First-year Bexley High School boys soccer coach Brian Stoddard was familiar with the program's reputation before he took the job.
Having been an assistant at Hilliard Davidson and Thomas Worthington, he was well aware of the area's best teams.
"When you talk about Bexley, the goal is always to make your way to (a state final at) Crew Stadium," said Stoddard, whose team opened Aug. 19 at New Albany. "I've been part of a couple programs that have been among the best in the state. I'm excited because we've got a lot of experience returning this season."
Those returnees include last season's top scorers in junior Cole Heilman and senior captain Adam Hirsch, who each had eight goals. Heilman also led with 11 assists. The midfielders were first-team all-MSL-Ohio Division.
After reaching a Division II state semifinal in 2012, the Lions got to a regional semifinal last season but fell 3-2 (5-4 shootout) to Cincinnati Indian Hill to finish 12-5-3 overall.
Bexley won its third consecutive district title and, for the first time since 2009, won a league championship by going 5-0-2 in the MSL-Ohio.
Other top returnees are seniors Carl Pohlman (defender, 4 goals), Noah Appelbaum (midfielder, 6 goals) and Chase Roddy (defender), whom Stoddard sees as the anchor in the back replacing Alex Eikenberry. The 2014 graduate was first-team all-state and all-league at defender.
Also back is senior Adam Hopson (midfielder), who attended a private school last season.
"We've got a number of guys who can attack and finish well," said Stoddard, who replaced former coach Greg Kullman after seven seasons. "I think we will be a team that can move well in space and we can be deadly on the counterattack."
Two seniors will see time at goalkeeper in Gray Wilson and Drew Esposito. Wilson entered the season as the starter, Stoddard said. They replace 2014 graduate Eli Feuer, who had 42 saves last season and was second-team all-league.
Girls soccer team expects more pressure
As the girls soccer team made its way to a Division II regional semifinal last season, coach Jared Dombrowski began to realize many opponents did not expect the Lions to be one of the area's top teams.
"The thing I've discussed with the girls is that we were under the radar last year," he said. "I don't think a lot of teams knew how good we were. Even though I've got a lot of girls back from last year, we're going to have to see how they deal with those high expectations."
The Lions opened with a 2-1 win over Buckeye Valley on Aug. 16 after going 12-7-1 overall a year ago and capturing their first district title since 2010. Their run ended with a 4-1 loss to Granville in a regional semifinal.
In the MSL-Ohio, the Lions went 4-2 to place third behind Worthington Christian (6-0) and Grandview (4-1-1).
"We played as a team with great composure last year and we've got to continue that this season," said Dombrowski, who is in his fourth season. "We've worked on simulating more pressure in practices to create that environment and we need to adapt to that."
The Lions return their top scorer in senior midfielder Addie Cini, a second-team all-league selection who had 11 goals. Sophomore forward Lauren Woodford, an honorable mention choice, was next with nine.
Also back is first-team all-league midfielder Sophie Schottenstein, the team's co-captain with senior midfielder Maddie Baker, and senior defender Caroline Sapp.
The defense will look virtually the same with junior goalie Kendall Hecker and defenders Olivia Anderson (sophomore), Meredith Schwager (junior), Spencer Halliday (senior) and Sapp.
"We're growing our communication back there," Dombrowski said. "Losing (2014 graduate) Beth Lively back there was key because she was the composed one of the group and that influenced everyone. We're going to have to see who steps up."
Numbers down for field hockey team
The field hockey team's depth will be a concern as it looks to challenge defending champion Columbus Academy in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-East Division.
"We lost five seniors, but we also had a couple of girls who did not return," said coach Kara Whitlatch, whose team opened Aug. 20 against Columbus School for Girls. "We're going to be a team that needs to be well-conditioned. You play 11 and we have 21 girls total on varsity and junior varsity."
The Lions return last season's second-leading scorer in junior forward Ashley Barno, who had 11 goals and four assists. But they must replace 2014 graduates Kayley Barno (12 goals, 3 assists) and Courtney Peterson (5 goals, 8 assists).
Whitlatch will be looking to seniors Kara Friedman (midfielder, second-team all-league), Andrea Dressel (midfielder) and Grace Rosenthal (forward) to help lead this year's group.
Bexley reached a district semifinal last season for the third year in a row and lost to Watterson 2-0 to finish 13-5 overall. In the league, the Lions placed second (7-1) behind Academy (8-0).
"We've just got to keep people healthy," said Whitlatch, who is in her 12th season.
Roberts, Weisman producing low scores
Junior Hunter Roberts of the boys golf team earned medalist honors with a 70 in the MSL-Ohio preseason tournament Aug. 11 at Darby Creek.
Bexley placed second (317) behind Academy (293).
The girls team took third (425) in the MSL-Ohio preseason tournament Aug. 12 at Homestead Springs behind Madison Plains (370) and Teays Valley (409). Junior Liza Weisman shot an 83 to finish first.
Aug. 19 -- at New Albany
Aug. 21 -- at Watterson
Aug. 26 -- vs. Granville
*Aug. 28 -- vs. Whitehall
Aug. 30 -- at Hilliard Davidson
*Sept. 4 -- at Worthington Christian
*Sept. 11 -- vs. Madison Plains
Sept. 13 -- at Jonathan Alder
Sept. 16 -- vs. St. Charles
*Sept. 18 -- at West Jefferson
Sept. 23 -- at Fisher Catholic
Sept. 27 -- vs. Hartley
*Sept. 30 -- vs. Grove City Christian
*Oct. 2 -- vs. Columbus Academy
*Oct. 7 -- at London
*Oct. 9 -- vs. Grandview
Aug. 16 -- vs. Buckeye Valley
Aug. 21 -- vs. Hartley
Aug. 23 -- vs. Chillicothe Zane Trace
Aug. 26 -- at Lexington
Aug. 30 -- at Reynoldsburg
Sept. 2 -- vs. Watkins Memorial
*Sept. 4 -- vs. Worthington Christian
Sept. 11 -- at Williamsport Westfall
Sept. 13 -- at Jonathan Alder
Sept. 16 -- at Bloom-Carroll
*Sept. 18 -- vs. West Jefferson
Sept. 20 -- vs. New Albany
Sept. 23 -- vs. DeSales
*Oct. 2 -- at Columbus Academy
*Oct. 7 -- vs. London
*Oct. 9 -- at Grandview
*Aug. 20 -- vs. Columbus School for Girls
*Aug. 27 -- at Granville
Aug. 30 -- at Dayton Oakwood
*Sept. 3 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne
Sept. 6 -- vs. Cincinnati St. Ursula Academy
Sept. 10 -- at Olentangy Liberty
*Sept. 15 -- vs. Hartley
*Sept. 18 -- at New Albany
Sept. 20 -- at Cincinnati Ursuline Academy
*Sept. 22 -- at Lancaster
*Sept. 23 -- at Watterson
Sept. 27 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
Sept. 29 -- at Thomas Worthington
Oct. 1 -- at Upper Arlington
*Oct. 6 -- vs. Columbus Academy
Oct. 8 -- vs. Dublin Coffman