When he looks back on the Olentangy High School boys soccer team's 5-10-4 finish last season, senior center fielder Kyle Culbertson remembers the season that could have been.

When he looks back on the Olentangy High School boys soccer team's 5-10-4 finish last season, senior center fielder Kyle Culbertson remembers the season that could have been.

The Braves were 2-6 in one-goal games and gave up two goals in the final 20 minutes in a 2-0 loss to eventual Division II state champion DeSales in the second round of the district tournament.

"The hardest part was knowing it could have turned out a different way," Culbertson said. "I can't wait to see some of those teams the next time around."

The Braves face a challenging league and non-league schedule. Olentangy finished seventh (1-6) in the OCC-Cardinal Division behind Dublin Jerome (6-0-1), Olentangy Liberty (6-1), Dublin Scioto (4-1-2), Westerville North (3-2-2), Westerville Central (3-3-1) and Marysville (2-5) and ahead of Westerville South. The Irish, the Patriots, the Celtics and the Warriors all lost in district finals last year.

In the non-league games, Olentangy plays DeSales on Sept. 2, Division III state champion Worthington Christian on Oct. 9, Division I regional finalist Orange on Oct. 16 and Division III district finalist Fairbanks on Sept. 23.

"There's not going to be an easy night in our league," eighth-year coach Dave Sebek said. "Central, Jerome and Liberty should be the teams to beat in our conference on paper, but just about anyone in our league can be as good as any of those teams."

Olentangy hopes to have a lot tighter defense than the one that gave up an average of 1.84 goals. Anchored by senior goalkeeper Taylor Smith, the defense features seniors Alex Bechtol and Ryan Olson and juniors Jon Martin and Daniel Dawson at defender.

"This is a very mature, solid group," Sebek said. "They should be difficult to play against. All of them are good on the ball and can pass it up field to get us out of trouble."

Culbertson was first-team all-OCC and all-district and scored 10 goals and 11 assists. He joins Zach Anderson (three goals, one assist), Chris Miller and Barron Gilmore, a move-in from Seattle, Wash., and juniors Chase Parker and Matt Burgin (three goals, one assist) in the midfield.

Senior Alex Bechtol leads the forwards with Anderson possibly playing up front.

"I don't know if we have that one guy who is going to score 20 goals for us, but we have a lot of players who are going to contribute to our scoring," Sebek said. "Having more than one player to worry about makes us harder to stop."

•After a 6-9-3 season, second-year girls coach Kristen Schreiber hopes the team can build on its last game of 2009.

The Braves pushed eventual Division I district champion Pickerington North before surrendering a goal in the 50th minute in a 1-0 loss in the second round of the tournament.

"In that last game, they gave it everything they had," Schreiber said. "Hopefully we will keep coming forward from that game this year."

Schreiber's looking at her team's defense to be the anchor. Last year, Olentangy allowed an average of 1.83 goals with five of its six wins coming by shutout. Senior Shannon Schneider returns at goalkeeper and seniors Natalie Milliron, Emily Rutledge, Audrey Miller and Julia Arcara, junior Bailey Endres and freshman Bridgette Boyle serve as defenders. Arcara missed last season with an anterior cruciate ligament tear.

If the Braves are going to improve, they need more goals. Olentangy averaged .94 goals and were shut out seven times, three of them in league play.

Senior Calin Kelly, who transferred from Buckeye Valley, and junior Dominique Tirado, who transferred from Westerville Central, complement junior Nicole Bean and sophomore Megan Landon who are returning forwards. Juniors Emily Bechtol, Jalene Pickett and Carmen Allen, sophomores Catie Crumb, Katie Huter, Emma Hardesty and Natasha Ustaszewski and freshman Allison Zahler will see time in the midfield.

The Braves, who were outscored 17-5 in league play last year, will be tested in the OCC-Cardinal. Last year, the Patriots won their third league title in four years with a 6-0-1 record. Westerville North (5-1-1), Central (4-1-2), Jerome (3-2-2), Scioto (1-3-3), Marysville (1-4-2), Olentangy (1-4-2) and South (1-6) rounded out the league.

"It's going to be tough, but I feel like we're going to be more prepared to challenge the top teams," Schreiber said. "We're getting over that hump where we're not just competing with teams; we're going to be winning those games."

Schedules

BOYS

Aug. 28 - at Bexley

*Aug. 31 -vs. Dublin Scioto

Sept. 2 - vs. DeSales

*Sept. 7 - at Marysville

Sept. 9 - vs. Hilliard Bradley

*Sept. 14 - at Olentangy Liberty

Sept. 16 - vs. New Albany

*Sept. 21 - vs. Dublin Jerome

Sept. 23 - at Fairbanks

*Sept. 28 - at Westerville Central

Sept. 30 - vs. Unioto

*Oct. 5 - vs. Westerville South

Oct. 9 - at Worthington Christian

*Oct. 12 - at Westerville North

Oct. 14 - vs. Delaware

Oct. 16 - vs. Orange

GIRLS

Aug. 26 - vs. Thomas Worthington

*Aug. 31 - at Scioto

Sept. 2 - at Watkins Memorial

*Sept. 7 - vs. Marysville

Sept. 9 - vs. Pickerington Central

*Sept. 13 - vs. Liberty

Sept. 16 - at New Albany

*Sept. 21 - at Jerome

Sept. 23 - vs. Orange

Sept. 25 - at Bradley

*Sept. 28 - vs. Westerville Central

*Oct. 5 - at South

Oct. 7 - vs. Big Walnut

Oct. 12 - vs. North

Oct. 14 - at Delaware

Oct. 16 - vs. Lancaster

*OCC-Cardinal game