New Albany Roundup: Stingy defense drives field hockey team

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
New Albany field hockey players, from left, Meghan Kallner, Abigail Chattos, Olivia Boyles, Olivia Pollack, Bella Thompson, Paige Cornelius, Bridget Driscoll and Catherine Gurd have sparked a stout defensive effort this season.

At the time, New Albany field hockey coach Marissa Weldon hoped a 1-0 overtime win at Worthington Kilbourne on Aug. 26 would set the tone for a season in which the Eagles wanted to build on groundbreaking achievements. 

Still, she was cautiously optimistic. 

“We have tons of potential, but you just don’t know until after the first game,” Weldon said. “That felt like a scrimmage only because we weren’t sure. We’d just competed against ourselves. We were able to adjust and then hopefully would just keep getting better.” 

The Eagles believe they did just that throughout the regular season, as they were 10-2-1 overall before playing Dublin Scioto on Oct. 9 and 5-2 in the COFHL-East Division before an Oct. 14 game against Columbus School for Girls. 

With a maturing defense in front of four-year starting goalie Bella Thompson, New Albany outscored its first 13 opponents 37-9. 

Sophomore Abigail Chattos was the only returning starting defender from last year’s district runner-up team, the first in program history. She has been joined by junior Meghan Kallner and freshman Olivia Boyles, next to a group of midfielders in seniors Bridget Driscoll and Olivia Pollack, junior Catherine Gurd and freshman Paige Cornelius.

New Albany had eight shutouts through 13 games and had allowed more than one goal twice, in a 3-2 double-overtime win at Upper Arlington on Sept. 30 and a 4-0 loss at defending state champion Columbus Academy on Oct. 6. 

“We’ve been working hard on marking, staying low and having strong hits out. I think our defense does a really good job covering for each other and having each other’s backs,” said Driscoll, a DePauw lacrosse commit. “We have a very good goalie so it’s always nice to have that reassurance that she’s behind us. We’ve always been a pretty defensive team. That’s something we’ve worked on ever since my freshman year.” 

Driscoll said Kallner stepped up in the defensive back role vacated by 2020 graduate Elan Watson, and added that Boyles’ play at center back has been crucial. 

“Doing that has really led us to be a more offensive team so we can push up the field more,” Driscoll said. 

Thompson, who committed to Ohio Wesleyan on Oct. 4, said her communication with the defense has improved, as has her ability to stay on her feet. 

“The defense is amazing. We have jelled super well,” Thompson said. “The midfield is getting back on defense to help and has been great stopping the ball before it gets down to us, stuff like that.” 

Weldon also cited the unit’s athleticism and discipline. 

“I think it’s about our system of defense and how it’s guided by certain principles. The girls are disciplined enough to stick to those principles day in and day out for every game,” she said. “Even when we played UA, they were mounting a comeback and we just had to stay strong defensively. 

“It’s not only about being physically strong, but mentally tough. We’ve been working on that a lot and trying to implement that into our culture. When things don’t go the way we want, how do we change our mindset and stay positive and make sure we don’t give up?” 

Emerson Purcell shot a 79 in a Division I sectional tournament Oct. 6 at Blacklick Woods, helping the two-time defending state champion Eagles advance to district Oct. 13 at New Albany Links.

Girls golfers

cruise into district 

The girls golf team swept through the first round of the postseason Oct. 6, shooting a 286 in an 11-team Division I sectional tournament at Blacklick Woods to beat runner-up Olentangy (346).

Anna Ritter shot a 66 to earn medalist honors and Madison Spiess added a 69 for the two-time defending state champion Eagles, who advanced to compete in the district tournament Oct. 13 at New Albany Links.

Also scoring at sectional were Kary Hollenbaugh (72) and Emerson Purcell (79).

The boys team also prolonged its season Oct. 7, finishing fourth (324) in a 13-team sectional at Denison Golf Club behind champion Dublin Jerome (298) and advancing to district Oct. 13 at Apple Valley on a fifth-score tiebreaker.

Zach Blaney shot a 77 to lead the Eagles, followed by Jackson Fry (81), Jayson Beckner (82) and Andrew Ferinni (84). Victor Appell shot an 85, three shots better than Big Walnut’s fifth player, Ryan Tripp.

The Golden Eagles also shot 324.

From both district tournaments, the top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Oct. 23 and 24. The boys state tournament is at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course, while the girls tournament is at OSU’s Gray Course.

Runners vie for

another sweep 

The boys and girls cross country teams will try to sweep their league meet for the fourth consecutive year Saturday, Oct. 17, at Pickerington Central, but this time, they will attempt the feat in the OCC-Ohio rather than the OCC-Capital. 

The girls team, which has won four league titles in a row, will have to unseat Gahanna to extend its streak to five. The Lions scored 40 points in last year’s league meet on the same day the Eagles won the OCC-Capital title with 36 points. 

New Albany’s boys scored 23 points in last year’s league meet and this weekend will try to topple defending champion Pickerington North. The Panthers won the OCC-Ohio title last year with 33 points, just ahead of Gahanna (36), but graduated most of their top runners, including Division I state champion Matt Duvall. 

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekDave