Pickerington North girls aim for return to state
Not even winning a league championship and recording the program's first undefeated regular season were enough to sidetrack Pickerington High School North girls soccer players from thinking about their ultimate goal.
A brief postgame huddle was festive Oct. 9, but then the Panthers scurried off a chilly, windy field where they had defeated Grove City 4-0 in their final regular-season home game.
"Our goal is to make it to the state (tournament)," senior goalkeeper Heather Laeufer said. "We were runner-up (in 2010, losing the Division I title game 3-0 to Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit), but we want it all this year. We've been working really, really hard to do that."
North, which ended the regular season 14-0-2 overall and 7-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division, won the program's eighth league title in 10 seasons. North was an independent in its inaugural season of 2003 and finished second to Gahanna last year.
This year, the Panthers finished ahead of Grove City (5-1-1), Gahanna (5-2), Pickerington Central (4-3), Reynoldsburg (3-3-1), Lancaster (1-5-1), Groveport (1-6) and Newark (0-6-1).
"We're happy to get it back," said coach Greg Van Kannel, whose team has outscored its opponents 62-5. "We have played well lately. They've done a real good job of putting the ball in the back of the net, and our defense has done a really good job of keeping it out. When that happens, it makes life easier for us."
North, which received the second seed in the Division I district tournament, took a first-round bye and will play host to Groveport at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18. Morgan Beemiller, Morgan Bittengle, Ashlynn Jones, Aubrey Lukacsko, Megan Marasco, Rylie Shaw and Rachel Weigman each scored a goal in the Panthers' 7-0 win over the Cruisers on Sept. 25.
If the Panthers win, they will play host to Westerville South or Whetstone in a district semifinal at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23. That winner will play sixth-seeded Westerville Central, 11th-seeded New Albany, Gahanna, Lancaster or Pickerington Central in a district final Oct. 27 at Gahanna or a neutral site to be determined if the Lions advance.
North defeated Pickerington Central 7-1 on Oct. 11, Gahanna 4-0 on Oct. 2 and Lancaster 11-1 on Sept. 4 in OCC-Ohio games and New Albany 1-0 on Aug. 30. The Panthers didn't play Westerville Central, Westerville South or Whetstone during the regular season.
Title eludes Central boys
The Central boys team finished second in the OCC-Ohio after a 3-1 loss to league champion Gahanna on Oct. 9.
The Tigers, who are 10-3-3 overall and finished 4-1-2 in the league, were seeking a share of their first league title since 2000.
They have a first-round bye in the Division I district tournament and will play host to Delaware or Worthington Kilbourne in a second-round game at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20. Eighth-seeded Central defeated Delaware 2-0 on Sept. 27 and did not play Kilbourne during the regular season.
That winner will play fifth-seeded Westerville Central or Hilliard Bradley in a district semifinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24. The Tigers would visit Central if the Warhawks win and would host Bradley in the event of an upset. The semifinal winner will play fourth-seeded Dublin Coffman, ninth-seeded St. Charles, Briggs, Central Crossing or Dublin Jerome in a district final Oct. 27 at Westerville South.
The Tigers did not play their potential semifinal and final opponents during the regular season.
Goalie rotation helping North boys
Rather than rely exclusively on one of two senior goalkeepers, North boys coach Darrin Monhollen has used both Stephen Bannick and Max White all season. White had played in 13 regular-season games and Bannick in 10 entering the week for the Panthers.
"They both have their positive attributes," Monhollen said. "One's maybe better on low balls and the other is better with high balls, but they're both very capable of making the save when the ball's right around them. Fortunately we're in a situation where we don't have to worry about depth in that position."
North took a first-round bye in the Division I district tournament and will play host to Dresden Tri-Valley in a second-round game at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20. The winner will play 11th-seeded Thomas Worthington, Dublin Scioto or Hilliard Davidson in a semifinal at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23. The semifinal winner will play top-seeded Olentangy Liberty, Groveport, Lancaster, Logan, Teays Valley or Whetstone in a district final Oct. 27 at Westerville Central.
Liberty ended the Panthers' season last year, 6-1 in a district semifinal. The Panthers beat Scioto 3-0 on Aug. 30 and Groveport 5-0 on Sept. 25.