Notebook: Thomas Worthington Cardinals girls water polo team trying to get more defensive

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group
Izzy Thomas has been one of the top players for the Thomas girls water polo team. The Cardinals open the postseason May 15 against Upper Arlington.

The Thomas Worthington girls water polo team settled into a consistent lineup the past several weeks.

After tailoring their lineup to different matchups to emphasize certain strengths earlier in the season, coach Olivia Miranda said lately the Cardinals have mostly fielded a lineup consisting of Izzy Thomas, Maia Lin, Nevin Woods, Charlotte Helm, Natalie Smith, Sarah Volzer and either Annalise Eisenstein or Nataliya Kallergis, depending on the situation. 

Despite having a 4-13-3 record entering the regular-season finale May 12 at Upper Arlington, Miranda said her squad has made steady improvements.

“They are definitely improving a lot. Our lineup is a little bit more set as far as who is starting,” Miranda said. “They’ve just shown a lot of growth as a team.” 

Miranda said while the Cardinals’ offense has become more fluid, they still are fine-tuning their defense ahead of the regional tournament. Thomas is seeded fourth and opens postseason play May 15 against UA. 

“We are getting more movement on offense, which is creating more opportunities for us, and I think we’re continuing to work on our defense and overall how to shut down teams,” Miranda said. “We have individuals who do a great job on defense, but coming together as a team to shut down teams is what we’re working on.” 

Lin has been one of the Cardinals’ best players, Miranda said, as she is leading Thomas in scoring while also leading in steals. 

“Maia Lin is hands down our best defender, but she’s also proven to be a great goal scorer as well,” Miranda said. 

Smith also has “really stepped up as someone who (can) score goals as well as be a strong defender, which has been really exciting to see,” Miranda said. 

Roderer, Greeson

leading Thomas boys 

The margin between victory and defeat has been close for the Thomas boys water polo team. 

Coach Rich Yurich said the Cardinals, who finished the regular season 5-11, lost by one goal six times. 

“They’ve been competitive, but we haven’t eked out the wins,” he said. “We’ve been on the other side of it.” 

The Cardinals’ top players entering the postseason include Ashton Roderer, who has 155 blocks in goal. 

“He’s still an outstanding goalie, and I would say one of the top three or four in the state,” Yurich said. 

Yurich said Benjamin Greeson has been an “outstanding” player who does a little bit of everything. Greeson has 21 goals, 18 assists and 32 steals. 

“He can handle the ball, he plays tough defense, he has assists, he has steals (and) he draws ejections,” Yurich said. “He’s had a really strong year. He’s probably been our most consistent player. He’s not often our leading scorer – maybe a couple times here or there – but he’s always scoring, and he’s always getting steals and assists.” 

Other top players include Grant Simeone (team-leading 26 goals), Zachary Barnes (23 goals) and Blake Ament (team-leading 20 assists, 33 steals).  

Yurich said the Cardinals hope to better seize their opportunities in the regional tournament. Fifth-seeded Thomas opens the postseason May 14 against Toledo St. Francis. 

“We’re hoping to be able to capitalize on some of the opportunities the guys create by putting the ball in the goal and beating the goalies,” Yurich said. “We also need to play more fundamental defense and cut down on the ejections on us. 

“When we can play good, fundamental team defense, we could play with any team. And if we can finish a few more of our shots, it could change the way some of these games go.” 

Phoebe Saunders is the Kilbourne girls water polo team’s leading scorer and has “been great all-around,” coach Olivia Miranda said.

Kilbourne girls excel

despite small roster 

The Kilbourne girls water polo team entered the season with limited numbers but hasn’t been hurt by having little depth. 

The Wolves finished the regular season 9-5-2 and are the third seed for the regional tournament. They open May 15 against Napoleon. 

Miranda said the Wolves’ success is rooted in a strong team culture. 

“They have an ability to support each other,” she said. 

The development of Kilbourne’s first-year players also has been a strength. 

“What’s really impressive to me is our first-year players don’t really stick out as first-year players, and that’s because the older players have really done a great job elevating them in practice and helping them as much as they can and supporting them so they have the confidence to get out there and play as hard as they can,” Miranda said. 

Phoebe Saunders finished the regular season as the Wolves’ leading scorer and has “been great all-around,” Miranda said. 

Lauren Richner led the team in steals in the regular season. 

“She’s been fantastic on the defensive end of things,” Miranda said. “She does a good job on offense, too, of course, but her defense has really stood out to me this year.” 

Kilbourne boys 

missing key players 

Already short on numbers and experience, the Kilbourne boys water polo team is entering the postseason without two key players. 

Yurich said Andrew Winget and Nathan Ambler are out for the season. 

“We are depending on a lot of young players, and they’re inexperienced,” Yurich said. “They have to help (the) team defense a little bit better. We have to be able to run a two- and three-man offense to give us a chance and make some outside shots in order to win some of these games.” 

Kilbourne finished the regular season 3-13 and opens the regional tournament May 14 against St. Charles. 

Yurich said in the absence of Winget and Ambler, goalie Jake Tefend has kept the Wolves in games. Tefend has 182 blocks.

“Tefend in goal is by far our best player this year,” Yurich said. “He’s a four-year starter, and I believe he’s one of the top two goalies in the state. He’s saved us a lot of goals.” 

Drew Harvey has a team-leading 19 goals, eight assists and 25 steals. 

“He’s really, offensively, put the team on his back,” Yurich said. “He’s made huge improvements from last year to this year. We wouldn’t be able to run much of an offense without him.”

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