Heath High School boys soccer coach Julio Cancino doesn't have a problem with the fact that his team will open Aug. 25 against Temple Christian, which also happens to be the first day of classes.
"Not at all. That'll be a good day," he said. "We've got two home matches to start the season, and we're hoping to take advantage of that."
The fifth-year Bulldogs are coming off their best season after finishing 5-10-2 overall a year ago despite going 0-4-1 in the MSL-Ohio Division won by Columbus Academy (4-0-1), and the team was one of two honored during last Saturday's Columbus Crew match.
Seven graduates, including four-year starters Brett Mugglin and Tanner Brown, have to be replaced, though. They include Michael Gordon, who scored a team-high eight goals. Brown, who made first-team all-league, is expected to play at Tiffin and is the first player from the program to get a college opportunity.
"Hopefully, that's just the start of more good things to come," Cancino said.
Seniors Mason Armbruster (midfielder), Grant Robertson (sweeper) and Brandon Critchfield (midfielder) are the captains. The other seniors are Craig Browne (forward), Tyler Hunt (defender), Josh Gardside (goalkeeper) and Josiah Hayes (forward/midfielder). The only juniors are Mack Critchfield (midfielder) and Tyler Patterson (forward/midfielder), but a promising nine-player sophomore class includes fullbacks Nick Dittoe and Trevor Colbert.
Cancino has 20 players in the program. He won't be able to field a junior-varsity team, but he said several eighth-graders are playing club ball and should make an impact next year.
"We'll be really strong in the midfield," said Cancino, whose team lost to Grove City Christian 1-0 in the first round of the Division III tournament last fall. "We're working on finishing better, and if that happens we can win even more games."
•First-year girls coach John Ferguson is playing catch-up as the opening match Aug. 25 against Bloom-Carroll approaches. He was named coach just last Monday, after all, and that was the first day practice was allowed.
"When the school couldn't find a coach, well, myself and some others really wanted to make sure we keep the program going," he said. "We've got some promising middle-schoolers coming up, and we felt it was going to be easier to keep the program going than it would be to start back up again."
The return of several starters, including seniors Pam Ambrus (goalkeeper) and Tasha Schwenk (forward), will help. Schwenk and sophomore Abbey Ferguson, who played forward a year ago but is the likely sweeper, are the only returning players who scored goals a year ago. Seniors Megan Springer and Ashley Lombardo and junior Jamie McKenna also are back for the Bulldogs, who finished 0-15-2 a year ago after posting five victories in 2007. Katie Beck is the lone freshman. Others to look for include seniors Sarah Randolph and Brooke McHenry and sophomore Lydia Mattern.
"We had about six to eight girls at all of our summer workouts so we know there's a commitment level there," said coach Ferguson, who has 14 players in the program. "These girls deserve the chance to play."