Pickerington High School North girls soccer coach Greg Van Kannel believes his team carries a businesslike demeanor onto the field for every game.
"They're fun and goofy at times, but when it comes to games, they're pretty mature and pretty focused on what they want to do," Van Kannel said. "That's what I like to see."
Westerville Central saw it from the start of a Division I district final Oct. 27.
Senior forward Ashlynn Jones scored the second-seeded Panthers' first goal 5 minutes, 3 seconds into the game, junior midfielder Morgan Bittengle added three goals and North cruised past the sixth-seeded Warhawks 6-1 at Westerville North to win its second district championship in three years and seventh in the program's 10 seasons.
"Our ball movement helped a lot," said Bittengle, who scored twice in an 11-minute span of the first half to make it 3-0 and added her final goal 10 minutes into the second half. "We all came out strong and upbeat and we wanted to get a goal early and get on top."
Senior defender Christy Macioce and senior midfielder Layne Collier scored in the second half as the Panthers im-proved to 17-0-2 and advanced to face Dublin Coffman in a regional semifinal on Thursday, Nov. 1, at Dublin Jerome.
"I thought we possessed the ball very well the first 10 minutes," Van Kannel said. "(Westerville Central was) chasing us around and they were having trouble finding possession. We got some nice shots from our set pieces and caused some havoc. We were on fire. We got some nice touches on the ball and we were ready to go."
North reached the district final by beating Westerville South 4-0 in a semifinal Oct. 23. Jones, sophomore forward Megan Marasco, senior forward Dani Wenger and sophomore midfielder Aubrey Lukascko scored for the Panthers.
The regional semifinal winner will play Jerome or Hilliard Davidson in a regional final at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at Jerome. The Panthers tied Jerome at 1 on Sept. 13 and defeated Davidson 2-1 on Oct. 6.
The regional champion will play Centerville, Cincinnati Seton, Cincinnati Ursuline or Mason in a state semifinal Tuesday, Nov. 6, and that winner will play Massillon Jackson, Medina, Mentor, Perrysburg, Solon, Strongsville, Westlake or Whitehouse Anthony Wayne in the state final at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at Crew Stadium.
Thoughts of returning to Crew Stadium, where North lost the 2010 state final 3-0 to Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit, weren't far from the Panthers' minds after the district final.
"Winning here is a really good feeling. It makes you want to come out even stronger the next game," Bittengle said. "From the start, we knew what our goals were and that we'd make it. So far, we're proceeding with it."
Panthers boys lose in district final
Two penalty-kick goals for top-seeded Olentangy Liberty in the second half of a Division I district final Oct. 27 doomed the North boys team in a 4-1 loss at Westerville Central.
Freshman forward Derrick Reedus Jr. scored the Panthers' goal to tie the game at 1.
"Two penalty kicks are something we obviously didn't expect," coach Darrin Monhollen said. "We had our share of opportunities, and that's what you're looking for when you play against a strong team like Olentangy Liberty."
North advanced to the district final by beating Dresden Tri-Valley 3-0 in its tournament opener Oct. 20 and upsetting 11th-seeded Thomas Worthington 2-1 in double overtime Oct. 24.
The Panthers finished 10-6-3 overall and 4-2-1 in the OCC-Ohio, third behind Gahanna (7-0) and Pickerington Central (4-1-2) and ahead of Lancaster (3-1-3), Grove City (3-3-1), Groveport (2-5), Reynoldsburg (1-5-1) and Newark (0-7).
The Panthers lose 13 seniors, including Tanner Ebright (midfielder), Sean Goddard (defender), Jared Linkhorn (defender), Marlon Pugh (forward), Trevor Swanson (midfielder) and Max White (goalkeeper).
Expected returnees include juniors Conner Lynch (midfielder), Isaac Magnuson (forward), Zach Norris (midfielder), Matt Skarsten (defender), Nathan Tawney (forward) and Luke Westkamp (midfielder), sophomore Brett Baumann (utility) and freshmen Reedus and Nick Snyder (midfielder).
Ebright and Swanson were first-team all-league, and Ebright was first-team all-district. Pugh was second-team all-league, Goddard was special mention and Linkhorn was honorable mention.
Tigers boys fall in district semi
The Central boys team ended its postseason run Oct. 24, losing 2-0 at fifth-seeded Westerville Central in a Division I district semifinal.
The eighth-seeded Tigers took a first-round bye then defeated Delaware 5-1 on Oct. 20 in a second-round game moved to Westerville South because of poor field conditions at Central. The Tigers were behind 1-0 at halftime but surged ahead on four goals by Derrick Awuah and a fifth from Nick Reade.
Against Westerville Central, the Tigers fell behind within the first two minutes on the first of Sam Sharifi's two goals.
"He hit the shot at the exact right time and nailed it right inside the upper post. It was a great shot, one you might hit one out of 25 times," said coach Brad Monhollen, whose team finished 11-4-3 overall.
Central loses 13 seniors, including Awuah (forward), Nate Buccilla (midfielder), Logan Federer (defender), Connor McAndrew (defender), Reade (stopper), Dillon Ricketts (forward) and Zack Schmauch (midfielder/defender). Ricketts, a four-year letterwinner and Ohio State recruit, was a first-team all-league and all-district selection who scored a team-high 15 goals.
Expected returnees include juniors Brian Krieg (forward), Connor Napier (midfielder) and Brandon Sanchez (defender), sophomore Collin Federer (goalkeeper) and freshman Steven Bauers (midfielder).
Buccilla also was a first-team all-league selection. Awuah, Logan Federer and Schmauch were on the second team, Napier was special mention and McAndrew was honorable mention.
"By far, this has been my favorite season of soccer as far as coaching and watching these guys," said Monhollen, who was voted OCC-Ohio Coach of the Year. "I always told the guys it's anybody's ballgame to win any given night. This was a great year, winning 11 games and beating Pickerington North (3-2 on Sept. 11). This team was so solid. They were a lot of fun."