After its first losing season last year, the Worthington Kilbourne High School boys soccer team is eager to establish itself as one of the premier teams in the area.

After its first losing season last year, the Worthington Kilbourne High School boys soccer team is eager to establish itself as one of the premier teams in the area.

The Wolves finished 5-7-6 overall and ended a six-year streak of making it to the Division I district finals after losing to Pickerington North 1-0 in the second round.

Last season, Kilbourne defeated eventual Division II state champion DeSales 1-0, the Stallions' only loss last season. It forced 1-all ties with Division I state semifinalist Strongsville and Copley, then ranked eighth in the Division I state poll.

However, Kilbourne lost three games by a goal and tied six others.

"Everyone would agree last year was frustrating," eighth-year coach Jon Sprunger said. "In order to be successful, you need leadership, talent and a little bit of luck."

The Wolves will be tested in the OCC-Central Division. Last year, Kilbourne and Thomas tied for fourth in the OCC-Central with a 1-2-2 record, behind Upper Arlington (3-0-2), Hilliard Davidson (3-1-1) and Dublin Coffman (2-1-2), and ahead of Hilliard Darby (0-4-1).

"They're a very hard-working, confident group," Sprunger said. "The thing we always talk about is if the other team can't score, we can't lose."

Sprunger experimented with 4-5-1 and 3-5-2 alignments to utilize a strong corps of midfielders. Senior Dylan Nourse, senior Alex Pavlechko, junior Adam Hren, junior Brett Hanna, junior Austin Tourville and sophomore Charlie Reymann will play in the midfield.

Junior Ryan Wiet and senior Jordan Hendricks (eight goals, two assists) will be at forward. Hendricks was an honorable mention all-OCC.

The Wolves averaged 1.72 goals a game with 13 of their 31 goals coming in a 6-all tie with Dublin Scioto and a 7-0 win over Beechcroft in the first round of the tournament.

Sprunger said he could see Hanna and Hren also playing in the defense with Brian Hanks and freshman Carter Grim. Senior Blake Collins, who played soccer in middle school but decided to focus on basketball the past three years, has rejoined the team.

Senior Patrick Norris, who served as graduate Nick Hills' backup at goalkeeper last year, will get the start this season. He will be backed up by freshman Joey Cipicchio.

•For the past two years, girls coach Courtney Irwin didn't have to say much to the defense with graduates Corey McClellan and Holly Walton working with senior defenders Katie Wiet and Danielle Reymann and senior goalkeeper Devon Tabata.

Walton and McClellan were two of the nine players from a team that finished 6-9-2 overall after losing to Watterson 4-1 last year. Without McClellan and Walton, the defense has a much different feel.

"We have a very young team this year," Tabata said. "It'll be exciting to see how everything meshes together."

Kilbourne shut out five teams, including eventual Division I state runner-up Coffman in a scoreless tie and district finalist Olentangy Liberty 2-0. How well the newcomers adjust to the defense could determine how well Kilbourne does this year.

"The new players have a lot of speed and great foot skills," Irwin said. "However, (playing at the varsity level) can be very nerve-wracking to players who have never stepped on a varsity pitch."

All three of Kilbourne's captains (Wiet, Reymann and Tabata) play defense. Junior Grace Barker, who was moved from the midfield, junior Emily Limpert, sophomore Paige Martinski and sophomore Hannah Vincent will shore up the defense. Juniors Marissa Elliott and Meredith Ulle will back up Tabata.

"(Defense) is where the foundation is laid, but it's a foundation to a very small house right now," Irwin said. "We're looking to add on."

Kilbourne scored only 25 goals last year and was shut out seven times. The team will use a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 alignment to generate offense.

The Wolves return senior Kelsey Whittamore and junior Frankie Perito as forwards with junior Jaclyn Tout and sophomore Lindsey Bauer contributing.

Seniors Sammi Adams and Lauren Rossi anchor the midfield. Sophomores Naomi Barker and Selena Fushimi-Karns and freshmen Celeste Fushimi-Karns and Kelley Zebrowski will compete for time in the midfield.

Kilbourne will be tested in the OCC-Cardinal Division. Last year, the Wolves tied Thomas for fourth with a 1-2-2 record, finishing behind Upper Arlington (5-0), Coffman (3-1-1) and Davidson (2-2-1), and ahead of Darby (0-5). The Shamrocks finished second in the state after losing to Medina 4-0 and the Bears lost to Coffman 2-1 in a regional final.

"Having those teams in league play (is a blessing and a curse)," Irwin said.

"If you can do well with those teams, you know you've done well against many of the top teams in the area."


Schedules

BOYS

Aug. 26 - at Lakota West

*Aug. 31- at Hilliard Darby

Sept. 2 - at Olentangy Liberty

*Sept. 7 - vs. Upper Arlington

Sept. 9 - vs. Reynoldsburg

Sept. 11 - at Dublin Scioto

*Sept. 14 - vs. Westland

Sept. 16 - vs. Mount Vernon

*Sept. 21 - at Hilliard Davidson

Sept. 23 - vs. Westerville Central

Sept. 25 - vs. Copley

*Sept. 28 - vs. Central Crossing

Sept. 30 - at Olentangy Orange

*Oct. 5 - vs. Dublin Coffman

Oct. 7 - at Dublin Jerome

Oct. 12 - at Thomas Worthington

GIRLS

Aug. 24 - at Olentangy Liberty

Aug. 26 - vs. Westerville Central

Aug. 28 - vs. Pickerington Central

*Aug. 31 - vs. Hilliard Darby

*Sept. 7- at Upper Arlington

Sept. 11 - vs. Huber Heights Wayne

*Sept. 14 - at Westland

Sept. 16 - at Grove City

Sept. 21 - vs. Hilliard Davidson

Sept. 23 - at DeSales

*Sept. 28 - at Central Crossing

*Oct. 5 - at Dublin Coffman

Oct. 7 - vs. Olentangy Orange

Oct. 9 - vs. Dublin Jerome

*Oct. 12 - at Thomas Worthington

Oct. 14 - vs. Pickerington North

*OCC-Central game