With a relatively inexperienced varsity lineup and a new coach in place, the Hilliard Darby High School girls soccer team struggled to a 4-14 record last season.

With a relatively inexperienced varsity lineup and a new coach in place, the Hilliard Darby High School girls soccer team struggled to a 4-14 record last season.

However, second-year coach Amy Martin is optimistic the Panthers will fare much better this season with six starters back.

"The girls have matured and improved their games quite a bit," Martin said. "They're stronger and faster, and they're playing a much more controlled game of soccer."

Darby finished sixth in the OCC-Central Division at 0-5, behind Upper Arlington (5-0), Dublin Coffman (3-1-1), Davidson (2-2-1), Worthington Kilbourne (1-2-2) and Thomas Worthington (1-2-2).

However, Darby's defense returns three starters in senior Carly Pries, junior Tyler Kohli and sophomore Ashleigh Riddle. Pries was honorable mention all-league a year ago.

Junior Kelsey Demjan and sophomore Tess Walters also will play in the back.

Senior Abby Kennedy, who was second-team all-league last year, has returned to start at center midfielder, alongside senior Chelsie Waldron.

Juniors Audrey Wolfe and Kacie Goodwin have returned to start as forwards, where junior Ellen Ransome will also see significant playing time.

Playing at the outside midfield positions are senior Kelly Beisner, senior Riley Bennington, senior Christina Roys and junior Miki Justice. Junior Alex Hoferkamp and freshman Kristin Trempert will split starts in goal.

"We've got a lot of experience on defense, so that is our biggest strength," Martin said.

The Panthers opened the Division I district tournament by upsetting Davidson 1-0, before losing to Gahanna 4-1 in the second round.

"Our biggest goal is to beat some of the teams we lost to last year to have a winning season," Martin said. "Every team in the OCC is very competitive, but that's good for us because the girls play well when we play those teams."

•The boys team finished 6-10-3 a year ago, but seven letterwinners have returned - seniors Johnny Antos, Tyler Boshane, Seth Ervin (goalie), Jake Ingle, Chris Johnson, Ted Jones and Kyle Smrecansky. Boshane and Smrecansky each scored four goals last season.

Rounding out the roster are juniors Jacob Atkinson, Chris Campos, Nick Cory, Chris Juart, Tyler Malone (goalie) and Craig Martin (goalie), sophomores A.J. Gaietto, Zach Kuebler and Geoff Tuckett, and freshmen Kate Kohl and Brian Lee.

"We're extremely young, but our young players are very talented," first-year coach John Ulry said.

"We've been lifting the past four or five months, so no one will beat us up when it comes to physical strength."

In the OCC-Central, Darby placed sixth at 0-4-1, behind UA (3-0-2), Davidson (3-1-1), Coffman (2-1-2), Thomas (1-2-2) and Kilbourne (1-2-2).

Darby beat Whetstone 4-1 and Columbus West 5-0 in the first two round of the Division I district tournament before losing to Gahanna 3-0 in a semifinal.

"Our conference is probably the strongest in the state and the competition in central Ohio is very good all around," Ulry said. "But just because Hilliard Darby hasn't been successful in the past, doesn't mean we can't win championships."

Schedules

BOYS

Aug. 24 - at Delaware Aug. 28 - vs. St. Charles *Aug. 31 - vs. Kilbourne Sept. 2 - vs. Pickerington Central *Sept. 7 - at Central Crossing Sept. 9 - vs. Westerville North *Sept. 14 - vs. Upper Arlington Sept. 16 - at Reynoldsburg *Sept. 21 - vs. Dublin Coffman Sept. 23 - at Pickerington North Sept. 25 - at Granville *Sept. 28 - at Thomas Sept. 30 - vs. Lexington *Oct. 5 - vs. Westland Oct. 7 - at Hilliard Bradley *Oct. 12 - at Hilliard Davidson

*OCC-Central game

GIRLS

Aug. 24 - vs. Worthington Chr. Aug. 26 - vs. DeSales *Aug. 31 - at Kilbourne Sept. 2 - at Delaware *Sept. 7 - vs. Central Crossing Sept. 9 - at Jonathan Alder *Sept. 14 - at Upper Arlington Sept. 16 - at Big Walnut Sept. 18 - vs. Hilliard Bradley *Sept. 21 - at Dublin Coffman Sept. 22 - vs. Centennial *Sept. 28 - vs. Thomas Sept. 30 - at Marysville Oct. 4 - vs. Lexington *Oct. 5 - at Westland *Oct. 12 - vs. Hilliard Davidson

*OCC-Central game