A Season of Change: A Winter Sports Preview
Boys’ basketball team begins the year with a new coach, new league.
First-year coach Quintin Aden, who coached Columbus Independence High School for the last four years, replaces interim coach James Storey. Aden said mental focus and toughness will determine what Worthington Christian can accomplish this season.
“This season, we will have a tough schedule with a couple of back-to-back (games),” Aden said. “Ensuring we are mentally and physically locked in daily will be monumental.”
Under Storey last year, Worthington Christian finished 21-5 overall and tied Columbus Academy for the Mid-State League Ohio Division title when both squads finished with 10-2 records. The Warriors lost to Canal Winchester Harvest Prep 61-44 in a Division III district final.
Worthington Christian has made it to a district championship three out of the last four years.
The Warriors face a new challenge in the Central Buckeye League, featuring Bishop Ready, Bexley, Buckeye Valley, Columbus Academy, Columbus School for Girls (girls sports only), Grandview Heights, and Whitehall. Bexley, Academy, Whitehall, and Grandview previously competed in the MSL-Ohio with the Warriors. The Silver Knights won a Division II district title and advanced to a state semifinal before losing to eventual state champion Akron Butchel 60-50. Academy and the Warriors lost in Division III district championships.
Aden will lean on seniors Sam Johnson, a second-team all-state selection as well as all-league and all-district, and Jonah Lewis, an honorable mention all-state selection last year.
Aden expects big things from junior guards Logan Woloshaan, C.J. Miller, and Ethan Blank. Camden and Ian St. John will also have elevated roles this season.
“One of the main keys this season to reach our goal is developing our depth,” Aden said. “We want to get better every day and compete for championships while glorifying God along the way.”
The girls’ basketball team compiled a jaw-dropping 72-7 record over the last three seasons, but second-year coach Aaron Davis said the Warriors’ success will not be determined by their final record.
“Our goals are to draw nearer to God and one another and to improve every week,” said Davis, whose team finished 22-2 last year after losing to Harvest Prep 43-42 in a Division III district final. “If at the end of the season we have done both of those things, then I would consider this a successful season.”
Davis replaced former coach Jason Dawson (WC ’06), who stepped aside to pursue an opportunity to work with NBA prospects in North Carolina. During the 2021-22 season, Dawson guided the Warriors to their second state tournament berth and their first appearance in the Division III state final in the 2021-22 season, where it lost to Cincinnati Purcell Marian 62-38 to finish 27-3 overall.
Worthington Christian, which won the MSL-Ohio title with a 14-0 record, faces a new challenge in the CBL. Former league rival Bexley remains in the Warriors’ crosshairs. Last year, the Lions won a Division II district title and lost to eventual state champion Cincinnati Purcell Marian 63-24 in a regional semifinal.
Davis will have to replace three players from last year’s team. Meghan Mayotte, the District 10 Division III and the conference’s player of the year graduated and is now playing for Ohio Dominican. Last year, the forward joined the school’s 1,000-point club and was first-team all-Ohio. She averaged 19 points a game and shot 82.5 percent from the free-throw line.
The team will also be without Faith King, who transferred from Worthington Christian, and Audrey Wilson, who decided to focus on volleyball.
However, the Warriors return seniors Jamie Custer and Natalie Woodfin. Custer, who averaged 10 points, five rebounds, three assists, and four steals a game last year, was first-team all-MSL and an honorable mention all-district. Woodfin, who averaged seven points, two rebounds, two assists, and two steals a game, was second-team all-league.
Davis is expecting big things from junior Brooke Winfree and sophomore Isabel Rogers. Freshman Palynn Wray may also contribute to the team’s success.
According to Davis, how the team develops defensively could be the make-or-break factor for Worthington Christian.
“We must be able to guard,” he said. “We need all five girls on the court giving everything they have on the defensive end of the floor.”
Swimming & Diving
Swimming and diving coach Jim Peterfish hopes junior Austin Hickok can continue the path that graduate Emma Stoll started when she was a sophomore.
Stoll, who is now swimming for Ashland University, qualified for the Division II girls state meet three consecutive times, placing 14th in the 500-yard freestyle as a senior (5:17.96), 15th in the 500 freestyle (5:16.30) as a junior and 16th as a sophomore (5:22.04).
“We will be a very small team with just three swimmers: Hickok, sophomore Abigail Lipp, and freshman Samuel Zhu,” Peterfish said. “We will miss the leadership of our senior last year, but I expect Austin to step into that leadership role this season.”
Hickok tied for 15th in the 100 butterfly (53.01) and placed 28th in the 100 backstroke (55.10) at the state meet last season.
“His goal is to make the podium (the top eight in the state) this year,” Peterfish said.
The team’s other returnee is Lipp, who swam the 50 free and 100 free last year.
“Abigail will be coming back now with a better understanding of the sport and what a full season of competition is like,” Peterfish said. “We expect dramatic improvement from her.”
The Warriors added Zhu to their roster this year.
“Sam comes in with some club swimming experience, and we look forward to receiving some early success from him,” Peterfish added.
Bowling coach Matt Hamilton said he’s not sure what to expect from the Warriors girls team this year. And that could be a good omen for Worthington Christian.
“Honestly, everything is kind of up in the air this year, but they’ve surprised me in the past, and they’ll probably surprise me again this year,” Hamilton said.
Worthington Christian is hoping it can build on last year’s finish. The Warriors won their fourth consecutive MSL title and finished second in the C Division conference championship with an 8-2 record behind champion Northland (10-0). However, the team lost four out of its five starters from last year, including graduates Cierra Mudge and Audrey Sanders. Mudge, who had the highest scoring average in the C Division play, shared the first-team honors with Sanders and junior Anja Muskopf.
Muskopf, who had the conference’s highest game last season, is the only one of the team’s top-five scorers to return this season. Last year, the Warriors placed third in the Division II Central district tournament, but only the top two teams advanced to the state.
Hamilton said that has motivated Muskopf and her teammates.
“Anja has been working all summer on getting better, and it’s starting to show,” Hamilton said. “She’s also stepping up as a leader. This year is going to be her year.”
Hamilton is looking for big things from his team’s three seniors, Grace Vinson, Dorothy Fullerton, and Kailey Luckette, who were honorable mentions all MSL last year.
According to Hamilton, sophomores Brenna Swiegart and Paige Schrieber could also make big steps this year.
Freshman Annalise Gifford has also looked great in practice. Juniors Addie Johnson and Alissa O’Farrell are “looking to establish their own footprint on the team,” according to Hamilton.
“We have the potential to go undefeated this year if everyone stays healthy and keeps improving,” Hamilton said. “We are a young team with many skilled bowlers. My goal is for them to see the strength God has blessed them with, to come together and be strong for each other.
Despite going through growing pains last season, the boys’ team won the MSL tournament and were league champions. The team also took third in the Division II C Division conference with an 11-2 record behind Whitehall (13-0) and Whetstone (12-1). Worthington Christian took ninth out of 12 teams at the district tournament.
“We were a very young team last year with only one senior (graduate Garrett Dixon) and one junior (Michael Goulet),” Hamilton said. “Our underclassmen started to gain confidence, and we gelled together as a team.”
While the team will be without Dixon, its top scorer last year, it does return four out of its top five in senior Goulet, junior Atherton Bunner, and sophomores Edmond Bunner and Nehemiah Smith. Smith was first-team All-MSL last year, while Goulet was a second all-league selection.
“Michael is growing into a leadership role, and we have our other starters back,” Hamilton said. “Additionally, we expect good things from junior Eddie Xu and three strong freshman bowlers (Jacob Sanders, Zeke Blankenship, and Eli Rider) who have been looking good in practice.”
The Warriors face tests in the first four games of the season, but believes his team could be one of the top contenders in the area.
“I feel we could challenge for both Conference and League titles again and maybe have a shot to go to State,” Hamilton said. “The key is going to be our mental game. We need to fix those voices in our heads that say, ‘You can’t do this.’ We all know you can achieve anything with God.”