 at home against Teays Valley. The Eagles will play host to Worthington Kilbourne on Friday, Nov. 29.
Woodford, who has signed with Mercyhurst, averaged 10 points and two assists while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range last season.
The only other senior is Emily Dixon, a 5-7 guard.
"We've been putting in a lot of work and are still trying to come together to get our chemistry down to reach our full potential," Dixon said. "We have such an athletic group of girls and a really young team, so we're looking to see what works and what doesn't. This team is very tight-knit and has lots of potential."
Juniors Danielle Grim (5-8, wing player/guard) and Kilyn McGuff (5-10, forward) are other key returnees.
Junior Vini Paradiso, a 5-10 forward, should take on a key role after missing all of last season with an injury.
Junior Brynn Mulligan, a 5-4 guard, also should be among the regulars.
Others looking to contribute include sophomores Grace Cantwell (5-5, guard), Norah Dorley (5-9, forward), Kiley Graham (6-0, forward), Camille Gregory (5-6, guard) and Tanya Eagle (5-6, guard).
"Our hopes for the season are to grow as a unit and get better communication," Dixon said. "We hope to win the CCL. We also hope to make it past districts this year and fully prepare for the fast-paced tournament teams we'll probably compete with."
Below are the coming schedules for the Watterson boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and hockey teams:
Dec. 3 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne
Nov. 29 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne
*Dec. 2 -- Hamilton Township at Sawmill Lanes
*Dec. 3 -- Columbus East at Sawmill Lanes
Nov. 29 -- Cleveland Benedictine in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North
Nov. 30 -- DeSales and Thomas Worthington in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North
Dec. 1 -- TBA in Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North