The Hilliard Davidson High School girls soccer team is looking to replace its top player from a year ago in 2013 graduate Lauren Bates.
The midfielder scored a program-record 25 goals and had six assists last season and was named second-team all-state and first-team all-district in Division I and first-team all-league, as the Wildcats finished 17-3, placed second in the OCC-Central Division and won their first district title since 2008.
Davidson set program records for most wins in a season and most goals scored in a season with 93.
"Lauren was a great athlete and leader for us last year and she had a tremendous season," coach Joe Divida said. "But a lot of people forget that we had a lot of talented players surrounding her last year, including (senior forward) Ashley Blake, who scored 20 goals last year.
"I think we've probably got even more firepower than we had last year because goal-scoring seems to come with age, and we have a lot more seniors and veteran players on our team this year."
Davidson, which opened Aug. 20 at Bradley, returns nine starters in Blake, seniors Rachel Baum (defender), Lea Edler (forward), Alaina Lundregan (midfielder), Chelsea Miller (defender) and Rachel Teater (goalkeeper), juniors Erin Duffy (midfielder) and Sydney Wright (defender) and sophomore Devon McClellan (forward).
Last season, Blake was second-team all-district and first-team all-league, Duffy, Edler and Wright were second-team all-league, Miller was special mention all-league and Lundregan was honorable mention all-league.
Two freshmen have earned starting positions in midfielder Abby Wells and defender Cassie Keenan.
Seniors Jamie Shick and Emily Galloway are expected to miss the entire season because of knee injuries.
"We have a very seasoned team with the majority of our starters having been a part of our district championship team last year," Divida said. "We have a lot more depth this season because our backups are talented and skilled as well."
Davidson opens OCC-Central play Tuesday, Aug. 27, at defending champion Dublin Coffman. The Wildcats' only league loss last season came against the Shamrocks, 2-0.
"Coffman didn't lose a lot of people, either, so that game could possibly decide the OCC," Divida said. "But the OCC is going to be more competitive overall because we expect Upper Arlington and Grove City to have strong teams.
"Our goal is to win championships every season, and with the kind of team we have this year, our goal is to win a state championship."
Panthers counting on experience
Darby coach Sarah Wiechman is hoping experience helps her team improve on last season, when it finished 4-12-2 overall and 0-7 in the OCC-Cardinal.
The Panthers opened Aug. 20 at Olentangy Orange and begin league play Tuesday, Aug. 27, at Westerville North.
"This is my third year here and the girls are starting to understand the way I coach and what I expect out of them," Wiechman said. "We don't have any drama or distractions on the team this year, so I'm hoping we can win more league games and finish at least .500, if not better, overall."
Ten players who started multiple games have returned in seniors Claire Craddick (forward), Helen Erb (forward), Maggie Kuhns (midfielder), Amber Lilly (defender) and Abbey Spangler (defender), juniors Erica Custer (defender) and Madison Dixon (forward) and sophomores Riley Demjan (midfielder), Maddi Wallace (midfielder) and Ellie Weber (defender).
Completing the roster are seniors Brianna Roys (defender), Lindsay Wolf (defender) and C.J. Tate (goalie), junior Caitlin McCarthy (midfielder), sophomores Hannah Eriyn (defender), Grace Keller (defender), Andrea Kullberg (forward), Carlee Murry (midfielder) and Mara Wende (midfielder) and freshmen Nicole Burke (goalie) and Gabby Iosue (forward).
"Our team chemistry is really good right now and the girls are playing really well together," Wiechman said. "We have a very strong defense and our attacking side is really strong as well."
Jaguars looking to bounce back
Bradley is looking to have a bounce-back season.
The Jaguars, who went 13-4-2 in 2011 but finished 6-8-4 last season, have returned 11 players who started multiple games a year ago in seniors Taylor Baith (defender), Katie Fleischman (defender), Jenna Fodor (forward), Shelby Halworth (goalie), Faith Payton (defender) and Emily Wright (defender), juniors Alex Day (forward), Adriana Johnson (midfielder) and Becca Schalip (midfielder) and sophomores Macie Kill (forward) and Kennedy Elliott (defender).
Day and Schalip each scored four goals a year ago. Fodor was second-team all-OCC-Cardinal and Schalip was honorable mention all-league.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Kam Courtright (midfielder), Coryanna Fraley (goalie), Ana Rasmussen (forward) and Essence Rivers (defender), Madison Hayes (defender) and Libby Rains (defender), sophomore Grace Fodor (midfielder) and freshman Myiah Kelley (midfielder).
"I'm really excited about our senior class and we have a really good freshman class, too," coach Dan Hoover said. "I believe these girls have the qualities it takes to be champions."
The Jaguars, who placed fifth in the OCC-Cardinal last year, opened Aug. 20 against Davidson and begin league play Tuesday, Aug. 27, at Dublin Jerome.
"There's no weak link in our division of the OCC," Hoover said. "But our goal is to win the OCC and we stack up well against the rest of those teams."