After coaching the Big Walnut boys soccer team the past two seasons, Brett Weiss is looking forward to his latest challenge leading the Westerville North High School girls squad.
Weiss replaces Steven Lesmes, who coached the Warriors for one season.
North finished 5-11-2 a year ago.
"We just want to get better," Weiss said. "We try every day to get better and that's one thing the whole coaching staff has been preaching, just have the mindset that each and every day is not a step back but push yourself to get better."
Weiss said he accepted the position, in part, because it was a better fit for his family.
"When they offered me the chance to teach and coach in the same place, the logistics got a lot better," said Weiss, who is a physical education teacher at Robert Frost Elementary School in Westerville.
The Warriors opened with a 4-0 loss Aug. 17 at Olentangy Orange. They return eight players, including senior defender Hannah Ferimer and junior midfielder Caitlin Pierson, who are captains.
"We'll do pretty well this year," Ferimer said. "I have a good feeling about the season. I like the chemistry of the coaching staff and us all working together just makes it seem like we're going to have a good season."
Senior midfielder Kelsey Walker also is a captain, but she will miss the season with a knee injury.
Also back are senior Maureen Kelly (defender) and juniors Hayley Hotchkiss (midfielder), Taylor Johnson (goalkeeper), Morgan Pierce (defender), Emily Siemer (forward) and Peri Wiley (forward).
Other players are junior Jenna Philibin (defender), sophomores Macey Fuller (forward), Riley Hammond (midfielder), Chelsea Hibbitt (forward), Jennifer Markley (midfielder), Ronnie Royer (midfielder) and Ashley Walden (forward) and freshmen Abbey Gruber (midfielder), Alley Miltko (forward) and Karli Royer (midfielder).
Last season, North went 2-4-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to finish sixth behind champion Dublin Jerome (7-0).
Weiss is hoping his team can improve on that record.
"We're just concentrating on the game in front of us. If we can stay healthy and if the girls stay coachable, we'll be able to probably turn some heads," he said.
The Warriors lost eight players from a year ago to graduation, including forwards Abbey Miltko and Kaitlin Moore, midfielder Missy Ward and defender Jonnie Castro.
Moore led the team with seven goals and was first-team all-league and second-team all-district in Division I. Ward was second-team all-league, Castro was special mention all-league and Abbey Miltko was honorable mention all-league.
South returns nine starters
South is looking to improve on last season's 4-9-3 record that included a 1-4-2 mark and seventh-place finish in the OCC-Cardinal.
"We're returning the bulk of our team and we have seniors as well this year, so that will help us," said coach Brandi Tanler, whose team opens Thursday, Aug. 22, at home against New Albany. "I'm excited about who we have coming back this year."
The Wildcats return nine starters, including senior goalie Cara Calland, who had 125 saves and was first-team all-league and second-team all-district last season.
"I definitely hope that we will be able to beat our two Westerville (rivals), North and Central," Calland said. "That's definitely one thing. We always want to go far in the tournament, so that's always another thing we want to strive for."
Senior defender Dominique Dosky was second-team all-league last season and senior forward Mikaela Couch, who led the team in scoring with nine goals and 11 assists, was honorable mention all-league.
Other returning starters are seniors Sami Davis (midfielder), Casey Kusan (forward), Samantha Roth (defender) and Sara Stiles (midfielder), junior Lauren Frank (midfielder) and sophomore Desiree Clark (midfielder). Kusan missed most of last season with a right knee injury.
Other players are juniors Charley Goodwin (defender), Karen Hernandez (midfielder), Tricia Roederer (midfielder) and Asia Williams (defender), sophomores Kambra Crist (forward), Toni Lytus (midfielder), Maisha Lyshe (defender) and Chloe Marburger (defender) and freshman Gabby Couch (midfielder).
Tanler said Marburger will miss part of the season with a knee injury.
"We've definitely talked about competing for an OCC title and a district title and moving on to regionals," Tanler said. "We definitely feel that that is a very reachable goal."
Central again has high hopes
Although his team lost nine seniors from last year's squad that reached a Division I district final and finished second in the OCC-Cardinal at 5-1-1, coach Devon Cannon believes Central can contend in the league and make another postseason run.
The Warhawks lost to Pickerington North 6-1 in a district final.
"There's a lot wrong with second place, we want first," Cannon said. "We can be satisfied with being second, but then we'll never get to first and that's definitely not our intent. We want to win everything that we can."
The Warhawks opened by defeating Delaware 2-1 on April 17.
Back is senior forward Alex MacLeod, who had 11 goals last season and was named first-team all-district and all-league.
Also back are junior defender Valerie Brown (second-team all-league), junior midfielder Marissa Conkins (special mention all-league) and junior defender Allison Ruman (honorable mention all-league).
Other key players are seniors Ali Fehlhaber (midfielder), Danielle Kesling (forward), Hope LaRosa (defender/midfielder) and Alexandra Marquardt (midfielder) and juniors Taylor Hosey (defender) and Taylor Howell (forward).
Junior Trisha Hogue is expected to replace 2013 graduate Megan Gray in goal.
"They have a long way to come, but I like the progress that we've made so far," Cannon said. "It's super early and we have a lot of things to work on."
Key losses to graduation were Gray and midfielders Caroline Fruhling and Morgan Johnson.
Johnson was first-team all-league and third-team all-district, and Fruhling and Gray were second-team all-league.