The Olentangy Orange High School girls soccer team lost six players to graduation.

The Olentangy Orange High School girls soccer team lost six players to graduation.

However, third-year coach Jen Odebrecht believes the competition for the open spaces might make the Pioneers a stronger team.

Last year, the Pioneers returned everyone from a team that finished 13-5-2 overall after losing 3-0 to Bexley in a 2008 Division II district final. But Orange finished 10-8 overall after losing to Olentangy Liberty 2-0 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

"Last year felt like it was a continuation of 2008 because we had everyone back," Odebrecht said. "This is the first time we've had to make changes."

The Pioneers averaged 2.77 goals last year but are looking to create more offensive opportunities by switching from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 alignment.

Seniors Hana Abu-Kwiek and Chelsea Deffenbaugh, sophomore Carly Swisher and freshman Stephanie Lewis will see time as forwards. Junior Rachel Wintering, sophomore Bailey Castillo and freshman Emily Burton are expected to anchor the midfield.

"This senior class is going to be a good class," said Abu-Kwiek, who was last year's leading scorer with 15 goals. "We started playing together when we were freshmen and we've learned to play together."

Sophomore Samantha Vaughn replaces graduate Kaitlyn Pearce at goalkeeper with freshman Madison Doone serving as her backup. Seniors Lauren Juttner and Kristen Cunningham, junior Shauni Kerkhoff and sophomore Taylor Delery should hold down the defense.

The Pioneers will be tested in the OCC-Capital Division. New Albany took the title with a 5-0-1 record, ahead of Orange (5-1), Big Walnut (4-2), Hilliard Bradley (3-3), Delaware (1-4-1), Watkins Memorial (1-5) and Mount Vernon (0-4-2). However, the Eagles lost five members from a defense that allowed an average of 1.7 goals, including goalkeeper Katherine Gaiser.

"We're going to shock some people," Abu-Kwiek said. "We're still the underdog. We're still a new school and everything, but I think this year we're going to make some heads turn."

Aaron Horton played one season for the boys team, but it might take the Pioneers a good chunk of this season to figure out what to do without him.

Horton, a forward who had 26 goals and eight assists, was the OCC-Capital Player of the Year and was first-team all-district. He was one of 10 graduates that helped Orange win the OCC-Capital with a 5-0-1 record, and finish 17-2-1 after losing to eventual state champion Gahanna 1-0 in a regional final last year.

"We lost a great senior class, but we're not going to lower expectations," third-year coach Scott Bryant said. "Our goal is going to be winning a league title year in and year out."

The Pioneers not only have to find replacements for Horton and Taylor Rieger (15 goals, 10 assists), but a senior class that scored 59 of the team's 87 goals. Junior forward Jesus Villarroel scored 12 goals and had four assists and was a second team all-OCC selection.

"He's our biggest scoring threat," Bryant said. "We need to find one or two partners to run with him."

Senior Michael Beatty, who was a goalkeeper last year, and junior Hadrick John, who could also see some time in the midfield, are the forwards. Senior Colton Bloecher (six goals, eight assists) replaces Rieger in the midfield. Bryant also expects big things from seniors Walter Ford (six goals, four assists) and Alex Blake (two goals, two assists), juniors Matt Dagne, Derek Cook and Brad Haney, a newcomer to the team, and sophomore Alex Binger in the midfield.

The Pioneers return senior Colin Evans, a third-year starter in goal, as well as seniors Nick Anderson, Stephen Johnson and Nick Vogel. Senior J.J. Jurcisek and juniors Gunnar Bloecher and Jake Gabbert will see time for the defense.

The Pioneers will be tested not only in the OCC-Capital, but a demanding non-league schedule. Orange won the OCC-Capital at 5-0-1. Mount Vernon (5-1), Big Walnut (4-1-1), Watkins Memorial (2-3-1), Delaware (1-4-1), Hilliard Bradley (1-5) and New Albany (1-5) rounded out the league. Big Walnut, which played Orange to a scoreless tie last year, lost to Bexley 2-1 in a Division II district final.

Additionally, the Pioneers play host to Division I district finalists Olentangy Liberty today and Dublin Jerome on Sept. 2 and visit defending Division I state champion Gahanna on Sept. 9.

"We've got three out of the four starters back on defense and that's a big plus for us," said Bryant, whose team only allowed an average of .55 goals a game last season. "Last year, Colin didn't have a lot of work in goal, but if we do allow a few more shots on goal this season, he'll be able to stop them."

Schedules

BOYS

Aug. 24 - vs. Pickerington Central

Aug. 26 - vs. Olentangy Liberty

*Aug. 31 - at Mount Vernon

Sept. 2 - vs. Dublin Jerome

*Sept. 7 - vs. Big Walnut

Sept. 9 - at Gahanna

*Sept. 14 - at New Albany

*Sept. 21 - at Watkins Memorial

Sept. 25 - at Huber Heights Wayne

*Sept. 28 - vs. Franklin Heights

Sept. 30 - vs. Worthington Kilbourne

*Oct. 5 - at Hilliard Bradley

Oct. 9 - vs. Canal Winchester

*Oct. 12 - vs. Delaware

Oct. 14 - at Westerville Central

Oct. 16 - at Olentangy

GIRLS

Aug. 24 - at Pickerington Central

Aug. 26 - vs. Grove City

*Aug. 31 - vs. Mount Vernon

Sept. 2 - vs. Liberty

*Sept. 7 - at Big Walnut

Sept.11 - at Watterson

*Sept. 14 - vs. New Albany

Sept. 16 - vs. Dublin Scioto

*Sept. 21 - vs. Watkins Memorial

Sept. 23 - at Olentangy

*Sept. 28 - at Franklin Heights

Sept. 30 - at Thomas Worthington

*Oct. 5 - vs. Bradley

Oct. 7 - at Kilbourne

*Oct. 12 - at Delaware

Oct. 14 - vs. Westerville Central

*OCC-Capital game