Brad Monhollen believes his overall team speed might be the difference needed to help the Pickerington High School Central boys soccer team reach the next level.

Brad Monhollen believes his overall team speed might be the difference needed to help the Pickerington High School Central boys soccer team reach the next level.

The Tigers finished 8-7-3 last season, but return six starters including leading scorers senior forward/midfielder Khai Celestin and junior midfielder Tony Grozdanovski.

"I like the speed of our team," said Monhollen, who beings his eighth season with the program. "We have quite a bit of speed, which helps. That's something you can't teach."

The Tigers finished third in the OCC-Ohio Division at 3-1-2, behind Gahanna at 6-0 and Pickerington North at 4-1-1 and ahead of Reynoldsburg at 2-2-2, Lancaster at 2-3-1, Groveport at 1-5 and Newark at 0-6.

Gahanna, the defending Division I state champion, is the favorite to repeat as league champion and have already been named the nation's top team, according to an ESPN RISE preseason poll.

"I think having a big dog up there like Gahanna makes things more exciting," Monhollen said. "It's someone you have to try to knock off the porch. If you can't get up to play the top team in the country, then you can't get up for anyone."

Grozdanovski led the team with 11 goals last season and Celestin (first-team all-OCC) had eight.

Other returnees include senior goalkeeper Zach Miller, senior midfielder Travis Peraza senior defender Devin Rix, senior defender Jake Searing (second-team all-league), senior forward Dylan Stevens, junior midfielder Brandon Koch, junior midfielder Austin Ladd, junior midfielder Avery Patton, sophomore outside back Nate Bucilla and sophomore midfielder Dillon Ricketts.

Other letterwinners include senior midfielder/forward Christian Salyers, senior stopper Derik Seymour and sophomore midfielder Connor McAndrew.

Rounding out the roster will be senior midfielder/defender Tyler Wood, junior midfielder/defender Kevin Ibrahim, sophomore keeper Stephen Banick, sophomore defender Nick Reade and sophomore defender Zach Schumach.

"A lot of guys are being meshed together for the first time," said Monhollen, whose team lost 6-0 to seventh-seeded Dublin Jerome in a Division I district semifinal last season. "Normally, a bunch of guys will play j.v. together for a couple years before coming to varsity, but these guys haven't played together as a unit like some other teams. They have to work hard to learn how to play together."

•The girls team returns four starters and four part-time starters after finishing 6-10-2 after losing 3-0 to seventh-seeded Jerome in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

The team's top three scorers return in junior midfielder Bailey Domer (10 goals, 4 assists), junior forward Torrie Marshall (8 goals) and senior midfielder Alli Hammond (5 goals).

"I have really been impressed with our possession, working the ball upfield and keeping it on our feet," said Angie Pinson, who begins her fourth season leading the program. "One reason for that has been that the girls have come back in really good shape, so we don't have to worry as much about fitness. We can spend that time fine-tuning our ball skills and other fundamentals."

Other returning starters include senior defenders Sara Martin and Katheryn Oehlman. Junior defender/midfielder Jocelyn Henry, junior defender Mallory Wyrick and sophomore defender Jordan Lewis were all part-time starters.

Other letterwinners include junior midfielder McKenzie Marinello, junior forward Megan Marinello and sophomore midfielder Libby Roesch.

Rounding out the roster are junior forward Chanelle Bondurant and sophomore forward Lizzie Awuah, as well as four freshmen - midfielder Darby Burch, goalie Lisa Flattery, defender Nicole Karavakis and midfielder Casidy Simonis.

Junior Hannah Dittoe shared goalkeeping duties with 2010 graduate Kristina Massie, but she did not return to the team. Now Flattery will start in goal for the Tigers.

"We working on getting used to a new goalie and working to get Lisa confident in being a varsity goalkeeper," Pinson said.

Central was 3-2-1 in the OCC-Ohio last season to finish third behind North at 6-0 and Gahanna at 5-1 and ahead of Newark at 2-2-2, Reynoldsburg at 1-3-2, Lancaster at 1-4-1 and Groveport at 0-6.

Schedules

BOYS

Aug. 24 - at Olentangy Orange

Aug. 26 - at Columbus West

*Aug. 31 - vs. Lancaster

Sept. 2 - at Hilliard Darby

*Sept. 7 - vs. Pickerington North

Sept. 9 - vs. Canal Winchester

*Sept. 14 - vs. Gahanna

Sept. 16 - vs. Watkins Memorial

Sept. 20 - at Franklin Heights

*Sept. 21 - vs. Groveport

*Sept. 28 - at Newark

Sept. 30 - at Big Walnut

*Oct. 5 - vs. Grove City

Oct. 7 - vs. Thomas Worthington

*Oct. 12 - at Reynoldsburg

Oct. 14 - at Teays Valley

GIRLS

Aug. 24 - vs. Olentangy Orange

Aug. 26 - at Canal Winchester

*Aug. 31 - at Lancaster

Sept. 2 - vs. Westerville North

*Sept. 7 - vs. Pickerington North

Sept. 9 - at Olentangy

*Sept. 14 - at Gahanna

Sept. 18 - vs. Delaware

*Sept. 21 - at Groveport

Sept. 23 - vs. New Albany

Sept. 27 - at Worthington Kilbourne

*Sept. 28 - vs. Newark

Sept. 30 - vs. Big Walnut

*Oct. 5 - at Grove City

Oct. 9 - at Teays Valley

*Oct. 12 - vs. Reynoldsburg

*OCC-Ohio game