Teams look to contend for state honors
The high school soccer season is under way and once again central Ohio should have teams in contention for a state championship.
Last season, four of the six state finals involved a team from the area, with Worthington Christian winning the Division III boys title and DeSales winning the Division II girls championship.
Worthington Christian reached the Division III state final for the fourth consecutive season, beating Gates Mills Hawken 2-0 for the championship. The Warriors, who finished 18-4-1 last year, became the first Division III program with three state championships. They won their other titles in 2006 and 2009 and were state runners-up in 2008 and 2010.
DeSales won its fourth Division II state title by defeating Toledo St. Ursula 2-0 in the final. The Stallions, who outscored their eight postseason opponents last year 34-0 and finished 18-4-2, captured their other championships in 1995, 1997 and 1998.
Also reaching state finals were the Olentangy Liberty boys team and the Dublin Jerome girls team, both in Division I. Liberty lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius 4-2 to finish 16-3-3 and Jerome lost to Strongsville 1-0 to finish 20-2-1.
Central Ohio has had at least one boys team reach a state final every season since 1997 and at least one girls team advance to a state final every year since 2008. The last time the area wasn't represented by a boys team in a state semifinal was 1987.
Time will tell if central Ohio is able to keep those streaks alive.
On the boys side, Jerome coach Nate Maust believes many area teams are capable of going deep into the postseason.
"I think central Ohio this year is really wide open," he said. "There's not going to be a true leader for a while. There's a lot of teams who on any given night could beat each other. It's going to be probably low-scoring games and, if you have to play a team twice, one team is going to win one and the other team is probably going to win the other time."
Dublin Coffman is ranked first in the ThisWeek preseason Super 7 boys poll, followed by Liberty, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North, Gahanna, Watterson and Worthington Christian.
Other boys teams to watch include Big Walnut, Columbus Academy, DeSales, Dublin Scioto, Grandview and Jerome.
"I would expect that us, Gahanna and Olentangy Liberty will be the top three teams in the area, and we do all play each other," Coffman coach Steve Watts said.
Coffman, which returns 12 players including senior midfielder Nick Gualtieri, senior forward Ryan Prescott and senior goalkeeper Trent Rantala, opened against Pickerington North on Aug. 21 and plays host to Gahanna on Sept. 29 before traveling to Liberty on Oct. 2 for an OCC-Central Division contest. Liberty, which returns 10 players including senior forward Kyle Baum, senior goalie Anderson deAndrade and senior midfielder Sam DeRoy, plays host to Gahanna on Saturday, Aug. 25.
"As for our schedule, it is one of the toughest, partly because our conference has so many quality teams, but also by design," Watts said. "You have to find out where you stand and what you can improve on in the regular season so that you have developed as much as possible come tournament time. The only way to truly test yourself is to play the best competition around. That's my guiding principle when I put our schedule together."
Gahanna and the two Pickerington schools will be battling for the OCC-Ohio championship. The Lions won their eighth consecutive league title last season, going 7-0 while Central and North tied for second at 5-2.
Gahanna travels to North on Oct. 2 and plays host to Central on Oct. 9, and Central plays host to North on Sept. 11.
On the girls side, Coffman is ranked first in the preseason Super 7 poll. The Shamrocks return eight starters and their roster features three Division I recruits in senior forward Kelly Phipps (Western Kentucky), senior midfielder Bailey Wilson (Cincinnati) and junior forward Sam Edwards, who has yet to make a decision. Phipps is a move-in from Florida.
Watterson is second in the poll, followed by Hilliard Davidson, Pickerington North, Gahanna, Jerome and DeSales.
Other girls teams to watch include Hartley, New Albany, Olentangy Orange, Pickerington Central and Scioto.
Coffman travels to Davidson on Tuesday, Aug. 28, for a game that ultimately could decide the OCC-Central championship. The defending league champion Shamrocks, who played Davidson to a scoreless tie last season, also face challenging games Saturday, Aug. 25, at Gahanna, Sept. 24 at home against Watterson and Oct. 6 at home against Jerome.
Other key games include Davidson at DeSales on Sept. 1, North at Jerome on Sept. 13, Gahanna at Davidson on Sept. 15, DeSales at North on Sept. 27, North at Gahanna on Oct. 2 in game that could decide the OCC-Ohio title and North at Davidson on Oct. 6.
Watterson, which is led by senior defender and Kent State recruit Brittany Maisano, plays host to DeSales on Oct. 2 in a game that likely will decide the CCL title. The Eagles also will be tested Sept. 22 at Gahanna and Sept. 27 at Jerome. Watterson played North on Aug. 21.
"We like to play a tough schedule because these teams have star players and these games are a good way to measure where we stand in our district," Eagles coach Alyx Portier said. "We have a great rivalry with DeSales and that game is important for both team's outcome in the CCL every year."
WORC boys & DeSALES girls file art.