With eight starters back, Angie Pinion is excited about her third season as coach of the Pickerington High School Central girls soccer team.

With eight starters back, Angie Pinion is excited about her third season as coach of the Pickerington High School Central girls soccer team.

The Tigers finished 7-9-2 last season and 3-3-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division. They were fifth behind Pickerington North (6-1), Gahanna (5-1-1), Grove City (5-1-1) and Reynoldsburg (4-2-1) and ahead of Lancaster (2-5), Newark (1-6) and Groveport (0-7).

Central had a forfeit win over Beechcroft in the first round of the Division I district tournament last year before losing to Watterson 4-2 in the second round.

"Our strength is going be our midfield since we have all of our starting midfielders back, and that's what we're building around," Pinion said. "We also have good team unity and that could be important because a lot of schools probably are not expecting much from us. They might be surprised at how well we may do this year."

The returning starters are seniors Jennifer Hewitt (defender), Jenny Kuzmic (midfielder), Haley Nieman (defender), Kaitlin Peters (midfielder) and Jordan Wyrick (midfielder), junior Alli Hammond (forward) and sophomores Bailey Domer (midfielder) and Torrie Marshall (forward).

The Tigers return four other letterwinners in senior Kristina Massie (goalie), junior Sara Martin (defender) and sophomores Jocelyn Henry (defender) and Megan Marinello (forward). Marinello led the team with five goals and had a goal in a scrimmage against Marys-ville on Aug. 20 and another last Saturday during the Lancaster Preview.

Massie, who played forward last year, is splitting time in goal this season with sophomore Hannah Dittoe. They're replacing Liz King, who averaged 10 saves per game last season.

"Hannah and Kristina have been doing a really good job of progressing each day in goal," Pinion said. "Both are pretty equal right now. They each have their different strengths and both are being vocal back there in the net to get their defense organized. And that's something that's important when you're in net."

Also on the roster are junior Kathryn Oehlman (defender), sophomores McKenzie Marinello (midfielder) and Mallory Wyrick (midfielder) and freshmen Amy Hawley (midfielder) and Jordan Lewis (defender).

"Since we lost our goalkeeper and two key defenders (stopper Mikayla Grabner and sweeper Megan Wharton) to graduation, (defense is) one thing we've been working on," Pinion said. "Once we get someone to step up on the defensive end and kind of take charge, we'll be better. We need someone to get everyone organized and more comfortable on the defensive end."

Central opens OCC-Ohio play Tuesday at home against Lancaster. Grove City is not in the league this season, as it is not fielding athletic teams because of the South-Western City Schools' levy failure on Aug. 4.

•The boys team will try to use its speed to improve on last season, when it finished 9-5-3 overall and 4-2-1 in the OCC-Ohio to tie Grove City for third behind Gahanna (5-0-2) and Pickerington North (5-1-1) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (2-1-4), Lancaster (2-4-1), Groveport (1-6) and Newark (0-6-1).

Central opened the Division I district tournament last year with a 3-2 loss to Marysville in the second round.

The Tigers return four starters in seniors Nick Eley (defender) and Mason Roese (goalie), junior Dylan Stevens (midfielder) and sophomore Tony Grozdanovski (forward/midfielder).

Others expected to start are seniors Blas Iribarren (midfielder) and Jack Thomas (defender) and juniors Khai Celestin (forward/midfielder), Travis Peraza (midfielder), Alex Roesch (defender), Jake Searing (midfielder/defender) and Kyle Vehnder (defender).

Also on the team are seniors Jaysen Arzadon (midfielder) and Ryan Christy (midfielder), junior Zach Miller (goalie), sophomore Avery Patton (midfielder) and freshmen Nate Bucilla (forward/midfielder) and Dillon Ricketts (midfielder).

"We definitely need to work on our transition from offense to defense so we don't find ourselves in a disadvantage," said coach Brad Monhollen, whose team opens today at Briggs. "We're not a particularly big team, so we have to use our quickness to make up for it."

The Tigers lost nine players to graduation, including their top two scorers in Kyle Johnson (19 goals) and Josh Fullen (15 goals).

"You can't replace guys like Kyle Johnson and Josh Fullen, but we are going to need new guys to step up," Monhollen said. "When you lose as many quality guys as we did and lose their level of play, teams may look past you. I think we have the potential to surprise a lot of people."

Central opens OCC-Ohio play Tuesday at Lancaster.

Schedules

BOYS

Aug. 27 -- at Briggs

*Sept. 1 -- at Lancaster

Sept. 3 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

*Sept. 8 -- vs. Pickerington North

Sept. 10 -- at Teays Valley

*Sept. 15 -- at Gahanna

Sept. 17 -- at Watkins Memorial

*Sept. 22 -- at Groveport

Sept. 24 -- vs. Canal Winchester

*Sept. 29 -- vs. Newark

Oct. 1 -- vs. Big Walnut

Oct. 6 -- at Thomas Worthington

Oct. 8 -- vs. Columbus West

*Oct. 13 -- vs. Reynoldsburg

Oct. 15 -- at Whetstone

*OCC-Ohio game

GIRLS

Aug. 25 -- at Olentangy Orange

Aug. 27 -- vs. Olentangy

*Sept. 1 -- vs. Lancaster

Sept. 3 -- at Westerville North

*Sept. 8 -- at Pickerington North

Sept. 10 -- vs. Teays Valley

*Sept. 15 -- vs. Gahanna

Sept. 17 -- vs. Watkins Memorial

*Sept. 22 -- vs. Groveport

Sept. 24 -- at Big Walnut

*Sept. 29 -- at Newark

Oct. 1 -- at New Albany

Oct. 6 -- vs. Thomas Worthington

*Oct. 13 -- at Reynoldsburg

Oct. 15 -- vs. Watterson

*OCC-Ohio game