Water Polo: Thomas Worthington Cardinals girls team starting to hit stride

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group
Worthington Schools

The Thomas Worthington girls water polo team is working to find its rhythm after an extended break caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Water polo, which is normally played in the fall, was pushed to the spring this school year because of the pandemic. 

Coach Olivia Miranda said Thomas is attempting to smooth out its play. Fortunately for the Cardinals, the roster includes members of the swimming team, including senior Maia Lin, junior Nevin Woods and sophomores Charlotte Helm and Natalie Smith. 

“We definitely have some rust. That’s what we’re getting rid of at the moment,” said Miranda, who is in her sixth season. “We’re very, very fortunate with our season in the spring (that) a lot of our athletes competed in the swimming season, so they came into water polo season in shape. But even then it’s been a year and a half since we last played.

“I think we’re getting to the point where we’re starting to find our stride. They’ve clicked and I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Miranda said the Cardinals’ key contributors include Lin at center-defender, Woods at center, Helm, Smith and senior Nataliya Kallergis at attacker, senior Annalise Eisenstein in a utility role and senior Izzy Thomas at goalie. 

However, Miranda said the lineup is flexible based on the matchup, with senior Katie Bozoti and junior Sarah Volzer coming off the bench.

“Another thing I’m really excited about is we have a lot of flexibility in our lineup because we have a lot of girls with different strengths, so we’ve been able to play with our lineup and play with who gets more minutes when based on the matchup we’re playing,” Miranda said. “So that has been really nice.” 

The Cardinals return to action April 24 at Milford.

Wolves girls team

‘tiny but mighty’

The Kilbourne girls team does not have a lot of depth, but Miranda said she is more than comfortable with the Wolves’ roster. 

“We’re actually one of the smallest teams in the state, but we were the smallest team last year so we are used to that,” said Miranda, who is in her sixth season leading the Wolves. “I would definitely say the Kilbourne team is ‘tiny but mighty.’ ” 

The Wolves, whose roster includes several members of the swimming program, feature a core group that doesn’t anticipate getting a lot of rest with only 15 athletes on the roster. 

Key contributors include senior Phoebe Saunders in a utility role, senior Fiona Saunders at goalie, senior Lauren Richner at center-defender and senior Kayla Balemian, junior Nanami Campbell,  sophomore Kennedy O’Brien and freshman Hannah Lehr at attacker. 

Calling Phoebe Saunders the best player in the state and Fiona Saunders the best goalie in the state, Miranda said the Wolves are in capable hands with their four seniors. 

“We have a lot of power in our starting lineup,” she said. “Our starting six doesn’t really get subbed out hardly ever compared to Thomas, where we can rotate through a lot more girls and keep them rested. I would definitely say the Kilbourne team is extremely physical, and overall they’re a really fast team.” 

The Wolves return to action April 24 at Milford.

Thomas boys team

has ‘potential’

The Thomas boys team features numerous athletes competing for playing time, according to sixth-year coach Rick Yurich, who said the 23-player roster offers flexibility depending on the matchup. 

“Depending on who we’re playing or what I’m seeing in practice, sometimes it’s different guys,” Yurich said. 

The core group includes senior Ashton Roderer at goalie, senior Grant Simeon at center, junior Blake Ament – a ball-handler who can run Thomas’ 6-on-5 offense – and senior Benjamin Greeson, a utility player who can fill most roles on offense and defense. 

“I love the potential of this team,” Yurich said. “We definitely have not played our best yet, but there’s been some really outstanding games and some really outstanding individual play. We just need to put it all together.” 

He said the Cardinals need to iron out their execution on offense to take the next step. 

“We are making adjustments during the game very well, making great effort and playing as a team. But unfortunately, we’ve been off (in) not finishing plays,” Yurich said. “Passes are not quite getting where they need to go or shots just not beating the goalie. We’re running a good offense and guys are playing outstanding defense, and we’ve actually really improved on our ball security, but we’re missing a lot of shots. 

“If we can start shooting better… and we can start finishing plays, we’ll really have something.” 

The Cardinals return to action May 1 at Cincinnati Princeton.

Wolves boys grapple

with lack of depth 

The Kilbourne boys team is similar to the girls team, as it doesn’t have much depth with an 11-player roster. 

Senior Jake Tefend is a four-year starter at goalie. 

“I would say he’s one of the top goalies in the state,” said Yurich, who is in his sixth season leading the Wolves. 

On offense, sophomore Nathan Ambler is the main center player. 

“He’s been a really strong player for us,” Yurich said. “He’s our leading scorer and just the most consistent offensive player, and he’s a good defensive player, too.” 

Senior Drew Harvey plays mostly outside shooter and defense, but Yurich said he’s begun to develop into a solid ball-handler and scorer as well. 

Sophomore Christopher Richner is a key utility player. 

Yurich said the Wolves have been solid on offense as of late, but need to work on taking advantage of opportunities. 

“We are playing effective offense and drawing some good penalties, but we are not capitalizing on those,” he said. “So we have to improve our 6-on-5 offense, our 5-meter shots and just our conditioning because we play with so few guys.”

The Wolves return to action May 1 at Cincinnati Princeton.

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