Thomas Worthington High School girls soccer coach Tim Barton knows a tough task awaits his team in the OCC-Central Division this season.

Thomas Worthington High School girls soccer coach Tim Barton knows a tough task awaits his team in the OCC-Central Division this season.

The past two seasons the league has sent a team to a Division I state tournament, with Upper Arlington losing 3-0 to eventual champion Cincinnati St. Ursula in a semifinal in 2008 and Dublin Coffman losing 4-0 to Medina in the final last year.

"Neither of those teams won our conference (the year they reached state)," said Barton, who is in his third season with the Cardinals.

Thomas finished 5-8-4 overall last year after losing to Marysville 4-3 in a shootout in the first round of the district tournament. The Cardinals went 1-2-2 in the OCC-Central, tying Worthington Kilbourne for fourth behind Upper Arlington (5-0), Coffman (3-1-1) and Hilliard Davidson (2-2-1) and ahead of Hilliard Darby (0-5).

Barton said one of the keys to getting through the league is building a more aggressive offense. The Cardinals averaged 1.71 goals a game last year, but 12 of their 29 goals came in 6-0 wins over Olentangy and Mansfield Madison.

Senior Hayley Cross and junior Kendall Kwiatkowski are the forwards, with sophomore Morgan Kingseed and freshman Nya Cason expected to play key roles. Seniors Rebecca Sheldon and Lily Yednock will provide leadership to a young midfield. Juniors Kim Hoerauf, Mollie Scholl, Taylor Lawwell and Robin Gwin and sophomores Maddy Smith and Leighann Holcomb all expect to see time in the midfield.

Last season, Sheldon was first-team all-league, Cross was honorable mention all-league and Scholl was special mention all-league.

"We're looking to get the ball into the back of the net more consistently," said Barton, whose team was shut out five times last year. "We've been doing better offensively (in scrimmages), but we still have to develop that chemistry."

Defensively, Thomas graduated Haley Reeb, who is playing for the University of Florida, but returns junior defender Megan Insley and junior goalkeepers Rachael Chizever and Mackenzie Howell. Junior Taylor Yeates and sophomores Maddy Maxwell and Karly Boehm should see time as defenders.

Insley was second-team all-league last year.

"It's whole new group, but we have a lot of skill back there," Barton said. "They're making progress and they have the potential to be very good.

"The key for this year is going to be communication and improving our flow of the game. They have to be able to move as a unit."

•The boys team has taken strides toward restoring itself as the power it used to be.

Thomas finished 8-6-3 overall last season after losing to Davidson 3-2 in overtime in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

"We're starting to change the mindset of the program," said second-year coach Brian Parsons, whose team won state championships in 1991, 1998 and 2001 but has made only one trip to a district final since 2005. "We want to restore the passion and the competitive spirit we once had."

Parsons is toying with 3-5-2 and 4-5-1 alignments to take advantage of the skilled players he has back. Senior Greg Highly (eight goals in 2009) and sophomore Roscoe Blackburn (five goals) should anchor the forward slots, with sophomore Kobi Ayepong splitting time between the forward and midfield positions.

Seniors Aaron Berlin and Adrian Fields also could contribute.

In the midfield, the Cardinals will use senior Ryan Chakroff to replace graduate Jake Szabo, who had 12 goals and eight assists last year and was first-team all-district and OCC-Central co-Player of the Year with Upper Arlington's Daniel Palmer. Chakroff scored seven goals last year and was second-team all-league.

Also in the midfield, senior Mikail Patel, juniors Will Shary, Jayson Long and Michael Green should play key roles, with senior Josh Keegan, junior Akhil Patel and sophomores Ben Carloni and Ryan Dunick also seeing time.

Defensively, the Cardinals will be led by seniors Christian Leppert, Ryan McFarland and Mark Chadwell and sophomore Thomas Roberts.

Parsons also expects seniors Grant Savage and David Aspery to see time. Sophomore Jesse Greene takes over as goalkeeper for graduate Seth Bullock, with senior Andrew Hoolihan serving as the backup.

The Cardinals went 1-2-2 in the OCC-Central last year to tie Kilbourne for fourth, behind Upper Arlington (3-0-2), Davidson (3-1-1) and Coffman (2-1-2) and ahead of Darby (0-4-1).

"Things are going to be wide open in the league this year," Parsons said. "Any one of five teams could win the league, and we feel like we're one of those teams."


Schedules

BOYS

Aug. 24 - at New Albany

Aug. 26 - vs. Gahanna

*Aug. 31 - at Upper Arlington

Sept. 2 - vs. St. Charles

Sept. 4 - at Lexington

*Sept. 7 - vs. Hilliard Davidson

Sept. 9 - at Olentangy Liberty

*Sept. 14 - at Dublin Coffman

Sept. 16 - vs. Marysville

Sept. 18 - vs. Ashland

*Sept. 21 - at Westland

*Sept. 28 - vs. Hilliard Darby

*Oct. 5 - at Central Crossing

Oct. 7 - vs. Pickerington Central

*Oct. 12 - vs. Worthington Kilbourne

Oct. 14 - at Westerville North

GIRLS

Aug. 24 - vs. Mansfield Madison

Aug. 26 - at Olentangy

*Aug. 31 - vs. Upper Arlington

Sept. 2 - at Dublin Jerome

*Sept. 7 - at Hilliard Davidson

Sept. 11 - vs. Bay Village Bay

*Sept. 14 - vs. Dublin Coffman

Sept. 16 - at Marysville

*Sept. 21 - vs. Westland

Sept. 23 - at Westerville North

*Sept. 28 - at Hilliard Darby

Sept. 30 - vs. Olentangy Orange

*Oct. 5 - vs. Central Crossing

Oct. 7 - at Olentangy Liberty

*Oct. 12 - at Worthington Kilbourne

Oct. 14 - vs. Jonathan Alder

*OCC-Central game