First-year Westerville North High School boys soccer coach Mark Price has a vivid memory of the program's past reputation of being in a class by itself.

First-year Westerville North High School boys soccer coach Mark Price has a vivid memory of the program's past reputation of being in a class by itself.

In 2003, he was a senior on Dublin Scioto's undefeated team that appeared poised for a deep run in the state tournament before North stunned the Irish in a regional semifinal. Ten days later, the Warriors earned their second state title, capping a stretch of five state finals in nine years.

Now, after three consecutive losing seasons and two coaching changes, Price takes on the task of returning North to its stature as a top-tier team.

"All you have to do is look at the history and you can tell this has always been a special program," Price said. "I think our guys are hungry to get back to where we once were and are buying into what we need to do to get there."

Price, who coached club soccer and was an assistant on the Reynoldsburg girls team before taking the North job this year, believes returning to the top starts with experience and leadership.

Eight seniors return to a team that finished 8-9-2 overall and 2-2-3 in the OCC-Cardinal Division, behind Dublin Jerome (6-0-1), Olentangy Liberty (6-1) and Dublin Scioto (4-1-2), and ahead of Central (3-3-1), Marysville (2-5), Olentangy (1-6) and South (0-7).

A stretch of five consecutive wins at the end of the season propelled the Warriors to a district final, where they lost to Olentangy Orange. Players have carried that postseason success over into a new year.

"Everyone is pumped and really looking forward to it," senior goalkeeper Dylan Thompson said. "I think we've developed a winning mentality and you can already see that makes a big difference on the field."

North's strength comes at the forward position with the return of seniors Joe Billardello and Brad Conner and junior Ryun Braxton.

Price has high expectations for senior attacking center Jared Pulliam and junior defensive midfielder Brendin Crew. Sophomore Peter Kraft rounds out the midfielders.

"I feel like we can score goals with anyone," Price said. "With the talent our guys have up front, we're going to try and force teams to pull back and commit to defend."

On defense, seniors Christan Bruce and Logan Coyle join juniors Tyler Anderson and Joe Wilkin. Thompson will start in goal for a second straight season.

•Entering his 22nd year, girls coach Tim Lawrence has an outlook that has become fairly common for August.

"We're cautiously optimistic," Lawrence said. "As always, in our league it's going to take consistent, sound defense every time out."

Fourteen players return from a team which finished 11-4-3 overall and 5-1-1 in the OCC-Cardinal, behind Liberty (6-0-1) and ahead of Central (4-1-2), Jerome (3-2-2) Scioto (1-3-3), Marysville (1-4-2), Olentangy (1-5-1) and South (0-7).

After consecutive tournament wins, the Warriors lost to Olentangy Liberty 2-0 in the district semifinal.

Forwards Genelle Castro, Spenser Foust and Allie Sieradzki partner with attacking center-midfielder Ashley Miltko on an offense that outscored opponents 45-18 last season.

Maggie Gibson, Ayrn Shields and Missy Ward are the midfielders, playing in front of returning defensive starters Renne Perry, Rachel Davis and Hope Wood. Sophomore Kaitlin Moore will start at left back.

After posting five shutouts in 14 games last season, junior Kayla Angermeier is back at goalkeeper.

"We've got a lot of our mids and attackers returning, but it's not a given that they can score a bunch of goals," Lawrence said.

"Defending will be our first priority. If we can develop sound defensive ideas and philosophies we'll be in good shape."

At a glance

Boys

Aug. 24 - at DeSales

Aug. 26 - vs. New Albany

Aug. 28 - vs. Centerville

*Aug. 31 - vs. Dublin Jerome

Sept. 2 - vs. Delaware Hayes

*Sept. 7 - at Westerville Central

Sept. 9 - at Hilliard Darby

*Sept. 14 - vs. Dublin Scioto

*Sept. 21 - at Olentangy Liberty

Sept. 23 - at St. Charles

*Sept. 28 - vs. Westerville South

Sept. 30 - at Gahanna Lincoln

*Oct. 5 - at Marysville

Oct. 7 - at Grove City

*Oct. 12 - vs. Olentangy

Oct. 14 - vs. Thomas Worthington

Girls

Aug. 24 - at Dublin Coffman

Aug. 26 - at Big Walnut

*Aug. 31 - at Dublin Jerome

Sept. 2 - at Pickerington Central

*Sept. 7 - vs. Westerville Central

Sept. 9 - vs. Hilliard Davidson

*Sept. 14 - at Dublin Scioto

Sept. 16 - vs. Reynoldsburg

Sept. 18 - at Medina

*Sept. 21 - vs. Olentangy Liberty

Sept. 23 - vs. Thomas Worthington

*Sept. 28 - at Westerville South

Oct. 2 - vs. Bishop Watterson

*Oct. 5 - vs. Marysville

Oct. 7 - vs. Hilliard Bradley

*Oct. 12 - vs. Olentangy

*OCC-Cardinal game