A spark was created near the end of last season for the Delaware Hayes High School boys soccer team.

A spark was created near the end of last season for the Delaware Hayes High School boys soccer team.

That has helped produce a flaming start for the Pacers this season.

Delaware finished 5-9-4 last season, but won three in a row before losing to third-seeded Worthington Kilbourne 3-0 in the second round of the Division I district tournament. Despite losing 13 graduates, the torch has been passed.

Delaware won its first three games and had outscored opponents 13-1 before losing to Marysville 3-2 last Thursday.

"We improved greatly near the end of last season and have picked up where we left off," coach Brett Barber said. "It's a huge confidence-boost to start at this level. Last year was a feeling-out process with me being a first-year coach. We're still a work in progress without a doubt, but we'll catch some people by surprise this season. We'll fly under the radar, which is fine with me. We'll be an underdog all year, but we've got some guys who have the right mind-set for that."

The Pacers beat Olentangy 2-1 on Aug. 19 and two days later topped Newark 3-0. Last Tuesday, Delaware opened OCC-Capital Division play by beating Franklin Heights 8-0. Grant Groff scored three goals and Alex Stanton had two. Alex Boger, Matt Schmitthenner and freshman Blake Lehman also scored.

"Grant has scored in every game and our midfield has been solid," Barber said. "We're young in the back, but we've had two shutouts. Matt Naticchia has done a great job leading the young guys back there and Nate Stuntz has been terrific in goal when we've made mistakes back there."

The Pacers play host Tuesday to league-rival Mount Vernon and Thursday to Marion Harding and travel Saturday to Westerville North.

"We're a good team, nothing flashy," Barber said. "We're blue-collar and we're not physical. We're not a possession-type team, we just attack when we get the chance. We're definitely more of a tight-knit team than last year. We don't have as much individual talent, but we have that team base and camaraderie that will serve us well."

The one area which concerns Barber is the team's consistency.

"Right now, we've had the tendency to play to the level of our opponent," he said. "We've got to get past that. We didn't play well in the first half against Newark or Franklin Heights. We played much better in the second half of each game, but we shouldn't have to have wake-up calls at that point. We've got to be focused from the start and play our game."

•The girls team also beat Franklin Heights 8-0 last Tuesday to match last year's start at 2-1.

That's as far as the Pacers wanted to duplicate last season's effort though. They went 1-12-1 after the fast start a year ago.

"I think it's a different start, even though the records are the same," second-year coach Dan Fuchs said. "We're moving the ball well and playing at a higher level than last year. We want to sustain that and improve that and I think we will because we have a lot more depth this year."

Anna Burns scored twice against the Falcons. Also scoring were Taren Miles, Alecia Mitchell, Emily Shellhouse, Taylor Franklin, Sam Shaw and Sammy Rupp.

"We've got a lot of competition for spots and a real good mix on this team with eight seniors, a big, talented sophomore class and some freshmen who are stepping up," Fuchs said. "Miles has scored in each game and she's not doing it on her own. She's scoring on assisted plays, not one-on-one.

"We've got some people who are serving it well, like Burns, Shaw and Shellhouse at outside midfield and (Lauryn Berwanger and Tori Bias) in the central midfield. They're all distributing it well. They're starting to think the game rather than just playing it."

One of the differences, according to Fuchs, is that communication is better.

"It's not just that communication is better, it's that they're also giving one another more information to work with," he said. "It's timely communication, telling them who's coming from where and where to play the ball. We're doing those things better, but we need to do them better more consistently."

With two shutouts contributing to a 16-5 overall advantage, Barber also commended his team's defense.

"We're doing a nice job in the back with Grace Naticchia, Myranda Moore and Shelbi Franklin in front of (goalkeeper) Corey Stacey," Fuchs said. "Plus Sarah Johnston, who was injured before the season, is getting released to play soon and should help us on defense."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Hayes boys and girls soccer teams:

BOYS

*Last Tuesday -- Defeated Franklin Heights 8-0

Last Thursday -- Lost to Marysville 3-2

*Tuesday -- Home vs. Mount Vernon

Thursday -- Home vs. Marion Harding

Saturday -- At Westerville North

Of note: The Pacers are 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Capital.

GIRLS

*Last Tuesday -- Def. Franklin Heights 8-0

Last Thursday -- Lost to Marysville 3-0

*Tuesday -- At Mount Vernon

Thursday -- At Marion Harding

Of note: The Pacers are 2-2 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Capital.

*OCC-Capital game