Pickerington North Roundup: Veteran trio setting tone for girls soccer team

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Jackie Norris, center, has combined with fellow senior forwards Morgan Dragich and Tori Haggit to lead the North girls soccer team. The Panthers were 9-3-2 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Gahanna on Oct. 13.

For all of their experience on the Pickerington North girls soccer team, senior forwards Morgan Dragich, Tori Haggit and Jackie Norris believe they did not hit their stride this season until stepping out of their individual lanes.

“(Coach Doug Peterson) wants us to make runs through, whereas before we were pretty stuck in our zones,” Haggit said. “I think that’s helped a lot for us to get forward to make some dangerous opportunities that have paid off.” 

After a 4-0-2 start the trio considered sluggish at times despite not losing a game, the Panthers lost consecutive games to Hilliard Darby (3-2 on Sept. 10) and Watterson (3-2 on Sept. 12) before rebounding with five wins in a row before falling to third-ranked New Albany 4-0 on Oct. 6 in a key OCC-Ohio Division game. 

The Panthers were 9-3-2 overall and 3-1 in the league before playing Gahanna on Oct. 13. 

Norris, an Indiana Wesleyan commit, led the team with 12 goals through 14 games. Haggit, a Western Michigan commit, and Dragich, who is uncommitted, each had five. 

“A front line of seniors is not a horrible thing to have,” Peterson said. “Those three are very difficult to handle. They are phenomenal players, strong and athletic, and they do a great job of combining with each other. It’s been great to see them work and the opportunities they’ve created.” 

Haggit is a four-year varsity player. Dragich joined varsity as a sophomore and Norris came on last season after playing her freshman and sophomore years at Clearview Regional in Mullica Hill, New Jersey. Norris grew up in Pickerington and otherwise would have attended North all four years. 

“We’ve been combining and passing very well,” Dragich said. “We all have good skill. We’re very fast. We work better up top. We talk to each other. We tell each other what we want out of each other and how to fix things if things don’t go well.” 

Norris, who generally plays in the middle of the field, emphasized Dragich and Haggit’s speed on the outside. 

“I’m usually the one in the middle trying to hold people off and score the balls that they play in to me,” Norris said. “I use all of their motivation to get down the line to sprint up into the box and finish.” 

That cooperation was on display in a 1-0 win over Dublin Coffman on Sept. 17, when Haggit was fouled, the Panthers earned a free kick and Norris put a loose ball into the net. 

Peterson said Dragich, Haggit and Norris also have been strong leaders helping work several underclassmen into the lineup. North has started three sophomores in defenders Olivia Boggs and Cate Pickering and midfielder Avery Bowden, with sophomore Kylie Mizer and freshman Ayla Briones getting considerable time at forward. 

“I’m sure it’s intimidating to play with seniors who play with such confidence and know the game,” Peterson said. “They try to help the underclassmen have a voice and help them deal with the pressure of a high-intensity game.” 

Runners prepare

for league meet 

Boys cross country coach Tim Starkey hopes a hometown familiarity will help his runners Saturday, Oct. 17, when they try to win a second consecutive OCC-Ohio championship during the league meet at Pickerington Central. 

“We have a lot of tough teams in this league, but I hope we have a bit of an edge,” Starkey said. “We don’t run a lot of meets at Central, but we’re over there a decent amount with summer practices and the course just being close by. Maybe that familiarity will help us out.” 

North scored 33 points at last year’s league meet to edge runner-up Gahanna (36). 

The girls were third (76) behind the Lions (40) and Lancaster (47). The Golden Gales now are in the OCC-Buckeye. 

Also in the field is New Albany, whose boys and girls teams swept the OCC-Capital meet each of the past three years. The Eagles’ girls team had won four consecutive OCC-Capital titles before realignment. 

Both teams’ top seven have largely been stable, with Nick Whitehead usually leading the way for the boys ahead of a group that usually consists of Aidan Eberhardt, Isaac Glanzman, Carson Jones, Ian Ricker, Jackson Roes and Justin Schumacher. 

“Our first two guys (Whitehead and Schumacher) have been pretty set,” Starkey said. “Nick lowers his head and executes. He’s not a big talker. He works hard and that attitude filters through the lineup.” 

Ashley Khatib and Emma Rittman have led the girls team, with Evy Agganis, Emily Harness, Lainy Grube, Audrey Monge, Maya Roes, Camille Sabau and Gia Wetherell also seeing time in the top seven.

North’s Cayla Tasney shot a 103 in a Division I sectional tournament Oct. 6 at Mentel Memorial.

Boys golfers, Tasney

advance to district 

The boys golf team tried for its first Division I state tournament berth since 2013 and second all-time when it participated in the district tournament Oct. 13 at Apple Valley. 

In a 15-team sectional Oct. 6 at Turnberry, Carson Bellish earned medalist honors with a round of 70 to lead North to a score of 297 and second place on a fifth-player tiebreaker behind Olentangy Liberty (297).

Tyler Brockwell shot a 74 for the Panthers, followed by Kirby Shaffery (75) and Ethan Schwartz (78). Ryan Schneider shot an 84, six strokes behind Liberty’s fifth player, Ben Armbruster. 

In a Division I sectional that same day at Mentel Memorial, the girls team finished fourth (368) — one spot shy of advancing to district Oct. 13 at New Albany Links — but Cassie Tasney qualified as an individual by shooting an 81.

Dublin Coffman (331) won as the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced. 

Also scoring for North were Ella Bertke (94), Reagan Norton (95) and Kendall Burton (98). Cayla Tasney shot a 103.

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. 

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekDave