When Carlos Bonilla accepted the job of Upper Arlington High School boys soccer coach in the spring, he took note of the 11 seniors on the roster.

When Carlos Bonilla accepted the job of Upper Arlington High School boys soccer coach in the spring, he took note of the 11 seniors on the roster.

"There are a lot of first-year varsity players who are seniors this year and they know this is their last year to make a difference," he said. "They want to make it their own, and they've really shown that kind of commitment."

A group of nine seniors a year ago helped the Golden Bears win the program's first OCC championship in 18 seasons at 9-6-3 overall and 3-0-3 in the Central Division, ahead of Hilliard Davidson (3-1-1), Dublin Coffman (2-1-2), Thomas Worthington (1-2-2), Worthington Kilbourne (1-2-2) and Hilliard Darby (0-4-1).

The season ended with a 4-0 loss to third-seeded Olentangy Liberty in a Division I district semifinal. It was the last game for former coach Curt Bixel, who in 10 seasons guided the Golden Bears to some of their best records in 2005 (14-2-1) and 2003 (13-2-3). UA won a district championship in 2008.

Bonilla, who spent the last 13 years as the Reynoldsburg boys coach, is focused on keeping the program among the best in the area.

While in Reynoldsburg, he went 97-70-28 overall and won OCC titles in 2001 and 2002. He was the league's Coach of the Year in 2002.

"I'm very excited about being here and I'm going to have high expectations," said Bonilla, whose team was 0-1 following last Monday's 2-0 loss to Westerville Central. "We've got a lot of athletes, but as a first-year coach I know a lot of our success is going to be based on our dedication."

UA returns most of its experienced players in the midfield in seniors Rhodes Moore and Tim Seek, who can also play forward.

Junior Noah Grumman has moved from defender to midfield.

"We've got the talent and a number of returning guys," said Moore, who was second-team all-league with Grumman last season. "I think our forward are pretty strong and we've got some other guys who can spark us."

Sophomore forward Miki Huber will help fill the void left by district co-Player of the Year Daniel Palmer, who finished with 17 goals.

Also gone is goalkeeper Drew Sandbo, who was second-team all-district and first-team all-league. Senior Alex Clark saw some playing time last season.

Senior Ryan Daughters and junior Curtis Payne are the top returning defenders.

Junior defender Andrew Havens is out with a season-ending injury.

"Everything starts in the midfield," Bonilla said. "I think both Curt (Bixel) and I have a similar brand of soccer philosophy that these guys are used to. We've got to get those midfield players to gel with the backline because we're replacing almost everybody back there."

Along with a typically strong league schedule, the Golden Bears also will be challenged once again by a difficult non-league slate which includes Perrysburg (Sept. 4), Dublin Jerome (Sept. 9), Beavercreek (Sept. 25) and DeSales (Sept. 30).

Last year four of UA's opponents finished in the final state poll and as many as six were ranked at one point during the season. The biggest victory came against Beavercreek (4-0), which finished ninth in the final state poll.

"I said to Curt, 'Thank you very much' for that schedule for the first season," Bonilla said.


At a glance

Aug. 23 - at Westerville Central

Aug. 28 - vs. Pickerington North

Aug. 31 - vs. Thomas Worthington

Sept. 4 - at Perrysburg

*Sept. 7 - at Worthington Kilbourne

Sept. 9 - vs. Dublin Jerome

Sept. 11 - vs. Dayton Wayne (Huber Heights)

*Sept. 14 - at Hilliard Darby

Sept. 18 - vs. New Albany

*Sept. 21 - vs. Central Crossing

Sept. 25 - at Beavercreek

*Sept. 28 - at Westland

Sept. 30 - at DeSales

*Oct. 5 - vs. Hilliard Davidson

Oct. 7 - vs. Olentangy Liberty

*Oct. 12 - at Dublin Coffman

*OCC-Central game