The last six years, whenever someone would ask Olentangy Liberty High School girls soccer coach Erin Mullady how good her team was going to be, she usually responded, "Well, we're young."

The last six years, whenever someone would ask Olentangy Liberty High School girls soccer coach Erin Mullady how good her team was going to be, she usually responded, "Well, we're young."

This season, Mullady has a different response, as the Patriots return 14 letterwinners from a team that finished 6-10-3 overall.

"We're not young anymore," said Mullady, whose team opened last Tuesday at Worthington Kilbourne and plays Saturday at New Albany. "Everything is automatic with these kids. They know what to do."

Expected to play forward are senior Natalie Radabaugh, juniors Megan Griffith and Bri Walcutt and sophomores Kendall Kirchner and Steph Stewart. Senior Abbey Smith, who shares goalie duties with senior Andrea Karl, also could see time at the position. Griffith also could see time in the midfield.

Radabaugh had six goals and one assist last year.

Among the four players Liberty lost to graduation was its top midfielder, Madison Wright, who scored 11 goals and had six assists last season and was named first-team all-OCC-Cardinal Division and second-team all-district. Expected to see time in the midfield are juniors Maria Bruno, Cassie Coville, Aubrey Fisher, Caitlin Hanna, Megan Novak and Michelle Van Schaik and sophomore Lyssa Baker.

The defensive corps includes seniors Erin Novak and Taylor Rambo, juniors Katie Costin, Michelle Devilbiss, Kelsey Norman and Ali Swafford and sophomores Sarah Folk and Tessa Yannone. Smith and Karl are expected to split time at goalie.

"Defensively, we're going to be very strong," Mullady said. "We graduated our senior sweeper (Cassie Swafford, who made second-team all-league), but with some shuffling people around, you're not going to see a lot of change."

Two of Liberty's wins last year came in the Division I district tournament. It defeated Gahanna 4-0 in the first round and Hilliard Darby 1-0 in the second round before losing to second-seeded Hilliard Davidson 2-0 in a district semifinal.

The Patriots, who open OCC-Cardinal play Tuesday at home against Marysville, had only one league win last year. They went 1-4-2 to place seventh behind Dublin Jerome (6-1), Westerville North (3-1-3), Westerville Central (4-3), Westerville South (3-2-2), Dublin Scioto (2-2-3) and Marysville (2-3-2) and ahead of Olentangy (0-5-2).

"I don't think anyone in our division is going to go 7-0 this year," Mullady said. "Everyone's going to be beating each other up."

•When Josh Diehl started coaching the boys team four years ago, he saw a group of players with great individual talent and not much teamwork.

Last season, the Patriots saw what happens when they work together, as they finished 13-4-2 overall to set the program record for victories in a season. They also set the program mark for fewest goals allowed (23).

Liberty went 4-2-1 in the OCC-Cardinal to finish second behind Jerome (7-0) and ahead of Olentangy (3-3-1), Westerville North (3-3-1), Westerville Central (3-4), Scioto (2-4-1), Marysville (2-5) and Westerville South (2-5).

The Patriots also made a run in the Division I district tournament. After having a first-round bye, they defeated Walnut Ridge 6-0 in the second round and Olentangy 5-1 in a district semifinal before losing to seventh-seeded Dublin Coffman 1-0 in a district final.

"Mentally, the team has come a long way, and that's the main reason why we did so well last season," said Diehl, whose team opened last Tuesday against New Albany and plays host to Mentor on Saturday. "We were a team and not just a bunch of athletes."

Liberty, which opens league play Tuesday at Marysville, returns several weapons at forward.

Expected to see time at the position are seniors Aaron Clayton, Piotr Perdas, Tyler Ranalli and Aaron Schnieders and juniors Ben Doe, Duncan Johnston and Parker Noriss.

Ranalli had eight goals and six assists last season and was named second-team all-league.

The Patriots graduated three key midfielders in Geoff Howard, Alex Ottavio and Adam Mechling. Howard (11 goals, 8 assists) and Ottavio (11 goals, 10 assists) were first-team all-league last year and Mechling made second-team all-league.

Expected to help fill the void are seniors Jon Stegner and Jake Kallenbach, junior Jarvis D'Souza and sophomore Alex Ranalli.

"We're going to play an up-tempo style of soccer," said Diehl, whose team averaged 2.37 goals per game last year. "We're going to have several guys score and not depend on one or two."

Seniors Matt Barthel, T.J. Happensack, Chris Kill, Michael Renchek and Scott Schwartz and junior Keaton Allmaras all are expected to see time as a defender.

Schwartz was second-team all-league last year and Kill made honorable mention all-league. The Patriots return two senior goalies in Eric Osswald and Joe Kon.

"I'm really encouraged with how well we've been able to organize our defense," Diehl said. "We want to play a high-pressure style of defense and everyone has a job."

Schedules

BOYS

Aug. 25 -- vs. New Albany

Aug. 29 -- vs. Mentor

*Sept. 1 -- At Marysville

Sept. 3 -- At Pickerington North

*Sept. 8 -- vs. Dublin Jerome

Sept. 12 -- vs. Stow-Munroe Falls

*Sept. 14 -- At Olentangy

Sept. 19 -- At Huber Heights Wayne

*Sept. 22 -- At Westerville North

Sept. 26 -- vs. Olentangy Orange

*Sept. 29 -- vs. Dublin Scioto

Oct. 3 -- vs. Massillon Jackson

*Oct. 6 -- At Westerville Central

Oct. 10 -- At St. Charles

*Oct. 13 -- vs. Westerville South

GIRLS

Aug. 25 -- At Worthington Kilbourne

Aug. 29 -- At New Albany

*Sept. 1 -- vs. Marysville

Sept. 3 -- At Hilliard Davidson

*Sept. 8 -- At Dublin Jerome

Sept. 10 -- vs. Watterson

Sept. 12 -- vs. Perrysburg

*Sept. 15 -- vs. Olentangy

Sept. 17 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

*Sept. 22 -- vs. Westerville North

Sept. 24 -- vs. Orange

*Sept. 29 -- At Dublin Scioto

*Oct. 6 -- vs. Westerville Central

Oct. 8 -- At Thomas Worthington

*Oct. 13 -- At Westerville South

Oct. 15 -- vs. Big Walnut

*OCC-Cardinal game