Out to a 7-4 start, the Thomas Worthington hockey team aims to keep the momentum going as it works to diversify its offense.
The Cardinals are working to make up for the loss of 2019 graduate Nick Schriner, who had 35 goals and 19 assists last season.
"We lost our leading scorer who graduated last year, so we have to get some other sources of offense," coach Bill McGill said.
So far, senior forward Will Pischel has led the way with 10 goals and eight assists after finishing with 30 goals and 19 assists last winter.
McGill said Pischel is providing exactly what the Cardinals need.
"He's going to have to pick up a lot of the scoring slack that Schriner left," McGill said.
Pischel joins juniors Sebastian Edvardsen and Evan Kendall as the team's starting forwards. Kendall has eight goals and six assists, and Edvardsen has three goals and two assists.
Another top scorer has been sophomore forward Collin Stegemiller with five goals and two assists.
Before the season, McGill predicted the defense -- led by juniors Carter Reinbolt, Carson Smith and Chance Young, sophomore Alex Piero and senior goaltender Jorge Bare -- would lead the team.
Getting more offense is even more essential when considering those are the Cardinals' only four defensemen, although McGill believes they provide a solid foundation on which the team can rely.
"They're all experienced and all good," McGill said. "Our top four defensemen are as good as any in the league, I think."
McGill said he's already seen more balance in his offense from prior seasons, a trend he hopes will continue.
"We're starting to play well as a team (and) we're starting to move the puck around," he said. "In years past we've relied on one or two players to do all the scoring and all the work for us. I think we're working much better as a team this year and much better defensively."
Senior forward Sam Hartwick agrees. He has two goals and three assists.
"I think, especially from our team, where this program has developed over the last couple of years, we're definitely starting to play so much more as a unit on the ice," he said. "I think the only way things go bad is when people start trying to do too much and try to carry it for other people."
Pischel said there's still room for improvement.
"Even with our record, we aren't as successful as we think we should be," he said. "We just have to work hard and keep putting in the work in practice so that it translates into games."
McGill said the Cardinals expect to win the Capital Hockey Conference-White Division. They have started 2-3 in CHC play.
"We want to win our division. We want to get deep into the districts," he said. "We want to be a top-20 team in the state, certainly. And the expectations are that we will be if these guys put the work into it."
Gymnasts seeking weekly improvement
The gymnastics team has returned several key contributors from last season, but is down a few top performers right now because of injuries.
The Cardinals lost only Emma Zedeker to graduation from last year's team. Coach Marci Skeen said she expects juniors Audrey Maxwell and Macy Patton and senior Regan Macerollo to be among the top contributors, and she's excited about the veterans who are back on the roster.
"It is nice that we do have quite a bit of talent coming back," Skeen said. "My expectation is to improve week by week."
The Cardinals won their opening meet at home Dec. 10 against DeSales, Delaware and Buckeye Valley with a score of 124.6.
"We scored decently, and so we were able to come out on top," Skeen said. "It was a good start. We're looking to improve each meet."
But despite that good start, Skeen said her team still has to clean up some things.
"Considering how well we did, we had a lot of mistakes (with) quite a few falls on (balance) beam and actually quite a few falls on the floor (exercise)," she said. "Same as vault, if you can't flip vault and just have to do a basic vault, you can't score as high as the other teams in the district, so really our key is to do well on beam and floor."
The Cardinals currently are missing two athletes who Skeen hopes will be key contributors once they return from injury. Senior Cordelia Noonan, a four-year competitor, has a broken foot while freshman Caroline Ludwig, who Skeen said could be an "all-around" scorer, is out with an ankle injury.
Both are expected back in January.
Skeen said the team has a strong work ethic.
"They've been working so hard every day in practice," she said. "I don't have to do much motivation. They pretty much know what they need to do and know what's expected of them, so then they're making my job a lot easier on my end."
It's this work ethic that Skeen hopes will propel at least one her athletes to the state meet.
"I would like to get somebody qualified out to the state meet," she said. "That's always the No. 1 goal in the back of any of the girls' minds."
The Cardinals next compete Jan. 15 at home against Hilliard Darby, Hilliard Bradley and Hilliard Davidson.
Boys team battles through early tests
The boys basketball team's start of 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Cardinal has given it an idea of where it stands.
The Cardinals opened Nov. 30 with an 82-76 win over Cleveland St. Ignatius before falling to Hilliard Bradley 49-46 on Dec. 6 in their league opener. They rebounded with two league wins, beating Dublin Jerome 61-47 on Dec. 10 and Delaware 56-43 on Dec. 13, before losing to Columbus South 58-43 on Dec. 14 in the Ohio Scholastic Play by Play Classic at Nationwide Arena.
South was last year's Division II state runner-up.
"We expect to be good," coach Sean Luzader said. "We expect to challenge some of the best teams in central Ohio and throughout the state."
But Luzader said the team needs to keep its priorities straight by focusing on only the next game.
"At the same time we can't worry about winning a league, we can't worry about winning district," he said. "If we take care of one at a time, I think our expectations are high."
Coming off a season in which the Cardinals went 17-8 -- winning 12 more games than the previous year -- and reached a Division I district final, they're expecting major contributions from a junior class led by 5-10 guard Jalen Sullinger, 6-5 guard Isaac Settles, 6-2 forward Omari Effiong, 6-7 forward Tyrese Hughey and 6-4 guard Maurice Collins.
Luzader said he's looking for a more consistent effort on defense.
"What we have to clean up is that if we can play defense soundly as a unit for four quarters, I think we have really big upside because I think we score the ball really well," he said.
Below are the coming schedules for the Thomas boys basketball, girls basketball, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 20 -- At Dublin Scioto
Dec. 21 -- At Westland
*Dec. 20 -- Home vs. Scioto
Dec. 21 -- Mishawaka (Ind.) Penn at Chiller North
Dec. 22 -- South Bend (Ind.) Riley at Chiller North
Dec. 21 -- Larry Remmert Invitational at Thornville Sheridan