The Westerville North High School boys soccer team looks to improve on last year, when it finished 3-9-4 after losing to Brookhaven 2-1 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

The Westerville North High School boys soccer team looks to improve on last year, when it finished 3-9-4 after losing to Brookhaven 2-1 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

Two of the three victories were in league play as the Warriors went 2-2-1 in the OCC-Buckeye Division to place third behind Hilliard Davidson (5-0) and Dublin Coffman (4-1) and ahead of Upper Arlington (1-2-2), Reynoldsburg at (1-4) and Grove City (0-4-1).

This season, the roster is marked by a smaller senior class as only eight return. But North does not lack experience -- 19 of the 23 players on the roster have varsity experience.

Senior forward Brian Nield is joined by classmates Michael Gibson and Ricardo Granados on attack. Junior Abdikadir Ibrahim should see playing time at forward.

The midfielder corps is strong, headlined by seniors Kevin Blakely, Austin Cummings, Kevin Thompson and Dylan Ulry. Juniors Daniel Dybdahl and Keith Moore bolster the North midfield.

Paul Westervelt is back after a strong junior year at defender. Senior Eric Irvin and juniors Richard Desmond and Jordan Hicks are joined by senior stopper Ryan Baum. Senior Matt Pfeifer will start in goal for the second season in a row.

Jesse Rose is back for his second season as coach, aiming to return North to the level at which it advanced to five Division I state finals and won two titles, the last in 2003.

Despite the small number of seniors, he is pleased the majority of his team is comprised of returning starters.

"I really haven't seen any problems," said Rose, whose team opened with a 1-0 win over Reynoldsburg on Aug. 19 and lost to Centerville 2-0 last Saturday. "Eight is an unusually small senior class for us as we typically have 10 to 14 seniors. Without pinpointing players, several players have stepped up and filled positions. We are an older and more mature team, so I expect us to use many players coming off the bench."

Against Reynoldsburg, Nield scored and Peifer had six saves.

Last Saturday, the Warriors trailed 1-0 until Elks midfielder Al Argyris scored on a penalty kick in the last two minutes to seal the victory. Centerville lost just two games in 2007.

"For the most part I'm pleased with how we've started the season," said Rose, whose team faced Dublin Jerome last Tuesday in Crew Stadium and will play Tuesday at Westerville Central.

"Our win was the type of victory I was looking for from this team: gritty and hard-nosed. The loss against Centerville was disappointing, but our guys played very hard. They're a state contender virtually every year. What held us back in that match was a lack of any real offense. We defended quite well for most of the game, but you are bound to give something up if you spend the whole game defending. Overall guys have shown a collective and tireless effort, along with positive attitudes and good chemistry."

This season, North is in the OCC-Cardinal with Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Marysville, Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty, Central and South.

At a glance

•Coach: Jesse Rose, second season

•Next game: Tuesday at Westerville Central

•Key players: Kevin Blakely, Matt Pfeifer and Paul Westervelt