Senior forward Will Pischel recalls being on the Thomas Worthington hockey team his freshman year and the struggles the Cardinals went through because of a lack of depth.
"It was a lot of just passing the puck to the best player and watching them try to skate it in and score," he said.
That team finished 5-18-1-3 overall and 2-11-0-3 in the CHC-Blue Division.
Today, Pischel is a member of a four-player senior class that has helped spark a turnaround. The group also includes goaltender Jorge Bare and forwards Sam Hartwick and Trevor Law.
The Cardinals dipped to four wins when the players were sophomores but then won 17 games last season and captured the CHC-Blue title. This winter, they're 18-9-1-1 overall and 4-6-1-1 in the CHC-White.
"We have depth (now). We can play with three lines, where a couple of years ago we could barely put together two lines," coach Bill McGill said. "So now we can put together pretty much three solid lines, and (we have) a very strong defensive core."
But besides the added depth, the seniors said the Cardinals are a more cohesive unit than any other team they've been a part of during their prep careers.
And the seniors have played a role in facilitating that.
"I think it's really just the attitude of the team," Hartwick said. "The whole mentality of the entire program has changed in the last four years. It's a great thing to be a part of. The change that we've seen is just unlike any other time period in the history of Thomas' high school hockey team."
"I think we've just seen from freshman year how our seniors then led the team, and we learned from that so we could lead our team better than they did," Bare said.
One of the ways that change of attitude has manifested itself is seen in a list of 20 commandments written on a whiteboard in the senior corner of the locker room. The whiteboard contains explicit commands such as beating certain teams this season, and more abstract ones such as "play for the crest on the front not the name on the back."
Another of the commandments is to top 20 wins.
"That kind of goal setting has helped everyone to kind of put their head down and have a specific duty they're trying to accomplish," Hartwick said.
McGill said replacing this senior class will be a challenge for him and the Cardinals next year.
Bare has 561 saves and an .890 save percentage, while Pischel has 37 goals and 19 assists and Hartwick has 11 goals and 10 assists.
"Certainly, we'll be looking for a goalie," McGill said. "And I think you look at Will and Sam combined, they score (about) half of our goals. So we'll be looking for some offense, too."
Girls basketball team optimistic for future
Coach Bill Sperlazza is optimistic about the future of the girls basketball team and has praised his players' effort so far this season.
The Cardinals were 4-13 overall before playing Columbus South on Jan. 29 and are 0-11 in the OCC-Cardinal. However, Sperlazza said the players are getting valuable experience, and he hopes they'll be able to leverage that into success next year.
"The biggest thing that we need to take away from this season is the experience of playing varsity basketball. We're going to return nearly everybody. We'll probably return over 90 percent of our offense," he said. "So the key this year is to make sure that all of the kids that played get this experience at the varsity level and understand what it takes to be successful at the varsity level, both as a team during the season and as an individual during the offseason."
Sperlazza said guards Lauren Gerber and Reid Dunbar and forward Kaniya Boyer are three juniors whom he expects to lead the Cardinals next season.
He also complimented the contributions of sophomore guard Josie Tinnerello, whom he expects to "help set the tone for us emotionally and physically next year."
He also expects freshman guards Chaneya Garner, Ladan Elmi and Kaleigh Palmer to take the next step next season. Palmer started the year on the freshman roster.
"We've got three freshmen that are playing varsity minutes that are showing flashes of potential and signs of potential," Sperlazza said. "And if those three are willing to dedicate to this game and put the time in, that group can be special."
Gerber was leading the Cardinals through 17 games, averaging 9.2 points and 2.6 steals and shooting 90.5 percent on free throws and 31.7 percent on 3-pointers.
Swimmers compete in league meet
The boys swimming and diving team placed fourth in the OCC-Cardinal meet Jan. 26 at Kenyon College, while the girls team placed fifth.
The boys scored 240 points to finish behind Dublin Jerome (543.5), Hilliard Darby (328) and Olentangy Berlin (257) and ahead of Delaware (180), Dublin Scioto (179.5), Kilbourne (168) and Bradley (69).
The 200-yard medley relay of Matt Fralic, Jacob Carver, Sam Steele and Eli Short placed third in 1 minute, 42.75 seconds, while the 200 freestyle relay of Zach Barnes, Blake Ament, Carver and Short was third in 1:34.81.
The 400 free relay of Short, Barnes, Fralic and Steele was third in 3:26.3.
Short was third in the 50 free (22.9), while Fralic placed second in the 100 backstroke (55.14) and fourth in the 100 butterfly (55.2).
The girls scored 185 points to finish behind Jerome (499), Berlin (361), Delaware (315) and Kilbourne (273) and ahead of Bradley (157), Darby (145) and Scioto (54).
The 400 free relay of Audrey Taylor, Charlotte Helm, Katie Browning and Sloane Antonetz placed third (4:01.69). Antonetz also was third in the 100 back (1:02.42) and fourth in the 100 fly (1:01.27).
The 200 yard medley relay of Natalie Smith, Maia Lin, Taylor and Antonetz was fifth (2:00.57).
Below are the coming schedules for the Thomas boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, hockey, gymnastics, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 31 -- Home vs. Olentangy Berlin. The Cardinals defeated the Bears 67-29 on Jan. 3.
*Feb. 4 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto. The Cardinals defeated the Irish 58-35 on Dec. 20
*Jan. 31 -- At Berlin. The Cardinals lost to the Bears 46-37 on Jan. 3.
*Feb. 4 -- At Scioto. The Cardinals lost to the Irish 43-25 on Dec. 20.
*Jan. 31 -- Kilbourne at Capri Lanes
Feb. 5 -- DeSales at Capri Lanes
*Jan. 31 -- Scioto at Chiller Dublin
*Feb. 1 -- DeSales at Chiller Easton
*Feb. 2 -- Columbus Academy at Chiller Easton
Feb. 1 -- Win the Day Invitational at Cincinnati Anderson
Feb. 4 -- At Dublin Coffman with Berlin, Dublin Jerome, Marysville and Scioto
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 31 -- Home vs. Kilbourne and Watterson
*Jan. 30 -- At Scioto
Jan. 31 -- At Upper Arlington