The Bexley High School girls soccer team finally reached its goal of more than a decade when it was declared the Division II state champion last season.

The Bexley High School girls soccer team finally reached its goal of more than a decade when it was declared the Division II state champion last season.

A few weeks after falling in the title game to Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown 2-1, the Lions were awarded the championship after it was ruled that the Blazers had played with an ineligible player.

But despite finally reaching the sport's pinnacle in its eighth appearance at state, Bexley, which finished 21-0-3 overall last year, is not planning a different approach to this season.

"We're approaching this preseason the same way whether we had won a league, district or regional title," 13th-year coach Scott Dempsey said. "We're not that team. We're not defending anything. We're trying to win titles of our own. We graduated six players and they played vital roles last year. It's a whole new beginning for us."

Of the six players lost to graduation, four were starters. One whose void will certainly be felt is midfielder Leah Levey, who was state, district and MSL-Cardinal/Ohio Division Player of the Year last season.

Now playing at Case Western Reserve University with her sister and 2009 graduate Dena Levey, Leah scored a team-high 27 goals a year ago. She was at her best in the state-title run, scoring 12 times in the postseason.

Unfortunately for the Lions, they also will be without a senior who was expected to be a key contributor this fall in Meredith DeLong, who scored 13 goals and was first-team all-league and second-team all-district. DeLong suffered a knee injury in the spring and had surgery two weeks ago. She has verbally committed to Ohio State.

"It was very surprising when we heard about Meredith," senior midfielder Charlotte Myers said. "We've lost a lot of good players from last year, but we're learning to play as a team. I think things are starting to come together for us."

Bexley appears to have enough talent to contend for a fifth consecutive MSL-Cardinal/Ohio title and an 11th district championship in the last 12 years. The Lions went 7-0 in the league last season, finishing ahead of Granville (6-1), Grandview (5-2), Columbus Academy (4-3), Fisher Catholic (3-4), Lakewood (2-5), West Jefferson (1-6) and Heath (0-7).

The Lions advanced to the state final last year by beating Cincinnati Wyoming 3-2 in a shootout in a state semifinal, Franklin Fenwick 2-0 in a regional final and Warsaw River View 5-0 in a regional semifinal. They opened the postseason with a 13-0 win over Heath and beat Bloom-Carroll 7-0 in the second round and Grandview 1-0 in double overtime in a district semifinal before beating Jonathan Alder 2-1 in a district final.

Twelve players who were on the postseason roster, including six starters and two other regulars, return. The group is led by Myers, senior central defender Kendra Wilson and senior forward Abby Fagin.

Last season, Myers scored 19 goals and had a team-high 13 assists. She was first-team all-league and all-district and second-team all-state. A forward as a freshman and sophomore, she shifted to center midfield last year and ran the offense. She will be in the middle once again.

Wilson was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district last year and Fagin, who scored nine goals a year ago, was second-team all-league.

Other starters back are seniors Justine Foster (forward) and Sara Prater (midfielder) and sophomore Jill Clark (midfielder). Foster had five goals. Also back are juniors Mackenzie Bolon (defender) and Kellie Dempsey (forward). Bolon started the state semifinal and state final after graduate Rachel Crane suffered an injury.

The other returnees are senior Jeanette Klamfoth (defender/midfielder) and juniors Elizabeth Fraser (midfielder), Stephanie Rawlings (midfielder/defender) and Emily Winnegrad (midfielder/defender).

Rawlings and Winnegrad were called up from junior varsity last postseason and earned minutes, with Winnegrad contributing three goals.

"We have a lot of players back who play up top," Dempsey said. "We have a lot of versatility there. It's a luxury we've had the last two years and I hope it can pay dividends again."

Also on the team are junior Olivia Price (forward/midfielder), sophomores Libby Davis (midfielder/defender), Meg Farrar (midfielder), Emma Murphy (goalkeeper), Emmy Myers (midfielder/forward), Natalie Schwager (defender) and Niki Urell (forward) and freshman Sarah Dawley (midfielder).

Murphy takes over as starting goalkeeper after spending all of last season on j.v.

"She's doing really well," Dempsey said of Murphy. "She's a bright kid. She has a great attitude, is very steady and working hard. She doesn't let things get to her. She knows there are going to be goals given up sometimes and that some will be her fault and some will be the fault of others. She knows how to keep things in perspective."

Bexley faces a challenging schedule, as non-league opponents include Cincinnati Mariemont, Fenwick, and Jonathan Alder, all of which finished last season ranked in the top 10 in the Division II state poll. Kettering Alter is another traditionally strong Division II squad on the schedule.

"We still have the same goals as every year," Myers said. "We have a lot of our core girls back from last year. We're optimistic we can do well again."

Schedule

Aug. 24 - at Circleville Aug. 26 - vs. Marysville Aug. 31 - at Ready *Sept. 2 - vs. West Jefferson *Sept. 4 - at Granville Sept. 11 - vs. Franklin Fenwick *Sept. 14 - vs. Columbus Academy Sept. 21 - at Liberty Union *Sept. 23 - vs. Grandview Sept. 25 - vs. Kettering Alter *Sept. 30 - at Heath Oct. 2 - at Jonathan Alder *Oct. 7 - at Fisher Catholic Oct. 9 - at Cincinnati Mariemont *Oct. 14 - vs. Lakewood Oct. 16 - vs. Hartley

*MSL-Cardinal/Ohio game