New Albany Roundup: Field hockey squad primed for success

DAVE PURPURA
dpurpura@thisweeknews.com
Cassidy Clapham (left), a sophomore forward who scored eight goals last season, is one of seven returning starters for the Eagles field hockey team.

One theme hung over the New Albany field hockey team throughout its preseason.

"We set an overarching goal to return to the district finals again," fourth-year coach Marissa Weldon said.

If the Eagles' recent ascension is any indication, they hope they are poised for even greater achievements.

Seven starters return from last year's team that went 14-5, the best record in the program's nine-year history, and lost to eventual state champion Columbus Academy 3-0 in a district final. It was the third time in five seasons that the Eagles recorded double-digit wins and their first time advancing beyond a district semifinal.

New Albany lost three of its top four scorers but returns veteran goalie Bella Thompson, three starting midfielders in seniors Bridget Driscoll and Olivia Pollack and junior Catherine Gurd and three forwards who started at least part time.

Thompson is a senior.

The Eagles were 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the COFHL-East Division before playing Granville on Sept. 14, having outscored their opponents 11-1.

"Our team has worked very hard over the summer on our conditioning and improving our fundamentals, especially when we were in our small groups," Weldon said, referring to COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic-related guidelines. "Once we were able to come together, we worked on and have seen improvement in our passing game and off-ball movement."

Sophomore forward Cassidy Clapham's eight goals a year ago lead all returning players. Clapham was a full-time starter, and junior Rebekah Sestak and sophomore Laura Mason split time at forward.

Sophomore Abigail Chattos is New Albany's only returning starting defender.

New Albany opened Aug. 26 with a 1-0 overtime win at Worthington Kilbourne, followed by wins at Lancaster (6-1 on Aug. 31) and Hilliard (1-0 on Sept. 2) before a 3-0 win over Olentangy Liberty in its home opener Sept. 9.

Rounding out the roster are seniors Alison Dressel (forward), Sydney Fife (midfielder) and Olivia Herman (forward), juniors Emma Bogert (midfielder/defender), Lily Driggs (forward) and Meghan Kallner (midfielder/defender), sophomores Olivia DeFrank (forward), Rebecca Jenny (midfielder/defender), Faith Johnson (forward) and Noa Kauffman (goalie) and freshmen Olivia Boyles (forward/def-ender) and Paige Cornelius (forward).

Cornelius is splitting time this fall between field hockey and tennis.

After playing five of its first six games on the road, New Albany begins a five-game homestand Thursday, Sept. 17, against Olentangy Berlin.

"Just like every other team, we are learning to control the controllables and not take for granted the time we have," Weldon said. "With all the uncertainty still surrounding us, we know (the rest of this season) will require great focus, discipline and taking each game, one at a time."

Top boys runners return, girls reloading

While the boys cross country team returns the majority of last year's lineup that won a third consecutive OCC-Capital championship and qualified for the Division I regional meet, the girls team must replace several of its top runners as it seeks its fifth consecutive league championship and first in the OCC-Ohio.

Seniors Ethan McNichols, Victor Orsinelli and Colin Swincicki and juniors Will Benseler, Evan McClelland and Luke Weibel are back for the boys, who opened the season Aug. 24 with a second-place finish (50 points) in the nine-team New Albany Invitational as Olentangy Orange won (41).

Orsinelli was second in 16 minutes, 38.84 seconds, more than six seconds faster than his time at regional, where he finished 28th.

"(Benseler, Orsinelli, Swincicki and Weibel) are our main guys. I'm glad to see our sixth and seventh runners push those guys," fifth-year coach John Galbreath said. "We have a good squad here that is going to be competitive. Training has been good. It's been different because they hadn't raced in so long (without a track and field season). We're not where we need to be, but I think a lot of that is just from the standpoint of conditioning. We need to learn how to be in that race mode."

According to Galbreath, other varsity contributors include senior Aditya Akula and sophomore Lleyton Axline.

Eighth-year girls coach Herb Gregory must replace five of his top seven runners from last year. Juniors Mary Carson and Sammie Sika and sophomore E'Moni Saxton did not return for various reasons, but sophomores Mary Schultz and Stephanie Thomas are back from a team that finished second in district 2 and 16th regional.

Saxton was the Eagles' top runner six times as a freshman.

"Picking my top seven has been really difficult," Gregory said. "We might see a lot of girls in the varsity mix. Even without the girls we lost, the goals are still the same. This is a deep, talented group, a really nice group to work with. It's been a good run for our program. We have a good number of runners in middle school and some of them are going to make an impact for us in the next few years."

Junior Isabel Goldstein and freshman Ellie McClelland established themselves in the top tier as the season began Aug. 29 with the Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North, but "then it gets more interesting," Gregory said.

He added that several runners have a chance to break into the top seven or 10, including seniors Alexis Curren, Nicole Stewart and Tymber Wynn, juniors Carolyn Daly and Ellie Haffer, sophomore Alex Hurt and freshman Elise Hill.

Girls tennis team wins another title

The girls tennis team began its stay in the OCC-Ohio the same way it spent most of its 14 seasons in the OCC-Capital, with a league championship.

New Albany defeated Grove City 5-0 on Sept. 9 to wrap up a 5-0 season in the league in which it did not lose a court.

The Eagles were 8-3 overall before playing Olentangy on Sept. 15.

New Albany won 13 titles in the OCC-Capital between 2006-19. The only exception was 2015, when the Eagles went 6-1 to finish second to Olentangy Orange. That loss to the Pioneers remains the team's only league setback since joining the OCC.

The Eagles were eliminated from the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I district tournament Sept. 10 with a 3-2 home loss to Olentangy Liberty.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

At a glance

CROSS COUNTRY

*Coach: Boys -- John Galbreath, fifth season; Girls -- Herb Gregory, eighth season

*Top athletes: Boys -- Will Benseler, Ethan McNichols, Victor Orsinelli and Colin Swincicki; Girls -- Isabelle Goldstein, Ellie McClelland, Mary Schultz and Stephanie Thomas

*Key losses: Boys -- Armaan Rizvi; Girls -- Mary Carson, Lindsey Neff, E'Moni Saxton and Sammie Sika

*2019 OCC-Capital standings: Boys -- New Albany (23), Canal Winchester (60), Newark (67), Groveport (103), Big Walnut (134); Girls -- New Albany (36), Big Walnut (38), Canal Winchester (63), Newark (99), Groveport (145)

*2019 postseason: Boys -- Third at district, ninth at regional; Girls -- Second at district, 16th at regional

FIELD HOCKEY

*Coach: Marissa Weldon, fourth season

*Top players: Cassidy Clapham, Bridget Driscoll, Olivia Pollack and Bella Thompson

*Key losses: Lily Cole, Halle Galbraith and Brooke Mason

*Last season: 14-5 overall

*2019 COFHL-East standings: Columbus Academy (8-0), Watterson (7-1), New Albany (6-2), Worthington Kilbourne (5-3), Granville (3-5), Hartley (2-6), Bexley (1-5-2), Columbus School for Girls and Lancaster (both 1-6-1)

*2019 postseason: Defeated Kilbourne 3-1; def. Olentangy Liberty 2-0; lost to Academy 3-0 in district final