In one sense, the Pickerington High School North girls soccer team looked in its opener a bit like its 2010 edition.

In one sense, the Pickerington High School North girls soccer team looked in its opener a bit like its 2010 edition.

The Panthers, who recorded a school-record 15 shutout victories a year ago en route to a Division I state runner-up finish, flashed hints of a sturdy if not potentially strong defense while shutting out Watterson on Aug. 23.

But that might have been the only similarity to last season.

North didn't score, either, emblematic of a team still trying to find its way after losing 13 seniors and its leading scorer - not to mention gaining a new coach weeks before preseason practice began.

After that game, coach Molly Cornwell implored her team to gain a sense of urgency and work on finishing opportunities. But Cornwell, a 2006 North graduate widely considered one of the best players in the Panthers' eight-year history, is quick to admit she knows this team will need time to jell given all it is replacing and learning.

"They're starting well," said Cornwell, whose team fell to 0-1-1 with a 1-0 loss to Medina on Aug. 27. "It's been a challenge for us as coaches and for them as players. They're learning a lot and they're not afraid to ask questions. It hasn't been too, too difficult."

Cornwell replaced Greg Van Kannel, who resigned this past spring after four seasons.

Junior goalkeeper Heather Laeufer said there's little difficulty in separating from the 2010 team that went 20-3 and lost 3-0 to Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit in the state final. Among the Panthers' losses to graduation were forward Zena Kolliesuah (13 goals, 5 assists, second-team all-league), first team all-league defender Shelby Lozan and second-team all-state defender Shelby Olszewski (10 goals, 9 assists).

Forward Ashlynn Jones, a second-team all-league honoree who had 13 goals and five assists and is a junior this year, decided before the season not to play.

"This is a great challenge for our team," Laeufer said. "We want to do as well as we can in the season and into the tournament, so that is some pressure - but that's how it is for any team. But then there's not a lot of pressure because we're a family. We know each other, we're compatible with each other and because of that we can enjoy each other and play well together."

Defender Becca Glenn, who scored seven goals in 2010 and was first-team all-league, leads a senior class that also includes midfielders Carlie Goodchild and Abby Castle and defenders Emily Esterle and Ashley Luckasko.

The junior class is led by Laeufer, defenders Christy Macioce (9 goals in 2010), Abby Hart and Laura Neilon, forward Danielle Wenger and midfielders Alexa Cheripko and Rachel Weigman.

Several underclassmen are expected to see time. Among them are sophomore forwards Morgan Bittengle and Morgan Greer, sophomore midfielder Christina Williams, freshman forward Megan Marrasco and freshman midfielder Kelly Eisenhower.

The Panthers began OCC-Ohio Division play Aug. 30 at Groveport. A possible league title showdown looms Sept. 20 at home against Gahanna.

North went 7-0 in the OCC-Ohio last year to finish one game ahead of Gahanna. Pickerington Central was third (5-2), followed by Grove City (4-3), Lancaster (3-4), Newark (2-5), Groveport (1-6) and Reynoldsburg (0-7).

"The players that have been here and lettered last year have done a great job helping the newcomers learn a lot of things," said Cornwell, a two-time first-team all-state player at North and two-time Mid-American Conference Player of the Year at Toledo. "It's a new system with new formations. It's a lot to take in and they're doing well with it."