Olentangy gymnast Meg Morgan sees positives in the Braves having a smaller roster this season than they've had in several years, if ever, even as she acknowledges everyone will have to work harder to maintain the program's lofty standards.
"It's way easier to bond. Even though we have ups and downs, it's nice that we're as close as we are," said Morgan, a senior. "A lot of girls are just starting and they've been doing so well, so it's cool to see them grow. I'm excited to see where the season takes us."
Morgan, classmate Ellie McIntyre and junior Caroline Hise all return from last year's team that reached its fourth consecutive state team meet and won its third consecutive OCC-Buckeye Division championship.
The Braves lost all four of their state individual meet competitors as Wen Holmes and Madeline Vouis graduated and sophomores Lillian Towles and Jaedyn Tucker did not return to the team.
"We absolutely have the same goals. We are going to learn a lot every time out," 19th-year coach Misty Lloyd-Matthews said. "They have to go into each year doing what they can do and making the best of what they can do. The whole team is (comprised of) every one of them putting the most into it that they can. Every year has a different dynamic. I think we have a lot of brand-new girls trying to step up big and a lot of returning girls helping them do that."
Olentangy got off to a good start in OCC-Buckeye competition Dec. 6, when it scored 119.9 points to win a season-opening tri-meet against league foe Big Walnut (107.65) and DeSales (90.95) at Central Ohio Gymnastics and Cheerleading.
Morgan finished third on vault (7.9), tied for fourth on floor exercise (8.0) and placed second in the all-around (31.7), one spot ahead of teammate and freshman Emilee Baumann (31.15).
Baumann was second on balance beam (8.1) and third on uneven bars (7.5).
Rounding out the roster are freshmen Jordan Horst, Maria Triplett and Courtney Wells.
The Braves finished seventh in the state team meet last year and went 4-0 in OCC-Buckeye duals and totaled 20 points by also winning the league meet.
Olentangy is 13-0 in league competition since the start of the 2016-17 season.
Lloyd-Matthews said the team is embracing the challenge of having to be more talented at all events, given that there are fewer competitors.
"There was so much diversity with (previous) group(s). The girls now will have to do all-around and that puts some more weight on them," Lloyd-Matthews said. "We hope it can pay off."
The Braves resume league competition Friday, Dec. 20, at Westerville Central in a meet that also includes Big Walnut, Liberty and Orange.
Olentangy's only home meet is the Olentangy Invitational on Jan. 20.
Hise is excited about making herself more well-rounded and being a mentor to her younger teammates.
"I am ready for it," Hise said. "It will be a great test. We have a lot to live up to."
Girls basketball team looks to stop skid
After getting out to a 3-1 start, the girls basketball team will try to snap a three-game losing streak when it plays host to Westerville Central on Friday, Dec. 20.
Olentangy fell to 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the OCC-Buckeye with a 35-34 loss at Westerville North on Dec. 13. Bridget Stafford had 10 points and Dani Beidelman and Kennedie Doup each scored six for the Braves, who fell behind for good when the Warriors' Emily Preston hit a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left.
Karmen Long had eight points and Stafford scored seven in a 70-44 home loss to Dublin Coffman on Dec. 10.
Those losses followed a 49-46 home win over Liberty on Dec. 3 in which the Braves trailed 36-21 two minutes into the second half.
The game against Central will mark a reunion for Long, a senior forward who averaged 10.1 points and 7.6 rebounds for the Warhawks last year to earn second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district honors.
Balanced scoring pacing hockey team
The hockey team is 4-6 overall and 2-4 in the CHC entering a Sunday, Dec. 22, game against New Albany at Chiller Easton, continuing a difficult portion of the Braves' schedule.
New Albany is Olentangy's third opponent in a four-game stretch to hail from the CHC-Red, the league's top division. In the previous two games, the Braves fell to Upper Arlington 11-0 on Dec. 8 at OhioHealth Ice Haus and St. Charles 12-0 on Dec. 14 at Chiller North.
Landon Johnson, Kiernan Latshaw and Alec Rieser scored for Olentangy in a 6-3 loss to Berlin on Dec. 13 at Chiller North.
Andrew Kieffer led the Braves with seven goals through nine games, followed by Johnson and Latshaw with six apiece. Johnson missed the team's first two games because he was a part of the football team's run to the Division II, Region 7 final.
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 20 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
*Dec. 20 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
Dec. 22 -- At Ironton
*Dec. 20 -- Westerville Central at Palace Lanes
Dec. 20 -- At *Westerville Central with Big Walnut, Olentangy Liberty and Olentangy Orange
*Dec. 22 -- New Albany at Chiller Easton
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 21 -- Northwest Classic at Bowling Green
Dec. 20-21 -- North Canton Holiday Wrestling Invitational at North Canton Hoover