After a season in which it was not funded as the result of a levy failure, the Groveport Madison High School boys soccer program has increased its participation.
Last year under volunteer coaches Ron Jones and Tom Snyder, the Cruisers finished 1-12-2 overall and went 0-5-2 in OCC-Ohio Division to place seventh, behind champion Gahanna (7-0). They posted their only win in their regular-season finale, beating Madison Christian 4-0, before losing to Thomas Worthington 5-1 in the second round of the Division I district tournament after having a first-round bye.
All of Groveport's athletic programs have returned to varsity status after voters approved a five-year, 6.68-mill levy last May.
"Last year was difficult," said 13th-year coach Deke Scott, who helped Jones and Snyder after guiding the Cruisers to an 8-8-1 record in 2012. "With us being funded through the school this year, our numbers are back up.
"Thankfully, we have a number of senior leaders who have played together at the varsity level for several seasons. Our goal is to surprise some teams and hope they underestimate us. We want to play for the entire 80 minutes instead of playing in spurts."
The Cruisers, who open Thursday, Aug. 21, at home against Whitehall, have returned eight starters, including six seniors in midfielders Blake Snyder and Jordan Spurling, center backs Kris Henry and Evan Mehl, forward Mohammed Al-Harbi and goalkeeper Jacob Weekley.
"Kris Henry is a fourth-year starter who will anchor the back line and Blake Snyder is a hard-nosed player who never gives up. Both are vocal leaders and will be captains along with Jordan Spurling."
The other two returning starters are sophomores Robbie Sithixay (defender) and Nuukele Gboe (midfield). Also expected to start are senior Seth Baugus (forward), junior Kaleb Blevins (midfielder) and sophomore Jayson Singratsomboune (defender).
"Nuukele Gboe led the team in scoring as a freshman," Scott said. "He is very good with the ball at his feet. Kaleb Blevins is a first-year player as a junior. He is a home-schooled kid who is able to play this year because of a new OHSAA rule. He will be a center midfielder and our play will go through him."
Last year, Henry was named first-team all-league, Snyder was second-team all-league and Gboe was honorable mention all-league.
Rounding out the roster are senior Bemnet Asmerome (midfielder), sophomores Bradley Byers (defender), Kenny Pettay (forward), Austin Sourinha (defender) and Dylan Snyder (midfielder) and freshman Luke Parsons (midfielder).
"The keys for us will be staying away from injury, not giving up a goal early in the game and playing for 80 minutes without giving up," Scott said. "We lack size and will be undersized in every game in our (league)."
Nine starters back for girls soccer team
The girls soccer team returns nine starters from last season, when it finished 3-13-1 overall under volunteer coach Mark Coyer.
Despite that, third-year coach Andrew Ling considers the Cruisers to be inexperienced.
"Of the 27 girls in the program, 17 have two years or less in the program and, with us being a club team last year, we have to overcome those setbacks," said Ling, who coached the team in 2011 and 2012. "But the girls are full of enthusiasm brought on by the passing of the district school levy.
"They are looking forward to competing again as a fully-funded team and are aiming to take the hardships of last season and turn them into positive outcomes."
The returning starters are seniors Lily Coyer (defender), Paige Dersom (defender) and Jaida Singratsomboune (midfielder), juniors Kelsey Cottrill (defender/forward) and Brooke Coyer (goalie) and sophomores Brooke Sartin (midfielder/forward), Anna Singratsomboune (midfielder), Sydney Singratsomboune (defender) and Tessa Warren (defender/midfielder).
"Paige Dersom and Lily Coyer are fourth-year starters who provide leadership and stability," Ling said. "Jaida Singratsomboune is a talented midfielder who brings toughness to the team."
Freshmen Ashlyn Harper (midfielder) and Jordan McElravey (forward) round out the starting lineup.
"Ashlyn Harper and Jordan McElravey are two skilled players who bring soccer experience to the team and have led to increased competition for positions," Ling said.
Also on the team are seniors Brittany Barna (midfielder), Erin Hale (defender/midfielder) and Cierra Kendal (midfielder/ forward).
Groveport, which opened Aug. 16 with a 3-0 win over Tree of Life, went 0-7 in the OCC-Ohio last year to place eighth, behind champion Pickerington North (7-0). The Cruisers open league play Tuesday, Aug. 26, at home against Gahanna.
"For us to have success, we will need to play together as a team and take advantage of our scoring opportunities," Ling said.
Aug. 21 -- vs. Whitehall
Aug. 23 -- at Fairfield Union
*Aug. 26 -- at Gahanna
*Sept. 2 -- vs. Grove City
Sept. 4 -- at Central Crossing
Sept. 6 -- at Coshocton
*Sept. 9 -- at Lancaster
*Sept. 16 -- vs. Newark
Sept. 20 -- at Westland
*Sept. 23 -- vs. Pickerington North
Sept. 25 -- at Delaware
*Sept. 30 -- at Pickerington Central
Oct. 4 -- vs. Licking Heights
*Oct. 7 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
Oct. 9 -- vs. Madison Christian
Aug. 16 -- at Tree of Life
*Aug. 26 -- vs. Gahanna
Aug. 28 -- at Columbus School for Girls
*Sept. 2 -- at Grove City
Sept. 4 -- vs. Canal Winchester
Sept. 6 -- at Coshocton
*Sept. 9 -- vs. Lancaster
Sept. 11 -- vs. Westland
Sept. 13 -- at Teays Valley
*Sept. 16 -- at Newark
*Sept. 23 -- at Pickerington North
Sept. 25 -- vs. Centennial
*Sept. 30 -- vs. Pickerington Central
Oct. 2 -- vs. Central Crossing
*Oct. 7 -- at Reynoldsburg
Oct. 9 -- vs. Madison Christian