There has been a big turnover in the Whetstone High School girls soccer program.
Having posted one of their best seasons last fall, the Braves lost 13 players to graduation and lost the only coach in their 15-year history when Phil Labuhn stepped down.
Labuhn was replaced by Kerry Nixon, who coached the boys team for five seasons from 2008-12 and was an assistant coach with the girls team a year ago.
Last season, Labuhn eclipsed the 100-win milestone for his career and was named Division I district Coach of the Year, as Whetstone finished 13-1-2 overall and 9-0 in the City League. The Braves defeated Centennial 5-0 in the City championship game at Crew Stadium for their second consecutive title.
Whetstone outscored its opponents 86-2, with its only regular-season blemishes being scoreless ties against Grandview and Coshocton. The Braves, who haven't won a postseason game since 2002, lost to Dublin Scioto 1-0 (4-3 in shootout) in the second round of the district tournament after having a first-round bye.
"We only have two seniors on the roster this year, so we lack experience overall," said Nixon, whose team opened Aug. 18 at home against Teays Valley and plays Thursday, Aug 21, at Grandview. "Many players will be starting, or playing, on varsity for the first time, and some of those will be in new roles."
Both of the seniors, midfielder Rita Knasel and defender Jensen Smith, are returning starters.
"Rita is a fourth-year starter who has a chance to be the winningest player in program history," Nixon said. "She obviously will be one of our four captains and will help the young girls around her."
Five other starters have returned in junior goalkeeper Cecilia Bulgrin, junior defenders Sydney Carroll and Hannah Davey and sophomore midfielder Bailey Waitkus.
Last season, Knasel and Waitkus both scored nine goals and Bulgrin had 15 shutouts and did not allow a goal in league play.
Bulgrin and Knasel were named second-team all-league and Davey was honorable mention all-league.
"CiCi Bulgrin has learned techniques to add to her athleticism in goal and could be the top keeper in the City League," Nixon said. "Bailey Waitkus will be the player our offense goes through, and Hannah Davey and Sydney Carroll will anchor our defense as center backs."
Among the players who graduated were forward Marlee Christian, midfielder Liz Jackson and defenders Maddy O'Malley and Hannah Shook.
Christian led the team in goals (13) and assists (9) last year and was named first-team all-league, along with Jackson, O'Malley and Shook.
"We need to play with heart, play quickly and control possession," Nixon said. "We also have to work on finishing our (scoring) opportunities and communicating on defense."
Other returnees are junior midfielders Tovey Nederveld, Elena Sanders and Lauren Taylor, senior forward Maya Scanlon-Kimura and sophomore forward Callie Umbarger.
Nixon also expects key contributions from junior midfielders Olivia Brown and Emily Morrison, junior forward Tish Misdis, freshmen defenders Haylee Thomas-Speigle and Mary Doherty and freshman forward Jamie Bossenbroek.
Rounding out the roster are sophomore defender Eden Hagen and freshmen midfielders Julia Allwein and Sabrina Vedovato.
Aug 18 -- vs. Teays Valley
Aug 21 -- at Grandview
Aug 23 -- vs. Westland
Aug. 26 -- vs. Hamilton Township
Aug. 28 -- at Central Crossing
*Sept. 4 -- vs. Northland
Sept. 9 -- at Tree of Life
*Sept. 11 -- at Beechcroft
*Sept. 16 -- vs. Columbus East
*Sept. 18 -- at Centennial
Sept. 20 -- vs. Coshocton
*Sept. 23 -- vs. Briggs
*Sept. 25 -- at Columbus International
Sept. 30 -- at Columbus School for Girls
Oct. 2 -- at Franklin Heights