Bradley girls handling adversity
The Hilliard Bradley High School girls soccer team has faced its share of adversity so far this season.
Not only did the Jaguars lose goalkeeper Shelby Halworth before the start of the season to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, but center midfielder Adriana Johnson suffered a season-ending torn ACL during a 3-2 loss to Hilliard Davidson on Aug. 25 in their third game.
In addition, defender Kennedy Elliott is expected to miss three to four weeks with a hip injury suffered in the Jaguars' fourth contest, a 3-1 loss to Dublin Jerome on Aug. 28, and center midfielder Katie Fleischman could be sidelined as many as four weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain in their fifth game, a 4-2 loss to Watterson on Aug. 30.
Not making the situation any easier was a challenging schedule. Bradley faced three of the four Division I district champions from a year ago in its first six games in Jerome, Watterson and Dublin Coffman. The Jaguars lost to all three, falling to Coffman 2-0 on Sept. 1.
Coach Dan Hoover has been encouraged, however, by his team's competitiveness in the face of adversity, particularly after the Jaguars plays Pickerington North to a scoreless tie on Sept. 6. North was 6-0 before playing Bradley.
"I'll give the girls on this team a hell of a lot of credit because they've never let frustration get the better of them and they've never given up," said Hoover, whose team was 1-4-3 before playing Westerville Central on Sept. 11. "No one plays a schedule like we play, but we always want to play the best because it only makes us better. We played four of the toughest teams in our area, beginning with Davidson and ending with Coffman, and the good news is we didn't get blown out in any of those games. The girls learned a lot from those losses and we're better for it."
Against North, Bradley switched from the 4-3-3 formation it had utilized in its first seven games to a variety of formations that spread its players wider across the midfield.
"We tried to clog the midfield earlier in the season, but now we're wider when we're attacking to give our midfielders, like Jenna Fodor, a chance to breathe and show their talent," Hoover said. "We've only scored nine goals in our first eight games, but we've had our opportunities to score more. We need to be more patient, creative and dynamic in the offensive third (of the field)."
Through eight games, forward Alex Day and midfielder Becca Schalip were tied for the team lead in goals with two apiece.
Hoover likes what he has seen from defenders Amanda Fodor, Emily Wright, Taylor Baith and Faith Payton.
"Our defense has played really well against teams who have some very good scorers," he said. "Amanda Fodor should be (Division I) all-state because of the way she's playing. We've played the best teams in the state and came out of those games with a new identity. I think we're ready to score more goals and win more games during the second half of the season."
Darby boys team off to strong start
The Darby boys team picked up a key OCC-Cardinal Division win on Sept. 4, beating Jerome 3-1.
Jacob Atkinson and Jensen Culley scored to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead in the first half, and Ryan Kasprzak scored 20 seconds into the second half to put Darby firmly in control. Jerome was 1-0-2 before losing to the Panthers.
"That was a big OCC game and it had a lot of hype being the ThisWeek Game of the Week, so I'd say it was a signature win for us," coach Johnny Ulry said. "Our team didn't play better than Jerome, but we wanted it more and when we had the opportunity to put the ball away, we took advantage."
Two days later, Darby battled Davidson to a 1-all tie. The Wildcats led 1-0 at halftime, but Gage Toy scored with 10 minutes remaining.
"That's the first time we've ever had the better of the game against Davidson," Ulry said. "In the second half, we were more physical and played with more energy and heart, but the ball just didn't bounce our way."
On Sept. 8, Darby played Olentangy to a scoreless tie behind seven saves by goalie Kyle Kaplan.
Kasprzak had six goals and three assists to help lead the Panthers to a 4-0-2 start.
"Our boys may have been tired after two emotional games (against Jerome and Davidson) earlier in the week and we were a little slow and sluggish," Ulry said.
"But I'm pleased that we still got the shutout and stayed undefeated. Kyle Kaplan's one of the best goalies in the area and he made over 20 big saves for us in those three games."
Darby faces another stern test Thursday, Sept. 13, at Pickerington North, which was 4-0-2 before playing Pickerington Central on Sept. 11 and is ranked second in the ThisWeek Super 7 poll.
"Pickerington North's a strong team, so things don't get any easier for us," Ulry said. "We've played well, especially defensively, but we can still do better. We need to get better in the center midfield and we need to do a better job finishing our (scoring) chances to keep winning."