The injury bug hit the Westerville Central High School boys soccer team during the preseason, forcing coach David Pence to re-work his lineup until it returns to full strength.

The injury bug hit the Westerville Central High School boys soccer team during the preseason, forcing coach David Pence to re-work his lineup until it returns to full strength.

"The challenge now is getting everyone used to playing together," said Pence, whose team opened last Tuesday against Dublin Coffman and plays host to Worthington Kilbourne today and South on Monday.

The Warhawks finished 6-10-3 overall last year and 3-4 in the OCC-Cardinal Division, placing fifth behind Dublin Jerome (7-0), Olentangy Liberty (4-2), Olentangy (3-3-1) and North (3-3-1) and ahead of Dublin Scioto (2-4-1), Marysville (2-5) and South (2-5).

Despite its overall record, Central reached a Division I district final, where it lost to Dublin Jerome 3-2, marking its eighth loss by one goal. The Warhawks had opened the tournament with a 3-2 win over eighth-seeded Grove City in the second round and defeated Brookhaven 1-0 in a district semifinal before losing to the Celtics.

"We had a bunch of one-goal losses," Pence said. "We had some breaks go against us and kept working hard and in the district tournament we got a couple of breaks and things went out way."

Even though Central lost 10 players to graduation, it returns an experienced lineup, as Pence gave a lot of playing time to younger players last year.

One of the Warhawks' strengths should be their midfield, which according to Pence has a lot of depth. Leading the midfield will be seniors Graham Fugazzi and Nick Holtom as well as junior Marc Simonds. The unit also includes junior Emmanuel Appiah, an all-district selection last season who was injured in the preseason.

Also missing from the midfield during the preseason because of injury was junior Zack Ross. Juniors Drew Enscoe and Danny Kruk also will play in the midfield.

"It will take a little time to build some chemistry, but we know each other from playing together last year," Fugazzi said. "It's going to help to have 13 returning letterwinners. I really didn't realize how many (we had) until we sat down on the bench for school pictures."

There are so many midfielders, in fact, that senior Eric Blum has moved from midfield to forward. Simonds also will spend time at forward. Other forwards are senior Ben Frimpong and sophomore Channing Doerman.

Senior goalkeeper Eric Hum-phreys returns and will be backed up by junior Connor Johnson.

The defense includes junior Alex Ferrara at stopper as well as seniors Jeff Dillon and Keaton Morris, juniors Danny Kruk and Jake Marburger and sophomore Dixon Duckwall.

•The girls team returns all but four players from last season when it finished 13-9 overall and 4-3 in the OCC-Cardinal to place third behind Jerome (6-1) and North (3-1-3) and ahead of South (3-2-2), Scioto (2-3-3), Marysville (2-3-2), Liberty (1-4-2) and Olentangy (0-5-2).

Central defeated Columbus East 10-0 in the first round of the Division I district tournament and beat Scioto 2-1 in overtime in the second round before losing to Dublin Coffman 2-0 in a district semifinal.

Given the experience that the Warhawks have gained over the last two seasons, coach Michael Conover believes they are more varsity ready than in previous years.

"The exercises we're doing at this point is what we were doing mid-year last year," said Conover, whose team opened last Monday against Ashland and plays host to Worthington Kilbourne today before playing Monday at South. "Where we picked up in summer camp, we started right from where we left off last year."

Central lost 16 seniors after the 2006 season and since then has been in a rebuilding process, which was exacerbated by a rash of injuries in 2007, giving playing time to several players who otherwise would have been on junior varsity. Last year Conover put 10 sophomores on varsity with the idea that they would be more game ready this season. Of the four players lost to graduation, only one was a regular starter.

One of the players who has benefited the most during this building process is junior forward Dominique Brown, who is expected to be one of the team's featured attackers. She will play alongside junior Kayla Schlatterbeck or junior Aubrey Schirtzinger. Other forwards are senior Siah McCabe and junior Kristen Norris.

The midfield will be led by senior Rachel MacLeod, who has made a verbal commitment to Toledo. She will play alongside sophomore Taylor Wells, who earned playing time as a freshman with her "above average work rate," Conover said.

Senior Paige Sterling has returned to play sweeper, a position she switched to last year. She's expected to provide leadership to a defense that also will feature junior Courtney Jones. Senior goalkeeper Bronwyn Huddleson started last year but is being pushed by senior Hillary Puckett, who is learning the position after previously playing forward.

Also on the roster are seniors Amy Behan and Morgan Lineberry, juniors Taylor Edwards, Erin Fitzpatrick, Kaitlyn Kelly, Meredith Lineberry, Mackenzie Spicer, April Tausch and Ellis Wallinger, sophomores Sarah Persaud and Taylor Wells and freshman Morgan Johnson.

Schedules

BOYS

Aug. 25 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

Aug. 27 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne

*Sept. 1 -- vs. Westerville South

Sept. 5 -- at Lexington

*Sept. 8 -- at Westerville North

Sept. 12 -- at Hilliard Darby

*Sept. 15 -- vs. Marysville

Sept. 17 -- vs. Gahanna Lincoln

*Sept. 22 -- at Dublin Scioto

Sept. 24 -- at Upper Arlington

*Sept. 29 -- at Olentangy

Oct. 1 -- at Olentangy Orange

*Oct. 6 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty

Oct. 8 -- at New Albany

*Oct. 13 -- at Dublin Jerome

Oct. 15 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

*OCC-Cardinal game

GIRLS

Aug. 24 -- vs. Ashland

Aug. 27 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne

*Aug. 31 -- at Westerville South

Sept. 3 -- vs. Pickerington North

*Sept. 8 -- vs. Westerville North

Sept. 12 -- at Mount Vernon

*Sept. 15 -- at Marysville

Sept. 17 -- at Hilliard Davidson

*Sept. 22 -- vs. Dublin Scioto

Sept. 26 -- at Gahanna

*Sept. 29 -- vs. Olentangy

Oct. 1 -- vs. Olentangy Orange

*Oct. 6 -- at Olentangy Liberty

Oct. 8 -- at New Albany

*Oct. 13 -- vs. Dublin Jerome

Oct. 15 -- at Hilliard Darby

*OCC-Cardinal game