It’s the busiest time of year for high school sports.
Football, of course, is entering Week 9 with many area teams vying for playoff spots, and volleyball, girls and boys soccer and cross country already are well into their postseason schedules.
District titles will be on the line in soccer and volleyball this week, and cross country will crown its regional winners and state qualifiers on Saturday.
Volleyball has provided the most success, so far, for area teams this postseason. Lancaster and Canal Winchester (Division I), Bloom-Carroll (D-II), Amanda-Clearcreek (D-III) and Fisher Catholic and Berne Union (D-IV) all advanced to the district semifinals.
For the Rockets, that meant only having to win one game — a four-set victory against Gahanna Christian. No. 8 Berne Union, however, has a tough road ahead as it must travel to No. 1 Newark Catholic on Wednesday.
“(The Green Wave are) very well coached, they’re very good athletes. But we have had a great year, and we are going to take the next two days of practice and get ourselves ready,” Rockets coach Mike Miller said. “(My players) have turned the program around. They are excited about taking another step in the tournament.”
The Aces, who won their first two matches without dropping a set, also face a tough opponent in No. 2 Fairbanks on Wednesday.
Coach Cindy Bennett played things close to the vest in the team’s first two postseason wins, but will need a great performance for the Aces to earn a chance at a second consecutive district title. If No. 3 Amanda-Clearcreek tops Fairbanks, the Aces will be the best-seeded team remaining in their bracket. Bennett said she likes having what probably will be the team’s toughest challenge in the semifinal.
No. 5 Fisher Catholic will play No. 2 Shekinah Christian, and 21st-seeded Canal Winchester will face second-seeded Dublin Coffman. Seventh-seeded Lancaster and No. 2 Bloom-Carroll are the only area teams playing better-seeded squads in the semifinals. The Gales will face No. 9 Hilliard Davidson, while the Bulldogs will play No. 12 Buckeye Valley.
Lancaster is one of four boys teams still playing, but it took some heroics for Lancaster to get here.
The Gales found themselves in a 2-0 hole early against Reynoldsburg, a team that beat them 3-0 in the regular season.
“I looked at my assistant coaches and said, ‘We’re in trouble,'” coach Kent Conklin said. “I’ll give credit to our seniors, they just never gave up. It inspired us to keep fighting.”
Quinn Galecki found Patrick Wagner for two goals to draw even at halftime. After falling behind 3-2 in the second, Wagner connected on a header to tie it with 44 seconds left.
The drama wasn’t done.
The Raiders appeared to have the game-winning goal on a header with 18 seconds left before Lancaster defender Jacob Cordle turned the ball away with his hands. Cordle was red-carded, but goalkeepr Andrew Koksal saved the ensuing penalty kick. Drew Sohrenssen later scored in the second overtime to give the Gales a 4-3 lead.
“Jacob, that’s probably the play of the game. If he doesn’t punch that out we’re not practicing today,” Conklin said. “That’s the most exciting game I’ve ever been a part of.”
Lancaster will play in the district semifinals Wednesday, likely against No. 2 Dublin Coffman — the third-ranked team in the state coaches poll. No. 7 Canal Winchester will face No. 21 Lewis Center on Wednesday in D-I.
In D-II, seventh-seeded Bloom-Carroll travels to third-seeded Big Walnut on Tuesday, and No.1 Fairfield Union will play No. 3 Jackson on Wednesday.
Bloom-Carroll and Fairfield Union (both D-II) are the only girls teams still alive. No. 2 Bloom-Carroll will play No. 6 Big Walnut at home Wednesday, and sixth-seeded Fairfield Union will play second-seeded Warren on Tuesday at Jackson High School.
Six area teams and seven individual runners advanced to regional meets this weekend. None of those runners finished better than Fairfield Union’s Jessica Swaim.
Swaim, a sophomore, took second at the D-II Southeast District race at Rio Grande, finishing second (19:55) and propelling the Falcons to a third-place finish. The boys team also finished third to advance.
“They’re about as fit as they are going to be at this point,” Falcons coach Rob Myers said. “It’s just about fine tuning them and keeping them mentally sharp. They should be ready, should be fine. I’m not worried about that.”
Joining the Falcons in the D-II girls race at Pickerington North this Saturday will be Liberty Union, the only other girls team still running. Amanda-Clearcreek’s Sammie Butterbaugh and Autumn Slone and Bloom-Carroll’s Jayln Devereaux also will run in that race.
Lancaster’s Dasia Burgess and Savannah McCray and Canal Winchester’s Megan Tamasovich and Cassidy Long will run in the D-I race.
On the boys side, Liberty Union, Lancaster and Fairfield Christian will join Fairfield Union at the regional meet. Jeremy Cuckler, of Bloom-Carroll, and Fisher Catholic’s Aaron Wood advanced as individuals.
Wood finished ninth in the Central Distirct D-III race (17:03). It was his first race back after missing time while helping the Irish’s golf team advance to the state tournament.
“I love racing and it kind of stunk that golf interfered with cross country, but I’m back and I’ve been training hard these past few weeks,” he said. “I hope to keep advancing.”