The Centennial High School boys soccer team lost all but four of its starters from last season to graduation, but second-year coach Scott George said the Stars haven't altered their goals.
Centennial, which finished 8-4-5 overall a year ago, opened Aug. 19 against Chillicothe Zane Trace. The Stars begin City League-North Division play Sept. 4 at Columbus International.
"We go into every season with the goal of winning the conference," George said. "We feel that we have the type of program that doesn't have to go through rebuilding seasons and can compete each year. Being a somewhat inexperienced team, it will help to have five games under our belt before our opening City League-North game against International.
"Outside of the conference, we will be going up against a very diverse group of schools. We will be looking to win as many as possible and try to represent the conference as best as we can, and hopefully get the Columbus City League the exposure and respect I feel it deserves."
The returning starters are senior forward Gus Ricksecker, junior goalkeeper Mason Pennington, junior forward Emmanuel Kankam and senior defender Lake Wilburn.
Pennington was third-team all-district and first-team all-league a year ago after making 70 saves. Ricksecker was second-team all-league, and Kankam was third-team all-league.
Also vying for playing time are seniors Hashim Ali (defender), Andrew Briss (midfielder), Seth Brewer (defender) and Henry Moore (defender), juniors Saidu Bah (midfielder) and Devante Brown (defender), sophomores Sam Benson (forward) and Eduardo Munoz (midfielder) and freshmen E.J. Macarus (goalie), DeWayne Scott (defender), Luke Zimmerman (midfielder) and William Zimmerman (midfielder).
"We have lost quite a bit of experienced players in the past two years, so there will be some inexperienced guys making their first forays into varsity soccer," George said. "We named four freshmen to the roster at a program that rarely uses more than one per year.
"That said, our soccer IQ seems to be quite high. (The) seniors and juniors know where to be on the field at specific times, and their communication is good. They also take an active approach to teaching the younger ones some of the finer points of the game."
The Stars are looking to win the City-North after finishing second (7-0-5) behind International (10-1-1) last year. International went on to defeat Briggs 2-0 in the City championship game.
"The North Division is always tough, and a few of the teams pulled off some deep runs into the district playoffs last season," George said. "You really can't sleep on any of them, and with the closing of Brookhaven at the end of last year, that means that the talent pool just became more concentrated amongst the North schools. It should be interesting how this season plays out."
Girls soccer team vying for league title
Third-year girls soccer coach Barb Meleg said she has been impressed with her team's work ethic.
Returning to lead the Stars are seniors Donnasia Allen (defender), Kelli Grove (defender) and Ann Marie Hewlett (forward), juniors Dominique Brown (midfielder), Megan Clifton (midfielder), Felicity Johnson (defender), Kaitlynn Morefield (midfielder), Carly Scheel (midfielder), Sidney Stephens (goalie) and Kira Watkins (defender) and sophomore Sarah Hangen (defender).
Rounding out the lineup are seniors Jennifer Campa (defender) and Lindsay Ciardelli (midfielder), junior Eva Jenkins-Lewis (midfielder), sophomores Sara Abou-Rashed (defender), Wahaj Ali (midfielder), Baily Pfunder (forward) and Farida Rezk (midfielder) and freshmen Evelyn Beal (forward) and Katie Briss (defender).
"The girls are more understanding of the game and the expectations put on them," Meleg said. "They are more focused during practices and committed to individual and team improvements. They make strides every practice and I can already see a difference in the quality of play."
Last season, the Stars went 9-8 overall and finished second (7-2) in the City League behind Whetstone (9-0) before losing to Whetstone 7-0 in the City title game.
Centennial has lost to the Braves in the City title game in each of the three years it has existed.
The Stars opened Aug. 19 against Buckeye Valley. They begin league play Sept. 2 at Briggs.
"The goal for league play is to come away with a victory every game," Meleg said. "We know we will be facing strong opponents and we need to be prepared mentally and physically for each match. Northland was a greatly improved team last year and I expect them to be competitive. Whetstone is always a strong team and we are looking forward to facing them again. Another team with mystery is Briggs. We have never played them. However, I think they will have many good athletes on their team to look out for."
Aug. 19 -- vs. Chillicothe Zane Trace
Aug. 21 -- at Hamilton Township
Aug. 26 -- vs. Fisher Catholic
Aug. 28 -- vs. Briggs
Sept. 2 -- at London
*Sept. 4 -- at Columbus International
*Sept. 9 -- vs. Northland
*Sept. 11 -- at Mifflin
Sept. 13 -- at Big Walnut
*Sept. 16 -- vs. Beechcroft
*Sept. 18 -- at Whetstone
Sept. 22 -- at Hartley
Sept. 25 -- vs. Grove City
Sept. 30 -- vs. Horizon Science
Oct. 2 -- vs. Walnut Ridge
Aug. 19 -- vs. Buckeye Valley
Aug. 21 -- at Central Crossing
Aug. 25 -- at Licking Valley
*Sept. 2 -- at Briggs
*Sept. 4 -- vs. Columbus International
*Sept. 9 -- at Northland
Sept. 11 -- vs. Caledonia River Valley
*Sept. 16 -- at Beechcroft
*Sept. 18 -- vs. Whetstone
Sept. 23 -- vs. Licking Heights
Sept. 25 -- at Groveport
Sept. 26 -- at Wellington
*Sept. 30 -- at Columbus East
Oct. 2 -- vs. West Jefferson
Oct. 6 -- at Tree of Life