The Delaware Hayes High School boys soccer team is younger and less experienced than it was last season.
The Pacers have only four seniors on their roster and have returned only four starters from a year ago, when they finished 10-6-2 overall, tied Big Walnut for fourth in the OCC-Capital Division at 3-3-1 and lost to Pickerington Central 5-1 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
Last season marked the third time in the past nine years that Delaware finished with 10 or more wins. The other two seasons in which the Pacers accomplished that feat during that span were 2004 (11-5-2) and 2008 (11-4-2).
"We don't have a lot of experience, really. We're a very young team," coach Nate Weakland said. "We're also not an overly skilled team, so it will be a high work ethic that helps us be competitive."
The returning starters are seniors Bryan Neitzelt (sweeper), Ridge Snyder (midfielder) and Tyler Zinader (midfielder) and junior Addison Carter (defender).
Last season, Neitzelt was named special mention all-league and Zinader was honorable mention all-league.
The other senior is forward Colton Richard.
"Our seniors have multiple years of varsity soccer between them and are very skilled players," said Weakland, whose team scored 49 goals and posted six shutouts last season. "Bryan Neitzelt is a very solid sweeper and will help anchor our defense.
"Tyler Zinader and Ridge Snyder are both experienced players with a high work rate who will help run our team through the midfield. Colton Richard is a second-year player but has a ton of skill and a way of finding the back of the net."
Among the key losses to graduation were goalkeeper Tommy Gibbs, midfielders Jordan Carlson and Phoenix Neitzelt and forward Nate Spahr.
Last season, Phoenix Neitzelt had 16 goals and 12 assists and was named OCC-Capital Player of the Year. Spahr scored 11 goals and was second-team all-league and Carlson had six goals and five assists.
Richard and Snyder both had five goals last season and Zinader had seven assists.
Sophomore Ian Agler has replaced Gibbs as the starting goalie.
Also on the team are juniors Ben Gibbs (stopper), Mitchell Lucas (midfielder), Graham Mergler (midfielder) and Evan Urrutia (defender) and sophomores Hudson Baxley (forward), Carson Geissler (defender), Ryan Krewson (forward), Nathan Lipincott (midfielder), Justin McKee (midfielder) and Brad Peters (defender).
Delaware, which opened Aug. 20 with a 4-0 loss to Hilliard Darby, begins OCC-Capital play Tuesday, Aug. 27, at home against league newcomer Worthington Kilbourne. The Wolves have replaced Watkins Memorial, which left the league to join the revived 10-team Licking County League.
"I think Olentangy Orange will be very good against us and Worthington Kilbourne will be competitive," Weakland said of the OCC-Capital. "New Albany is always strong and Olentangy came in last year and showed they can be very competitive."
Girls soccer team making adjustments
It took half of last season for the girls soccer team to find its footing.
Having lost nine players from last season to graduation and having undergone a coaching change, Delaware again may need time to jell.
Last season, Delaware lost its first four games and was 0-6-3 before going 5-3-1 in its final nine games to finish 5-9-4 overall under then-coach Dan Fuchs, who resigned after four seasons. The latter stretch included a 1-0 double-overtime win over Canal Winchester in the first round of the Division I district tournament, marking the Pacers' first postseason win since 2005.
Delaware lost to Olentangy Liberty 10-0 in the second round.
Replacing Fuchs is Drew Zellers, who coached Olentangy the past two seasons and previously coached Big Walnut. Zellers also had served as an assistant at Watterson and Denison University and has coached at the club level for 15 years.
Delaware opened with a 2-1 loss to Westerville Central on Aug. 17 but rebounded to beat Wellington 5-0 on Aug. 20.
"Our weakness is our lack of experience," Zellers said. "Another problem is the lack of a winning culture. We saw that in the opener. We led 1-0 15 minutes into the second half, but we're not used to beating good teams or leading good teams. We've got to learn to finish games like that off."
Delaware has returned five starters in seniors Hannah Bartfay (midfielder), Aly Smiley (midfielder), Taryn Sweeney (goalie) and Brooke Zinader (defender) and junior Hannah Joseph (defender).
Sweeney missed most of last season because of injury.
Last season, Zinader was first-team all-OCC-Capital, Joseph was second-team all-league and Smiley was honorable mention all-league.
Also on the team are juniors Gretchen Bowling (midfielder), Sydnee Buckley (forward), Anna Welch (midfielder) and Rachel Yates (midfielder), sophomores Melanie Anderson (defender) and Helen Thomson (midfielder) and freshman Emily Mathias (defender).
"I think we're going to be pretty good defensively," Zellers said. "Sweeney is quick and reads the game well. Plus, she's not afraid to mix it up. Zinader and Anderson are composed and calm and Joseph has that speed on the outside.
"Yates and Buckley can battle in the air for us and Bartfay, Smiley and Welch can finish. Buckley and Welch can also create and be distributors for us."
The Pacers open OCC-Capital play Tuesday, Aug. 27, at Kilbourne. They went 1-4-1 in the league last year to place sixth behind champion New Albany (6-0).
"I think we have some positives," Zellers said. "We've got speed and toughness and, when we learn to play together as a team and stay focused the whole game, we'll have a chance to be competitive.
"We'd like to at least finish in the top half of the conference. I like the work rate of these girls. I think they have a lot of fight in them."
Football team getting ready for Barons
The football team is looking to get out to a better start this season than it did a year ago.
Delaware plays host to Buckeye Valley on Friday, Aug. 30.
Last season, the Pacers lost to the Barons 35-23 in the opener and went on to finish 3-7.
Buckeye Valley, which finished 7-3 last year, returns just four starters.
The Barons' offense uses multiple I-formations. Kyle Doubikin is expected to take over at quarterback for 2013 graduate Caleb Green and Ben Kidwell, Austin Harsh, Gavin Terry and Tucker Smith all are expected to see time at tailback or fullback.
Buckeye Valley's receiving corps includes Garrett Purcell, Jake Spaulding Austin Kelleher and Gabe Miller at wide receiver and Gardon Wycoff at tight end.
Wyatt Pfeifer (6-foot-3, 245 pounds) and Jack Baesman anchor the Barons' offensive and defensive lines, and Kidwell, Harsh and Smith are expected to be the starting linebackers in Buckeye Valley's 4-3 defense.
The Pacers have returned nine starters on offense and 10 on defense.
"I think it's imperative for us to come out and set the tone early in the game and set it for the season as well," coach Zebb Schroeder said. "We are trying to build a winning tradition and remain poised, confident and hungry. We've been working hard and we'd like to start the season strong."