A two-game losing streak to follow a 3-0 start did not discourage the Olentangy field hockey team.
If anything, it reinforced what seventh-year coach Biz Brehm already thought of her players.
"We dropped two really great games to two really good teams," Brehm said of a 2-1 overtime loss at Liberty on Aug. 31 and a 2-0 setback two nights later at Upper Arlington. "I was so incredibly proud of my kids because they played hard for the entire 60 minutes in each game. In years past, we would get gassed or we would become defeated. This group of kids shows some real grit.
"The returning Braves are leading this team into what can be the best season yet for the (program)."
Eight starters who are back had led Olentangy to records of 4-2 overall and 2-2 in the COFHL-West Division before a Sept. 16 game against Berlin.
That group includes seniors Dani Beidelman (defender), Stephanie Gravely (defender) and Maddie Richeson (forward), juniors Grace Bartley (defender), Megan Miller (midfielder) and Alex Walters (midfielder) and sophomores Georgia Dudon (midfielder) and Reagan Richeson (midfielder).
Beidelman, who started at goalie the past two years, is succeeded in net by sophomore Essence Wyse.
"Not only do I have several returning forwards, including Maddie Richeson (and) all three starting midfielders returning, but we have a stacked defense as well," Brehm said. "(Wyse) can stand on her head and stop the ball. I am beyond excited to see what this team accomplishes."
Olentangy opened with home wins over Granville (1-0 on Aug. 24) and Orange (2-0 on Aug. 26), before a 2-1 win at Lancaster on Aug. 27. That game began Aug. 22 but was suspended because of bad weather.
The Braves ended their losing streak Sept. 9 with a 5-0 home win over Dublin Coffman, paced by three goals from sophomore forward Sage Parker.
Rounding out the roster are senior Brooke Arline (defender), juniors Jillian Everson (defender), Sydney Lewis (defender) and Dani Snopik (forward) and sophomores Hope Gravely (forward), Emma Hulshof (midfielder) and Ebony Wyse (midfielder/defender).
Greer moves up to take over Pioneers
Orange has its third coach in as many seasons, as former assistant Maggie Greer has succeeded Ashley Oracewski.
Greer played at Dayton Oakwood and at Ohio Wesleyan before serving as an assistant for the Pioneers last fall, when they finished 9-7-2 overall and tied Liberty for second (6-2) in the COFHL-West.
"Last year they learned to work together as a team and have each other's backs," Greer said. "They learned how to trust each other on the field and the importance of teamwork."
The Pioneers are loaded with players who started much or all of last season. Senior midfielder Sidney Lowry (second-team all-league) had two goals and two assists, and senior goalie Chloe Fuller (honorable mention all-league) had 92 saves. Sophomore midfielder Haylie Sucharski scored four goals.
Seniors Natalie Jenkins and Mariam Myers return at forward along with sophomore Emily McManus. Lowry and Sucharski are back in the midfield with juniors Sammy Myers and Lexi Rundle, and senior Reece Tomechak and junior Emma Cait Cogan return on defense.
Varsity newcomers include senior forward Lucia Garcia, junior defender Aubrey Timmons and sophomore midfielder Eleni Rores.
"They all have very good field hockey skills, and they all have a good work ethic," Greer said. "They work hard until they can't any more.
"We don't have a lot of players and probably could have had just one team with no j.v. But that wouldn't be worth it if all a lot of the kids would do is sit the bench. They need to get that experience."
Orange tied Dublin Jerome at 1 on Aug. 24 in its season and league opener before losing league contests to Olentangy 1-0 on Aug. 26 and Thomas Worthington 3-0 on Sept. 9. The Pioneers lost to Columbus Academy 6-0 on Aug. 31.
Patriots look to get on track
After losing two games in overtime and another in the final 15 seconds last season, Liberty hopes it can turn some of those close defeats into victories.
A 2-1 overtime win Aug. 31 over Olentangy could be a step toward that goal for the Patriots, who were 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the COFHL-West before facing Coffman on Sept. 16.
Liberty lost five key players to graduation after going 12-6 overall and tying Orange for second (6-2) in the league behind Thomas (8-0).
Seniors Kelsey Eckhert (midfielder), Grace Hughes (midfielder) and Reese McClelland (forward), juniors Lauren Belt (defender), Anna Pione (midfielder) and Carlie Quillin (defender) and sophomore Lucy Keeler (forward) are the top returnees.
Keeler was the leading scorer with 15 goals a year ago, while McClelland had seven goals and 12 assists.
Junior midfielder Alli Hamilton also was expected to play a big role but is out with a knee injury.
Sophomore Annie Lorenz and freshman Alayna Bogner have been splitting time at goalie.
The other seniors are Anna Bohrer (midfielder/forward) and Rahegan Webb (forward), and the roster also includes juniors Regan Galbraith (defender), Kennedy Haney (forward), Jessica Hazey (forward), Sahana Mehta (midfielder) and Janie Wagner (forward) and sophomores Payton Carrier (defender), Sydney Frantz (midfielder), Makenna Harrington (forward), Lily Walter (defen-der/midfielder).
Harrington and McClelland scored against Olentangy.
Faith DiMantova (first-team all-league), Dani Worrell (second-team all-league) and Samantha Frantz (honorable mention all-league) were the biggest losses to graduation.
"We return our senior captains, Grace Hughes, Reese McClelland and Kelsey Eckhert, as well as last year's leading scorer, Lucy Keeler, and starters Lauren Belt, Carlie Quillin and Anna Pione," second-year coach Greg Siehl said. "We have a particularly tough early season schedule but will be striving to hit our stride quickly to contend in the (COFHL-West)."
Bears looking for more after first win
Berlin had won only one game in its first two seasons before defeating Columbus School for Girls 1-0 on Sept. 8.
The Bears were 1-3 overall before playing Lancaster on Sept. 14 and are 0-1 in the COFHL-West. They tied CSG at 1 last season when they finished 1-12-1 overall and 0-8 in the league. Berlin was 0-15-1 in 2018.
"We have a lot of new players that are still getting adjusted, but we're picking it up," third-year coach Maddie Goelz said. "It's good to get a win like this.
"The majority of the team is new. It's a grind, but they're coming together."
Sophomore Gia Myers scored against CSG with assists from junior midfielder Ella Walls and junior forward Payton Aloi, both of whom started last season. Junior goalie Clarissa Blatnik had eight saves.
Junior midfielder Emma Yi is the other returning starter for the Bears, who have no seniors.
"It's very similar to two years ago," Goelz said. "It's not quite like a new program because we have girls back and they know our expectations. We had a lot of rebuilding and working on the basics, but they're picking it up quickly."
Aloi is joined at forward by sophomores Kennedy Arvai and Ashley O'Hanian, and Walls and Yi are in the midfield with sophomores Florabel Adongo and Londyn McCoy.
Myers, junior Riya Nair and sophomore Kennedy Wagner start on defense in front of Blatnik.
Sophomore forward Tina Warner and freshman midfielder Emma Dawson round out the roster.
"They're definitely a hard-working group, and going through (the) COVID-(19 coronavirus pandemic) made them very dedicated," Goelz said. "They worked through the hardship to have practice.
"They're picking things up more and more each practice. They have a love for the game and are working to get better."
Berlin opened with a 1-0 loss to Granville on Aug. 27 then fell 9-0 to Thomas in its league opener Sept. 2 before also losing 3-0 to Watterson on Sept. 3.
@ThisWeekSportsAt a glance
*Coach: Maddie Goelz, third season
*Top players: Payton Aloi, Clarissa Blatnik, Gia Myers, Ella Walls and Emma Yi
*Key losses: Tolan Cook, Bri Hibbitts and Morgan McNevin
*Last season: 1-12-1 overall
*2019 COFHL-West standings: Thomas Worthington (8-0), Liberty and Orange (both 6-2), Upper Arlington (5-2-1), Olentangy (3-3-2), Dublin Jerome (3-4-1), Dublin Coffman (2-6), Dublin Scioto (1-7), Berlin (0-8)
*2019 postseason: Lost to Columbus Academy 9-0 in the first round of district tournament
*Coach: Greg Siehl, second season
*Top players: Lauren Belt, Kelsey Eckhert, Grace Hughes, Lucy Keeler, Reese McClelland, Anna Pione and Carlie Quillin
*Key losses: Faith DiMantova, Sam Frantz, Keegan Grabow, Maggie Quillin and Dani Worrell
*Last season: 12-6 overall
*2019 postseason: Defeated Olentangy 2-1; lost to New Albany 2-0 in district semifinal
*Coach: Biz Brehm, seventh season
*Top players: Dani Beidelman, Maddie Richeson, Reagan Richeson and Essence Wyse
*Key losses: Megan Arline, Anna Barstow, Rachel Kickbusch and Karlie Severance
*Last season: 10-6-2 overall
*2019 postseason: Def. Bexley 2-1 (OT); lost to Liberty 2-1 in second round of district tournament
*Coach: Maggie Greer, first season
*Top players: Chloe Fuller, Sydney Lowry, Sammy Myers, Haylie Sucharski and Reece Tomechak
*Key losses: Hannah Brown, Mia Jakubowski and Josie Vance
*Last season: 9-7-2 overall
*2019 postseason: Def. Hartley 1-0; def. UA 1-0 (OT); lost to Watterson 6-0 in district semifinal