First-year coach Brian Parsons loves the position the Thomas Worthington High School boys soccer team is in this season.

First-year coach Brian Parsons loves the position the Thomas Worthington High School boys soccer team is in this season.

The Cardinals ended their 6-9-3 season with a 3-2 loss to Brookhaven in the second round of the Division I tournament.

"Thomas is rarely under the radar, but we're excited to compete as an underdog," Parsons said. "We're going to surprise a lot of people."

The Cardinals finished sixth in the OCC-Central Division at 3-4 record despite scoring the most goals (26) of any team in league play. Kilbourne (7-0), Upper Arlington (5-1-1), Dublin Coffman (4-2-1), Davidson (3-2-2) and Darby (2-3-2) finished ahead of Thomas. Central Crossing (1-6) and Westland (0-7) were at the bottom of the division, but will not field teams this season because of the South-Western City Schools' levy failures.

If Thomas is going to improve, it must shore up a defense that allowed 2.58 goals a game.

Seniors Colin Smith, Josh Perger and Dylan Metz, juniors Christian Leppert and Ryan McFarland and sophomore Michael Green lead the defense. Senior Seth Bullock and freshman Jesse Green are vying for time at goalie after the graduation of Ankith Deekollu (61 saves, 2 shutouts).

"The defense offers the biggest area of opportunity for us to improve," Parsons said. "If we can find the right four back there, we could have a pretty good year."

While Thomas graduated five players from the forward and midfield positions, including Eric Erb (15 goals, 13 assists), a first-team all-district and all-OCC selection, Parsons believes he can reconstruct the offense.

Juniors Ryan Chakroff (3 goals, 4 assists) and Greg Highly (9 goals, 9 assists) lead the forwards with sophomore Jayson Long and freshmen Kobi Agyepong and Griffin Zack contributing.

Senior Jake Szabo (six goals, 13 assists), a second-team all-OCC selection, anchors the midfield. Brett Kellogg, juniors Zach Mills and Mikhail Patel, sophomore William Shary and freshman Roscoe Blackburn will also see time.

"One of the things we're looking to do is rebuilding the tradition we've had here," Parsons said. "Six wins falls way below that standard."

Girls coach Tim Barton knows where his teamed failed. He's hoping that by bringing attention to their failings, the team improves on its 5-13 record of a year ago.

"The key for how well we do this year could come down to two things," Barton said. "We have to do a better job of winning balls in the air. Last year we gave up 16 goals off corner kicks last year (including three in a 4-0 loss to Pickerington North in the second round of the district tournament).

"The second is we need to do a better job finishing. We had plenty of opportunities, but we weren't able to finish."

The team already has taken steps at improving the defense. Senior Haley Reeb, a first team all-OCC selection who committed to the University of Florida, was moved from midfield to the defense. She joins senior Jen Miller, Mackenzie Johnson and Jennifer Wallace and sophomore Megan Insley. Sophomores Mackenzie Howell and Rachael Chizever are replacing Camille Patterson in goal.

"Our defenders are going to be the leaders of the team," Barton said. "They need to provide stability and guide the new keepers along."

Senior Nikki Appel, junior Haley Cross and sophomore Kendall Kwiatkowski will see time at forward. Senior Meghan Atterbury, junior Rebecca Sheldon and sophomore Taylor Lawwell are competing for time at center midfielder. Sheldon was second-team all-OCC last year. Seniors Lily Hamner and Kristen Taylor, junior Lily Yednock and sophomore Molli Scholl will alternate at the outside midfielders.

Last season Thomas Worthington (2-5) finished sixth in the OCC-Central Division. Hilliard Davidson (5-0-2) Upper Arlington (5-1-1), Kilbourne (4-0-3), Dublin Coffman (3-1-3) and Hilliard Darby (2-3-2) finished ahead of the Cardinals. Davidson, a regional finalist, and UA, a state semifinalist, won district titles last year and Coffman lost in a district final.

"UA has everyone back, Davidson is solid and Coffman is Coffman," Barton said. "There's not a lot of room for a down night in this division."

Thomas' Jason Long (right) brings the ball upfield last Saturday during a scrimmage against Solon.

Schedules

BOYS

Aug. 25 -- at Dublin Jerome

Aug. 27 -- at Dublin Scioto

*Sept. 1 -- vs. Upper Arlington

Sept. 5 -- at Lakota East

*Sept. 8 -- at Hilliard Davidson

Sept. 10 -- vs. Olentangy

Sept. 12 -- at Newark

*Sept. 15 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

Sept. 17 -- at Marysville

Sept. 19 -- vs. Centerville

Sept. 22 -- vs. New Albany

Sept. 24 -- at Olentangy Liberty

*Sept. 29 -- at Hilliard Darby

Oct. 1 -- vs. New Albany

Oct. 6 -- at Pickerington Central

*Oct. 13 -- at Kilbourne

Oct. 15 -- vs. Pickerington North

GIRLS

Aug. 25 -- at Watterson

Aug. 27 -- vs. Bexley

*Sept. 1 -- at Upper Arlington

Sept. 3 -- vs. Dublin Jerome

Sept. 5 -- at Mansfield Madison

*Sept. 8 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson

Sept. 12 -- at Bay Village Bay

*Sept. 15 -- at Dublin Coffman

Sept. 17 -- vs. Marysville

Sept. 19 -- vs. Olentangy

Sept. 22 -- vs. New Albany

Sept. 24 -- vs. Westerville North

*Sept. 29 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

Oct. 6 -- at Pickerington Central

Oct. 8 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty

*Oct. 13 -- at Kilbourne

*OCC-Central