Liberty hopes to build on last year
Despite leading the Olentangy Liberty High School boys soccer team to the best season in program history, second-year coach Rick Collins knows that success won't carry the Patriots this fall.
"If we want to do more than last year's team we've got to be able to compete every game," he said. "We have to be our best because everybody knows who we are now."
The Patriots set a team record for wins, going 16-3-3 overall last season, and went deeper in the postseason than ever before, losing to Cleveland St. Ignatius 4-2 in the Division I state final.
On the way to the championship game, Liberty earned a district title with a 5-4 win over Hilliard Bradley and beat Dublin Coffman 3-1 for a regional championship. In a state semifinal, the Patriots beat Beavercreek 2-1 (14-13 penalty kicks).
"It was an amazing experience," Collins said. "The kids talked about it all summer, the way the community got behind us. It's something we'll never forget."
Liberty lost its entire back line when defenders Austin King, Brian Anichowski and Bryan Barthel graduated and junior Aidan Bean decided to play full time for the Crew Academy.
"Our big focus this year has been to replace that," Collins said.
Seniors Kyle Boone and Luke Crea add varsity experience to the new defensive lineup and senior Anderson deAndrade returns at goalkeeper.
"He was a really important player for us last year and he'll be the same this year," Collins said of deAndrade.
Alex Ranalli was the only leading offensive starter to graduate.
"The core of our goal-scoring is still there," Collins said. "We're really trying to build around that."
Seniors Kyle Baum (forward), Sam DeRoy (midfielder), Zach Matheny (forward), Jared Robinson (forward) and Taylor Scott (forward) and juniors Grant Fisher (midfielder) and Thomas Gullo (midfielder) return.
DeRoy (17 goals, 8 assists) was first-team all-league and all-district last season. Baum (12 goals, 5 assists) was honorable mention all-league. Robinson had five goals and five assists, and Gullo had three goals and five assists.
The rest of the squad includes senior Rajat Gupta, juniors Nick Bolton, Devin Collins, Morgan Rankey and Nick Scherner and sophomores Anthony Denoi, Donny Deep and Chris Solomindes.
Last year, the Patriots finished second (5-1-1) in the OCC-Cardinal Division, behind Dublin Scioto (7-0) and ahead of Dublin Jerome (5-2), Westerville Central (2-3-2), Westerville South (2-3-2), Westerville North (2-4-1), Olentangy (1-5-1) and Marysville (0-6-1).
Liberty and Marysville have moved to the OCC-
Central, where they join Central Crossing, Coffman, Hilliard Davidson, Thomas Worthington, Upper Arlington and Westland.
"There are strong teams in the conference," Collins said. "It will be pretty comparable to the teams we were playing with."
The Patriots opened the season Aug. 21 at Orange and begin league play Tuesday, Aug. 28, at Central Crossing.
Pioneers feature revamped roster
Orange lost 15 players to graduation, but fifth-year coach Scott Bryant sees a positive in the situation.
"I've never had a senior class where everybody sticks around to play the whole four years," he said. "It hurts the depth, but we've got a good freshman class coming in and we're happy with the way the junior varsity has been playing."
The offense lost forwards Mac Cole, Chibueze Durunna, Hadrick John, Chris Pieper and Dennis Omari and midfielders Alex Beaver, Gunnar Bloecher, Derek Cook, Matt Dagne and Brad Haney. They scored 24 of the team's 35 goals last season.
The defense lost Avery Calhoun, Andres Cardenas, goalkeeper Paul Dettra, Justin Dickman and Jake Gabbert.
Dagne was first-team all-league and all-district and Bloecher was first-team all-league and third-team all-district.
Returning players who will start are seniors Jake Anderson (forward), Alec Binger (defender), Sean O'Reilly (midfielder), Mitchell Hopkins (defender), Graham Keown (defender), Nick Wheeler (defender) and Zach Arefi (goalkeeper) and junior Jared Rieger (goalkeeper).
"They'll be the leaders on the team," Bryant said. "Those are the main guys."
Anderson had six goals and three assists while making second-team all-league last season.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Nick Deitsch and Tim Hawk, juniors Cory Dietz, Ethan Ennis, Xavier Gregory, Skyler Siles, Brandon Simon, Jimmy Sturmi, Jordan Vinicky and Denny Vroom and sophomores Connor Blakely and Luke Gabbert.
"A lot of them have played together at the junior varsity level," Bryant said. "But there's going to need to be someone who steps into the spotlight."
Orange went 8-6-4 overall last year and was eliminated from the Division I district tournament with a 1-0 loss to Bradley in a semifinal. Orange opened the postseason with a 1-0 win over Delaware in the second round.
The Pioneers went 4-1-2 in the OCC-Capital to tie Bradley for third, behind Big Walnut (6-0-1) and New Albany (5-1-1) and ahead of Delaware (2-5), Mount Vernon (2-5), Watkins Memorial (2-5) and Franklin Heights (0-7).
Olentangy has replaced Bradley in the league.
The Pioneers play host to New Albany in the league opener Tuesday, Aug. 28.
"We're going to put in a lot of work and learn how to play as a team," Bryant said. "We've got a good group of guys. They want to be out there and they want to compete."
Braves under new leadership
New Olentangy coach Matt Weiss is stressing the idea of teamwork.
"Our concept right now is when we have the ball, everyone is on offense, defenders included, and when we don't have the ball, we're all on defense, forwards too," he said. "I really challenged them to work on their soccer IQ."
Weiss replaced Dave Sebek, who was 70-72-21 in nine seasons. Weiss was an assistant under Sebek the past two seasons.
Four-year letterwinners Matt Cameron (midfielder/defender), Jon Martin (midfielder/defen-der) and Chase Parker (defender) led a group of 2012 graduates that also included Lakysha Arora (goalkeeper), Matt Burgan (forward/midfielder), Daniel Dawson (defender), John Morris (forward), Adam Reitz (midfielder) and Tyler Spalt (forward).
The Braves return seniors Chad Boak (defender), Andrew Burzynski (defender), Tyler Clarkson (defender), Austin Horton (midfielder), Jake Mazzeo (midfielder), Joe Morycz (midfielder) and Alex Saunders (defender) and juniors Jon Bechtol (forward), Adam Miller (goalkeeper), Donovan McGuire (goalkeeper), Chandler Parker (defender) and Logan Schwing (midfielder).
The rest of the lineup includes Mitchell Brant (forward), Jon Cameron (defender), Drake Crabtree (midfielder), Derek Doncyson (midfielder), Jake Hummer (midfielder), Bryce Johnson (forward), Tyler Jahr (midfielder), Cole Pihl (defender), Eric Renner (midfielder) and Jared Skinner (defender).
"A lot of guys worked very hard over the summer to get stronger and get in shape," Weiss said. "That way, we could, right off the bat, focus on our play instead of losing games being tired in the end."
Olentangy was 8-10-2 overall last season and advanced to its second consecutive district final, losing to Reynoldsburg 2-1 (6-5 penalty kicks). In their first three postseason games, the Braves defeated Grove City 2-0, New Albany 2-1 (6-5 penalty kicks) and Upper Arlington 2-1.
"Our main goal right now is to win the (OCC-Capital)," Weiss said. "We were able to win (the OCC-Cardinal) two years ago and last year it
didn't work out. Once the regular season is over, our goal is to get to a district final."
The Braves opened Aug. 21 at Jerome and visit Big Walnut on Tuesday, Aug. 28, for their OCC-Capital opener.