After winning its second consecutive OCC-Cardinal Division title and reaching a Division I district final in 2011, the Dublin Scioto High School boys soccer team slipped to 4-11-1 last season.
Coach Chad Snider expects the Irish to bounce back this year.
"We'll be surprisingly good," said Snider, whose team opened Aug. 20 at Zanesville. "We're going to sneak up and surprise a lot of people. We focused a lot on our offense (during the preseason) and it's looking really good."
Last season, Scioto started 0-8-1 but went 4-3 in its final seven games.
"We didn't have the best year in the world, but we use it as motivation so we can look back on that year and look at what we did wrong and develop more this year," junior Jack Shadoan said.
Shadoan, a forward/midfielder, was honorable mention all-OCC-Cardinal Division last season and is among the Irish's key returnees.
Other key returnees are seniors Nevin Anadika (forward/midfielder), Greg Berrigan (midfielder), Evan Ekis (midfielder/defender), Jack Shirley (forward), Joe Stephens (defender/midfielder) and Ryan Young (defender/midfielder) and junior Aidan Farrell (defender).
Junior Nick McCoy is expected to replace 2013 graduate Josh Ashwill as the starting goalkeeper.
"Last year was a learning experience, at least for a lot of the new guys," Shirley said. "It's something that happens, but I'm glad we're past that. Now we're looking forward to having a better year."
Also on the team are juniors Chad Allard (defender), Andy Chun (midfielder) and Josh Lim (midfielder) and sophomores Christian Gastaldo (midfielder), Nile Ismail (midfielder), Owen Kubalak (midfielder/defender), Andres Mujica (midfielder), Joel Schuster (goalie), Matthew Scoliere (defender), Nathan Trihn (midfielder/defender), Koh Yamakawa (midfielder) and Ryo Yanagase (defender).
"We were so young last year. I think it will be an easier transition this year," Snider said.
Celtics looking to improve on last year
Jerome coach Nate Maust believes his team will improve on last season, when it finished 5-9-4 overall and placed sixth in the OCC-Cardinal sixth at 1-4-2.
The Celtics opened Aug. 20 at Olentangy.
"This team has a chance," Maust said. "They're young, but they're ambitious, they're pretty motivated and I think they're going to really grow. They're going to be kind of under the radar a little bit."
Among the key returnees are senior midfielder Austin Larsen, who was special mention all-league last season, and senior goalie Eli Eynon.
"We feel like we can do a lot better than we did last year," Eynon said. "Our team chemistry is way better than what it was last year and we feel like that can take us further. There were times last year when we were not as much of a team as we'd like to be. We really didn't come together as much as we would have liked."
Also back are seniors Jonathan Aslo (defender), Graham Stecz (defender) and Cassidy Wang (midfielder), juniors Drew Bergwall (midfielder), Noah Frey (midfielder), Michael Laufersweiler (defender), Aaron Maresan (midfielder) and Eric Rozsits (midfielder) and sophomore Mitch Patchett (forward).
Rounding out the team are juniors Andrew Adolph (midfielder), Devon Potts (defender) and Austin Tiarks (defender) and sophomores Ian Black (forward), Clay Costner (defender), Brennon Davis (goalie), Ko Ishii (defender) and Andrew Sunderhaus (defender).
"We want to put ourselves in a good (position) to win the league and that's going to be tough, but we will be a team that might really peak at the end of the season and we really want to try and find ourselves in a district final," Maust said.
The Celtics lost to St. Charles 1-0 (2-1 on penalty kicks) in a Division I district semifinal last year.
Shamrocks motivated by losses to Liberty
Coffman has high hopes this fall with the return of eight players from last season, when it finished 15-5-1 overall, placed second in the OCC-Central at 5-2 and lost to eventual state champion Olentangy Liberty 3-1 in a Division I regional final.
The Shamrocks, who opened Aug. 20 at Westerville Central, also were beaten by Liberty in their league matchup last season, 6-0, and lost to the Patriots 3-1 in a regional final in 2011.
"Last year's (regional) loss definitely gives us motivation. We're sick of Liberty," coach Steve Watts said. "We're sick of seeing Liberty raise a trophy. We've talked about where we've been is good, but it's not as good as we want to be. So we know if we want to take the next step, we have to work that much harder and play that much better."
Among the key returnees for the Shamrocks are seniors Ben Kinney (forward), Andrew Louwers (midfielder) and Jason Strine (forward).
"We've lost to Liberty twice in the last two tournaments and we definitely don't want that happening again," Strine said. "It's my vision for all of us, especially our seniors. We definitely want a state championship."
Also back are seniors Andrew McCourt (defender), Nick Olmstead (defender), Liam Pyles (midfielder) and Todd Turner (defender) and junior Patrick Gualtieri (forward).
Rounding out the team are senior Joe Zaborski (goalie), juniors Justin Boamah (forward), Matt Kuzma (defen-der), Angel Marin-Mendez (midfielder), Eric Sankovich (midfielder), Nate Schimming (midfielder) and Jon Schwantes (midfielder), sophomores Jackson Grether (forward), Jack Holland (midfielder), Pete Malloy (defen-der) and Lukas Manarolla (midfielder) and freshman Matt Kiley (defender).
Zaborski, who played junior varsity last season, replaces 2013 graduate Trent Rantala in goal.
"It's a new group of guys," Watts said. "They're highly motivated, so that makes it easy."