The opening of Hilliard Bradley High School this fall has affected athletic teams at Darby and Davidson to varying degrees.

The opening of Hilliard Bradley High School this fall has affected athletic teams at Darby and Davidson to varying degrees.

The Darby boys soccer team suffered a significant hit. Now, 15 players from the program attend Bradley. However, only three of those players played on varsity last season, and Darby actually enters this season with the most experienced roster it has had in coach Brad Fout's five-year tenure.

Fout and his players believe that the camaraderie that comes along with an 11-player senior class could be their biggest asset this fall.

"With 11 seniors, you're going to have that good chemistry," Fout said. "These guys have been playing together for four years and they're very comfortable with each other. I think some of the basic skills like passing and communication come with that."

"We have a lot of experienced players, not only seniors but returning varsity players," senior midfielder Aaron Ingle said. "So we've got a lot of experience out there."

The Panthers are looking to improve on both their conference and postseason results from last season. In the district tournament, the Panthers had a favorable draw but lost 2-1 to Thomas Worthington in the first round. Darby had a similar result in 2007, losing 2-1 to Marysville after leading 1-0 with three minutes remaining.

The Panthers finished last season at 7-7-3 overall, and they were fifth in the OCC-Central Division at 2-3-2, behind Worthington Kilbourne (7-0), Upper Arlington (5-1-1), Dublin Coffman (4-2-1) and Davidson (3-2-2) and ahead of Central Crossing (1-6) and Westland (0-7).

Fout said the Panthers are gunning for a league title this season, which he said would be a significant accomplishment in a league as tough as the OCC-Central.

"We'd like to win another OCC championship (in addition to 2007), because we know if we win our conference, we're going to get pretty far in the playoffs," Fout said. "We've got some of the best teams in the state in our conference. It's arguably the best conference in the state."

The Panthers will be led by senior captains Joe Alecusan, Aaron Ingle and Oliver Knoell. Ingle is a two-year starter on defense and was second-team all-conference last season. Alecusan is in his second year as a starting midfielder and his third year on varsity, and Knoell is in his second year on varsity and will start on defense.

Darby will have an experienced defense that includes Ingle and Knoell, as well as seniors Andrew Lentz and Kyle Lowery. Lentz is in his third year as a starter and Lowery is in his third year on varsity, his first as a starter.

Junior forward Tyler Boshane is expected to be one of the team's top offensive threats in his second year on varsity.

In goal, junior Seth Ervin and senior Greg Carlisle are competing for the starting spot. Irvin started last season.

Fout said the entire team will be expected to contribute. The rest of the Panthers' roster consists of seniors Jason Sampson (forward), Evan Fallon (midfield), Alex Manifold (midfield), Marlon Campos (midfield) and Eddie Ventura, juniors Jake Ingle (defense) and Kyle Smrecansky (midfield) and sophomores Johnny Antos (defense), Chris Johnson (midfield) and Ted Jones (midfield).

•The girls team is in the process of adjusting to a new coach and a new defensive system, and it will have to make that adjustment with a largely inexperienced roster.

The Panthers lost just four seniors off last season's team, but several expected returnees are now at Bradley. Still, coach Amy Martin said the preseason has gone well since she took over on July 7.

"We went to (tournaments at) Strongsville and Bexley, and we did really well," Martin said. "Our offseason has been very strong."

Martin is taking over for Steve Watts, who coached one season before taking the boys job at Dublin Coffman earlier this summer. Martin, who is the fourth coach at Darby in the past five seasons, coached Central Crossing for the past four years and also coached Lancaster in 2002 and 2003.

The Panthers have hovered around .500 overall for the last few seasons, including a 7-8-2 mark last season. Darby finished the regular season strong last year but fell to Olentangy Liberty 1-0 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

In the OCC-Central, Darby finished fifth at 2-3-2, behind champion Davidson (5-0-2), UA (5-1-1), Kilbourne (4-0-3) and Coffman (3-1-3).

Martin said her team has good speed and is able to control possession well, but the key to the season might be how well the Panthers adapt to the flat back-four defense she has installed. The Panthers had played a typical diamond formation on defense in recent years.

"We've never played that kind of defense before on the varsity, so it's new to everybody," senior defender Leah Spangler said. "It not only affects the defense, but it affects the whole field."

Spangler leads a relatively young group on defense. She was a starter last season on defense and in the midfield. Sophomore Jenna Seagle, junior Carly Pries and junior Abby Kennedy are expected to fill the other three starting spots. Seagle lettered last season.

Senior Kate Hoferkamp is a two-year starter at goalie, but until she returns from a broken collarbone, freshman Rachel Harrichaman will fill that spot.

Senior Sami Atkinson, one of two captains along with Spangler, will start at center midfield for a third season. Freshman Ashleigh Riddle will start alongside Atkinson at center midfield, and sophomore Kacie Goodwin and freshman Emily Church will play outside midfield. Goodwin lettered last season.

Sophomore Audrie Wolfe and junior Korinne Culley will start at forward. Both lettered last season.

Also expected to contribute this season are junior Chelsie Waldron (midfield), sophomore Tyler Kohli (midfield/defense), junior Riley Bennington (midfield/forward) and junior Kelly Beisner (midfield/forward).

Schedules

BOYS

Last Monday -- vs. Watkins Memorial

Today -- at St. Charles

Saturday -- vs. Delaware

Tuesday -- at Worthington Kilbourne

Sept. 3 -- at Pickerington Central

Sept. 8 -- vs. Bradley

Sept. 10 -- at Westerville Central

Sept. 12 -- vs.Westerville Central at Crew Stadium

Sept. 15 -- at Upper Arlington

Sept. 17 -- vs. Reynoldsburg

Sept. 22 -- at Dublin Coffman

Sept. 26 -- vs. Granville

Sept. 29 -- vs. Thomas Worthington

Oct. 1 -- vs. Olentangy

Oct. 6 -- at Watkins Memorial

Oct. 8 -- at Dublin Scioto

Oct. 13 -- at Davidson

GIRLS

Today -- vs. Dublin Scioto

Saturday -- vs. Marysville

Tuesday -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne

Sept. 3 -- at Watkins Memorial

Sept. 8 -- at Bradley

Sept. 10 -- vs. Delaware

Sept. 12 -- vs. Watterson

Sept. 15 -- vs. Upper Arlington

Sept. 17 -- at Olentangy Liberty

Sept. 19 -- vs. Big Walnut

Sept. 22 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

Sept. 29 -- at Thomas Worthington

Oct. 3 -- at Lexington

Oct. 6 -- vs. Watkins Memorial

Oct. 13 -- at Davidson

Oct. 15 -- vs. Westerville Central