The Big Walnut High School boys soccer team has a new look this season with Tim Poitinger stepping in as coach.
Poitinger, who was an assistant coach at Gahanna the past eight seasons, has replaced Brett Weiss, who led the Golden Eagles to a 26-8-5 record over two seasons.
Last season, Big Walnut finished 12-7-1 overall, went 3-3-1 to tie Delaware Hayes for fourth in the OCC-Capital Division behind champion Olentangy Orange (7-0) and reached a Division II district final before losing to Watterson 2-1.
"Certainly, I hope to continue the success that Brett had," Poitinger said. "But we'll be playing a different style. Big Walnut has always played a direct style and the whole program is moving to an indirect style. We'll play to feed instead of playing long balls forward."
The Golden Eagles, who opened with a 4-0 win over Watkins Memorial on Aug. 20, have returned six players in seniors Bradyn Dronsfield (defender), Tyler Sholl (goalkeeper) and Dominic Zum-pone (defender) and juniors Bobby Bogantz (forward), Adam Carifa (forward), and Tyler Ledbetter (midfielder).
Last season, Dronsfield was named second-team all-league and Zumpone was special mention all-league. Sholl totaled 72 saves in 20 games.
Among the players Big Walnut lost to graduation were forward Austin Foor, who led the team with 20 goals and seven assists and was first-team all-league and second-team all-state, and midfielder Shane Facemyer, who had 12 goals and three assists and was first-team all-league.
"We're going to be placing a very high emphasis on protecting our net," Poitinger said. "We'd like a shutout every game. We work as hard as possible to get the ball back as quickly as possible to deny shots. Our goal is to allow no shots on our net."
Rounding out the team are seniors Max Denton (defender), Luke Hartings (defender) and Nathan Mickley (midfielder), juniors J.P. Civin (goalie), Iain Kirsch (midfielder), Anthony Pavuk (defender), Jacob Thompson (midfielder), Jason Vazquez (midfielder), Kevin Vazquez (midfielder) and Kyle Wurm (midfielder), sophomores Drew Cochran (midfielder), Jacob Hrusovsky (midfielder) and Taylor Kline (midfielder) and freshman Nick Fury (defender).
Against Watkins Memorial, Zumpone scored three goals and Kirsch scored one.
"We're pleased with our opener," Poitinger said. "It was a significant change (of style) for most of the boys."
Big Walnut opens league play Tuesday, Aug. 27, at Olentangy.
"We're the only Division II (team) in the OCC," Poitinger said. "Olentangy, Orange and (Worthington) Kilbourne are all tough nuts to crack. We'll be prepared and we'll be ready. They're all formidable opponents."
Kilbourne was in the OCC-Cardinal last season but moved to the OCC-Capital to replace Watkins Memorial, which left for the revived Licking County League.
Girls soccer team opens under new coach
The girls soccer team also has undergone a coaching change since last season.
Drew Pitzer, who has coached at the club level and was a volunteer assistant for Big Walnut last season, has taken over the coaching reins from Jim Reardon, who stepped down after compiling a 59-51-13 record in seven seasons.
"The team is very confident this year," Pitzer said. "We got ourselves focused in the offseason. The girls have high aspirations and they hold themselves to a very high standard."
Last year, Big Walnut finished 10-8 overall, marking its first winning season since going 11-4-3 in 2008, and went 3-3 in the OCC-Capital to place fourth behind champion New Albany (6-0).
The Golden Eagles, who lost to Hartley 6-0 in the second round of the Division II district tournament last year, have returned seven players in seniors Skylar Fleak (forward), Haley Lescinsky (midfielder), Elyse Schnabel (defender) and Leah Shaw (defender) and juniors Makenna Hammond (defender), Abby Tabor (midfielder) and Jennie Wenger (defender/midfielder).
"We return almost the entire starting lineup from last year," Pitzer said. "They grew a lot as a team last year and really started playing good soccer."
Rounding out the team are seniors Hayley Apple (defen-der), Shelbie Borchers (midfielder), Carly Osburn (forward), Mackenzie Pike (goalie), Hannah Shryock (defender) and Maria Sturtevant (defen-der/midfielder), sophomores Anna Mackey (forward) and Colleen White (goalie) and freshmen Madison Aleshire (midfielder) and Bailey Bodker (midfielder/forward).
The Golden Eagles opened with a 12-0 win over Licking Heights on Aug. 19 and tied Hilliard Darby at 2 on Aug. 22.
Against Licking Heights, Fleak had three goals and Mackey scored two.
"Something that's very important to us this year is protecting our home-field advantage," Pitzer said "To get our first game at home and have a performance like that was awesome for the team as far as morale goes. But it's just one win out of many we're hoping to get."
Big Walnut begins OCC-Capital play Tuesday, Aug. 27, at home against Olentangy.
"Our first goal is to win the league," Pitzer said. "We want to play as well as we can in the regular season. We certainly have aspirations after that, but we won't worry about that yet. We'll take care of business in the league first."
Football team getting ready for Tygers
The football team opens the season Friday, Aug. 30, at Mansfield Senior in the first matchup between the teams.
Last season, Big Walnut finished 6-4, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2009, and Mansfield Senior went 8-3, shared the Ohio Cardinal Conference title and qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2002.
The Tygers lost in the first round of the Division II playoffs, falling to Tiffin Columbian 28-16.
"Arlin Field is a great place to play a football game," coach Joe Weaver said. "We're excited about going up there and playing them. They're a good team with coaches who put a lot of time into making sure things are done right. We've got a lot of work to do to be ready."