Upper Arlington High School girls soccer coach Mark Wise's annual post-tryout evaluation of his team was more repetitive this year than it was in any of the past three.
Player after player got the "varsity-ready" stamp of approval next to her name at a clip Wise said he hadn't seen since 2010, when the Golden Bears won the last of three consecutive Division I district championships. If UA returns to being among the area's elite after going a combined 10-19-6 the past two seasons, that would be an added bonus.
"In our selection process, we identified about 26 or 27 girls who were varsity material and we kept 20," Wise said. "That gives me a bit of a vision of the first two years I was here (2009 and 2010, when the Bears were a combined 32-5-4), so we'll see how that pans out. But with 22 girls from (junior varsity) coming up, this could be the beginning curve for the next two years of UA women's soccer making something of a resurgence."
UA, which opened Aug. 20 at New Albany and begins OCC-Central Division play Tuesday, Aug. 27, at home against Thomas Worthington, returns 13 players, including its top four scorers, from last season when it went 5-8-4 overall.
The returnees are senior defenders Anna Eversole, Gabi MacNaughton, Megan Williams and Callie Zimmerman, senior midfielder Rachel Eastwood, senior forwards Kerry Fry and Gigi Furlong, junior defenders Alex Berry, Hannah Peale and Rachel Piscopo and junior midfielders Jessie Greve, Julia Klebe and Maddy Miller.
Last season, Miller scored a team-high four goals and Beery, Furlong, Greve and Zimmerman each scored three.
"I'm going to have a hard time saying any girl will be this much better than another," Wise said. "All of them will be contributors, and one of our tactical advantages this year will be that I can sub and don't really lose anything at any position."
Senior Ashley Copley and sophomore Hannah Ewing are vying to replace 2013 graduate Katie Kapusta at goalkeeper. UA, which placed sixth in the OCC-Central last season, allowed 25 goals in 17 games last year, an average of 1.5 per contest.
Rounding out the roster are senior defender Lexie Anderson, sophomore defender Madeline Fleming, sophomore midfielders Megyn Morgan and Yellyn Rodriguez, freshman defender Olivia Dado and freshman forward Mary Bridget Ginn.
"We'll be solid defensively. Always have been," Wise said. "Even last year, we gave up very few goals, but we couldn't get any offense going. This year, we have some opportunities with the motion and movement we've got and the opportunities we've had. They just have to get into a mental state where they feel real confident."
Boys soccer coach getting to know team
Despite coaching the junior varsity team the past two seasons, first-year boys soccer coach Mic Rogers spent much of the past six months getting to know his new players.
Rogers, a Steubenville native, was hired in February to replace Carlos Bonilla, who resigned after three seasons.
"I'm seeing a lot of eager young men who have worked hard all summer to get ready for this season," Rogers said. "I like what I'm seeing. I think we'll be pretty solid defensively and the guys seem confident in passing the ball."
UA, which finished 5-8-4 overall and placed sixth in the OCC-Central last year, returns 10 players in senior defenders Doug Bannon and Griffin Turnbull, senior goalie Sean Garrett, senior forward Joey Jentgen, senior midfielders Juan Barros, Max Beck and Michael Merrullo, junior midfielder Seamus Moore, junior defender Will Myers and sophomore forward Jack Minnery.
Last season, Jentgen was third on the team in scoring with three goals and Garrett backed up 2013 graduate Josh Jackson in goal.
"I would say we're most experienced in the defense," Rogers said. "But we also have a deep midfield with a lot of talented options."
Also on the team are senior defenders Tyler Hall and Moataz Shuaib, senior midfielder Will Ortquist, junior forwards Owen Auch, Sebastian Goellnitz and Billy Hansen, junior midfielder Austin Russell, junior for-ward/midfielder Jack Strahm, sophomore midfielder Jack Stummer, sophomore defender Kellen Turnbull and sophomore goalie Will Collis.
The Bears opened Aug. 20 at Pickerington North and will play their home opener Thursday, Aug. 22, against Gahanna before starting OCC-Central play Tuesday, Aug. 27, at Thomas Worthington.