When Michelle Devilbiss looks at the rest of the Olentangy Liberty High School girls soccer team, she doesn't see the defending OCC-Cardinal Division champions or a team that is poised to do great things this season.

When Michelle Devilbiss looks at the rest of the Olentangy Liberty High School girls soccer team, she doesn't see the defending OCC-Cardinal Division champions or a team that is poised to do great things this season.

Mostly what the senior defender sees is a group of her closest friends.

"We've been playing together since we were 10 years old," Devilbiss said. "We have a lot of potential and we could do great things this year."

Topping last year's success might be difficult. After going 6-10-3 in 2008, the Patriots finished 14-3-1 after losing to Pickerington North 2-1 in a Division I district final.

Liberty won its third OCC title in four years with a 6-0-1 record. Westerville North (5-1-1), Westerville Central (4-1-2), Dublin Jerome (3-2-2), Dublin Scioto (1-3-3), Marysville (1-4-2), Olentangy (1-4-2) and Westerville South (1-6) rounded out the league.

"We lost four very talented players, but because of the talent we have back, we can continue what we started last year," said eighth-year coach Erin Mullady, whose team returns 11 seniors including three who have already verbally committed to Division I colleges. "This is one of the closest teams I've been around and they don't mind working hard for each other."

Devilbiss (Purdue) and goalkeeper Abbey Smith (Central Michigan) anchor a defense that allowed only 15 goals last year.

Seniors Aubrey Fisher, Ali Swafford, Michelle Van Schaik and Megan Novak and juniors Sarah Folk and Tessa Tannone will lead the defense.

"We have an incredible security blanket in the defense," Mullady said. "If one player goes down, there's no drop-off when we bring someone off the bench."

The strength of the defense has allowed Mullady to experiment offensively. The Patriots will be led by seniors Maria Bruno (Western Michigan) and Megan Griffith as the center midfielders. Seniors Shannon Flahive and Caitlin Hanna, sophomore Kellie Garvin and freshman Julia Bruno should shore up the midfield. Flahive played high school soccer as a freshman but spent the last two seasons playing club soccer.

Senior Bri Walcutt, junior Kendall Kirchner, junior Stephanie Stewart, sophomore Melissa Murphy and freshman Olivia Dowell serve as forwards.

"Things are wide open for us," Mullady said. "I could list every forward as a midfielder and every midfielder as a forward. We're going to move people around a lot and that variety is going to make us very tough to defend."

•The boys team will get a chance to do something in their opener that they were denied the chance to do twice last year when they visit Olentangy Orange today. The Patriots were supposed to play the Pioneers in the regular season last year, but the game was canceled because of unplayable field conditions. The two teams could have met in the Division I regional semifinals, but Liberty lost to Dublin Jerome 2-1 in a district final.

"This group is young, but they're talented and hungry," fifth-year coach Josh Diehl said. "I'm looking forward to seeing this group grow and mature. I believe in them and see a great amount of potential."

Liberty set a program record for wins, going 14-3-1 last year, and returned to the district final for the second consecutive year.

The Patriots finished second in the OCC-Cardinal with a 6-1 record, behind the Celtics (6-0-1). Scioto (4-1-2), North (3-2-2), Central (3-2-2), Marysville (2-5), Olentangy (1-6) and South (0-7) rounded out the rest of the division.

If the Patriots are going to match or surpass what they accomplished last year, they need to rebuild their defense. Liberty lost six members - including goalkeepers Eric Osswald and Joe Kon - from a defense that recorded nine shutouts and allowed .94 goals a game.

Senior Keaton Allmaras, a second-team all-OCC selection, heads up a group of defenders. Seniors Ben Bode, Matt Bolton and Jarrod Boone, juniors Austin King, Cody Baum and Brian Berthel and sophomore Zach Matheny will play in the back. Sophomore Anderson DeAndrede and senior Jake Henningsen should see time at goalkeeper.

"We defend as a unit collectively," Diehl said. "This group is focused and scrappy. We have leadership in the backline from Allmaras and Bode and I expect them to keep us organized and disciplined."

Liberty will have to replace graduates Tyler Ranalli (19 goals) and Jon Stegner (15 goals), who led the team in scoring last year.

Senior Parker Norris and Duncan Johnston, sophomore Kyle Baum and freshman Aiden Bean will be at the forward spots while seniors Jarvis D'Souza and Rainer Schertel, juniors Brian Anichowski, Evan Cupp and Alex Ranalli and sophomores Jared Robinson and Sam Deroy should see time in the midfield.

"We like to attack and push forward," Diehl said. "We have guys who are confident on the ball and we are showing signs of becoming dynamic."

Schedules

BOYS

Aug. 26 - at Orange

Aug. 28 - at Gahanna

*Aug. 31 - vs. Marysville

Sept. 2 - vs. Worthington Kilbourne

*Sept. 7 - at Dublin Jerome

Sept. 9 - vs. Thomas Worthington

*Sept. 14 - vs. Olentangy

Sept. 18 - at DeSales

*Sept. 21 - vs. Westerville North

Sept. 23 - at New Albany

*Sept. 28 - at Dublin Scioto

Oct. 2 - at Stow Munroe Falls

*Oct. 5 - vs. Westerville Central

Oct. 7 - at Upper Arlington

*Oct. 12 - at Westerville South

Oct. 14 - vs. Watterson

GIRLS

Aug. 24 - vs. Worthington Kilbourne

Aug. 26 - vs. Gahanna

*Aug. 31 - at Marysville

Sept. 2 - at Orange

*Sept. 7 - vs. Dublin Jerome

Sept. 9 - at Dublin Coffman

Sept. 11 - at Perrysburg

*Sept. 13 - at Olentangy

Sept. 18 - vs. Watterson

*Sept. 21 - at Westerville North

*Sept. 28 - vs. Dublin Scioto

Sept. 30 - vs. Hilliard Davidson

*Oct. 5 - at Westerville Central

Oct. 7 - vs. Thomas Worthington

*Oct. 12 - vs. Westerville South

Oct. 14 - at Big Walnut

*OCC-Cardinal game