There are a lot of changes with the Canal Winchester High School girls soccer team - changes coach Jim Stevens believes will help produce an MSL-Buckeye Division title and more postseason success.

There are a lot of changes with the Canal Winchester High School girls soccer team - changes coach Jim Stevens believes will help produce an MSL-Buckeye Division title and more postseason success.

In their first year in Division I, the Indians lost 5-1 to Westerville South in the first round of the district tournament. Though they played well, Stevens felt he needed change the system to better play off his players' strengths. He believes the Indians played too slow with their possession-style game, and is now encouraging more passes and faster decisions.

"We were a very plodding team last year," Stevens said. "We had fast runners, but we didn't play fast. We kept making the same mistakes over and over again, so we're trying to change the team speed by the way we play. We feel this will put the other teams at a disadvantage."

Another reason Stevens has shifted the focus is Canal Winchester lost its top two scorers in forwards Jessica Cabral and Whitney McDonald. Cabral, an exchange student, returned to Brazil, and McDonald graduated last spring. The thought is if the team players faster it will make up for the departed goal scorers.

Leading the Indians this season are forward Taylor Tackett, sweeper Kacy Allen and goalkeeper Lauren Tolman.

"Those are the three we're building around," Stevens said. "Everywhere else, we're looking for some people to step up."

Other starters include forward Mackenzie Harper, midfielder Katie Hahn and midfielder Anna Hippler. The rest of the positions are still being decided.

In addition to the shift in focus, Stevens also switched the defense. The last two seasons he used a flat-back line of four players. This season there will be a line of three defenders with a sweeper, Allen, behind them.

"We still give up too many goals, and I think we get broken down too easily," Stevens said. "We've got players in new positions they didn't anticipate playing, so right now we need to work on our anticipation."

The Indians hope to challenge for a title. The race will likely come down to Canal Winchester, Circleville and Teays Valley, with strong competition from Amanda-Clearcreek and Bloom-Carroll.

"We have to win a couple of the games early on to get some momentum," Stevens said. "It can be hard to change the way they play once the season starts, so we have to get that momentum going early."

•The boys soccer team tied Teays Valley at 5-1-0 for a share of the league title, but the Indians were disappointed with the way the season ended after a 1-0 upset to Watterson in the second round of the Division II district tournament.

The good news for Canal Winchester is that a strong corps of players returns. The Indians are again eyeing a league title as well as a run at a district title.

Leading Canal Winchester are Dylan Colley (D), Stephen Evers (F/M), Cory Myers (F/M), Kyle Porterfield (D) and Evan Steinbrink (D/M). The biggest change in the lineup is goalkeeper Matt Appel, who replaces two-year starter Sean Roberts.

"Matt's ready, and he may be one the best keepers in the MSL right now," coach Erik Feinstein said. "He's got the size, he's athletic, he's technically sound, he's very confident and he makes good decisions."

The Indians play a possession-style scheme that has served them well in the past. This suits Canal Winchester well this season because Feinstein feels there will be a lack of speed in some areas.

"We don't have any super-fast, breakaway type of guys," Feinstein said. "That won't change our approach much because we want to make the other team chase us, and you don't need speed to do that. Defensively is where the concern is, but as long as you play disciplined you'll be fine."

Feinstein expects Bloom-Carroll and Fairfield Union to be the Indians' main competition for a league title. One benefit Canal Winchester has is the new turf field that was installed over the summer. Most MSL teams still play on grass.

"I'm hoping that's going to be a big benefit, especially in our league games," Feinstein said. "The speed of play is different and the ball rolls more true. But it also moves faster, and that's something we'll need to adjust to."

Schedules

BOYS

Aug. 23 - at Groveport

Aug. 26 - at Hartley

*Sept. 2 - vs. Hamilton Township

Sept. 4 - vs. Watkins Memorial

Sept. 7 - vs. Bexley

Sept. 9 - at Pickerington Central

Sept. 14 - at Columbus Academy

*Sept. 16 - vs. Bloom-Carroll

Sept. 20 - at Granville

*Sept. 23 - vs. Circleville

Sept. 28 - vs. Wellington

*Sept. 30 - at Fairfield Union

*Oct. 7 - at Teays Valley

Oct. 9 - at Olentangy Orange

Oct. 12 - vs. Watterson

*Oct. 14 - vs. Logan Elm

GIRLS

Oct. 24 - vs. Central Crossing

Oct. 26 - vs. Pickerington Central

Oct. 30 - vs. Lakewood

*Sept. 2 - at Hamilton Township

*Sept. 9 - vs. Amanda-Clearcreek

Sept. 11 - vs. Hartley

Sept. 13 - at Groveport

*Sept. 16 - at Bloom-Carroll

Sept. 18 - vs. Chillicothe Zane Trace

*Sept. 23 - at Circleville

Sept. 28 - at Whetstone

*Sept. 30 - vs. Fairfield Union

Oct. 5 - vs. Wellington

*Oct. 7 - vs. Teays Valley

Oct. 11 - vs. Jonathan Alder

*Oct. 14 - at Logan Elm

*MSL-Buckeye match