Reynoldsburg boys a surprise no longer
The Reynoldsburg High School boys soccer team knows how much perceptions have changed since the beginning of last season.
With a senior-laden roster, the Raiders became the surprise team of the postseason in central Ohio a year ago and won their first district championship since 1985.
There are 12 seniors on this year's 20-player roster, although many of them played limited roles when Reynoldsburg beat Olentangy 2-1 (6-5 on penalty kicks) in a Division I district final.
Coach Justin Lewis expects the Raiders to be considered a key matchup by every opponent despite their 9-8-3 overall record last season.
Reynoldsburg opened with a 5-0 loss Aug. 18 at Westerville Central and played Westerville North on Aug. 21, begins OCC-Ohio Division play Tuesday, Aug. 28, at Grove City.
"It's going to be a tough conference, especially with how we finished last year," said Lewis, who is in his third season. "There's going to be a target on our backs."
The top returnees are seniors Alec Everts (midfielder), Ian Ngugi (midfielder/forward), Jaron Radabaugh (defender), Xander Sohalski (midfielder/defender), Matt Takacs (defender) and James Welch (forward) and juniors Isaac Kolevski (midfielder) and Antonio Nocevski (midfielder/forward).
Everts had seven goals and four assists and Ngugi had five goals and two assists last season. Ngugi was honorable mention all-league.
Competing at goalkeeper throughout the preseason were seniors Allen Bryan and Alex Hudak and sophomore John Wallake.
Others expected to contribute are seniors Dino Seketa (defender) and Joe Timmons (midfielder) and juniors Nah Doan (defender/midfielder) and Nahom Abayneh (defender).
Last season, the Raiders went 3-3-1 in the OCC-Ohio to place fourth behind Gahanna (7-0) and Pickerington Central and Pickerington North (5-2 each) and ahead of Grove City and Lancaster (2-5 each), Groveport (1-4-2) and Newark (1-5-1).
In the postseason, Reynoldsburg beat Westerville Central 2-0 and Dublin Jerome 2-1 to advance to a district final. The Raiders lost to Dublin Coffman 4-0 in a regional semifinal.
Kellan Goble and Caleb Wilson -- both were first-team all-league last season -- led the 2012 senior class. Others lost to graduation were Ethan Kuespert, who was second-team all-league, and Troy Marshall, who was special mention.
Marshall is playing for Marietta and Wilson is playing for Ohio Dominican.
"We're senior-heavy, but it's new seniors," Lewis said. "Guys are just getting familiar with each other. It's a new group and they're all working hard."
Girls team hoping for another step forward
The fact the girls team has just two seniors is nothing new to third-year coach Dana Ortman.
"We've had a young team for years," Ortman said. "When I took over two years ago we had one senior and last year we only had one senior. This year we have two seniors, so we've had to reload with underclassmen. Now we have some girls who have been playing since they were freshmen."
The Raiders, who opened Aug. 21 at Westerville South and play their OCC-Ohio opener Tuesday, Aug. 28, against visiting Grove City, went 6-11 last season. After winning just two games in 2010, the improvement led to Ortman being named the league's Coach of the Year.
The most experienced players are senior Christa Zellefrow (midfielder) and juniors Katie Broehm (midfielder) and Catherine Gundelfinger (goalkeeper). Broehm was first-team all-league last season with 15 goals and seven assists, while Zellefrow scored four goals. Gundelfinger had 129 saves and made second-team all-league.
Also returning as starters are juniors Kelsey Johnson (defender), Isela Kirk (defender), Aimee Ortega (defender), Rachel Streib (defender) and Alex Thorn (forward) and sophomores Asmara Abraham (forward) and C.J. Rock (midfielder). Thorn scored five goals last season.
The other senior is Meleesha Hodge (defender), who was on junior varsity last fall.
Others looking to contribute are juniors Allison Blackburn (forward), Rachel Hodnett (midfielder) and Nickie Thatcher (forward), sophomores Paige Van Horn (midfielder) and Emile Vogelgesang (midfielder) and freshmen Ceri Goff (defender), Allison McKenzie (midfielder) and Asjah Soza (defender).
Last season, Reynoldsburg went 2-5 in the OCC-Ohio to finish behind Gahanna (7-0), Pickerington North (5-1-1), Pickerington Central (5-2) and Grove City (4-2-1) and ahead of Lancaster (1-4-2) and Groveport and Newark (0-5-2 each).
The Raiders lost to Marysville 1-0 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
The only player lost to graduation from last season was defender Sara Rutherford, who had six goals and four assists.
"It's nice to have returning players that are experienced, and a lot of the girls have worked hard," Ortman said. "We had two wins two years ago and last year we won six games. This year we want to win 10 games and host a playoff game. Now is the time that we've got to take that next step."