The Thomas Worthington High School boys soccer team continues to have problems defending set pieces.

The Thomas Worthington High School boys soccer team continues to have problems defending set pieces.

The Cardinals allowed three goals off set pieces in a 5-1 loss to New Albany on Sept. 22. Moreover, during a recent five-game stretch in which they went 2-2-1, they gave up nine goals off throw-ins, corner kicks and penalty kicks.

"You can't do that and be successful," first-year coach Brian Parsons said. "We've tried a couple of different things (to change) how we mark things up in the back. But at the end of the day, it comes down to toughness. It takes a little bit of toughness to win the ball in the air, and that's an area we're struggling with."

"We have to find the kids who are hungry to get the ball out," forward Jake Szabo said. "It's again the mental thing. We have to roll our sleeves up and get the job done. Once the ball is in the air, we have to know we're going to get it."

Failing to stop set pieces may be a symptom of a larger problem. Thomas graduated five players from the forward and midfield positions, including Eric Erb, who scored 15 goals and had 13 assists last season and made first-team all-district in Division I and all-OCC-Central Division, and that has taken its toll.

The Cardinals are averaging 2.5 goals a game, but the average is a little distorted because 16 of the team's 25 goals came in victories over Northland (6-0 on Aug. 24), Newark (5-1 on Sept. 12) and Marysville (5-2 on Sept. 17).

"We're struggling a little bit right now," Szabo said. "We're trying to find an identity. We have a lot of younger players on this team who are getting used to the varsity level. Hopefully, we can get it all together."

"It's still a process of trying to get the young men to buy into the philosophies that I am trying to get across to them," Parsons said. "It's tough trying to get the young men to buy into a different culture, a different attitude and a different mindset. It's a process to turn this thing around. It's taking a little bit longer than I thought."

Playing in the talent-laden OCC-Central has hurt the Cardinals' record, but it could help them in the postseason. Upper Arlington (fifth), Hilliard Davidson (sixth) and Dublin Coffman (ninth) were all ranked in the top 10 in the Division I area coaches poll last week. Thomas, which was 3-4-3 overall and 0-1-2 in the OCC-Central before playing Hilliard Darby last Tuesday, was 10th.

"I'm hoping it prepares us for the tournament," Parsons said. "We have some players who give us the opportunity to be dangerous in the tournament, but until we find some cohesiveness defensively, it is going to be hard. We need to compete for 80 minutes. Right now, from a maturity standpoint and leadership standpoint, it's not clicking."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for Kilbourne and Thomas boys soccer and girls soccer teams:

KILBOURNE BOYS

*Sept. 22 -- Lost to Hilliard Davidson 5-3. Max Walters scored twice and Ryan Wiet had one.

Last Saturday -- Tied Strongsville at 1. Jordan Hendricks scored.

Last Sunday -- Tied Copley at 1

Last Tuesday -- Played Gahanna

*Tuesday -- At Dublin Coffman

Oct. 8 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome

Of note: The Wolves were 1-5-5 overall before last Tuesday and are 0-2-1 in the OCC-Central.

KILBOURNE GIRLS

*Sept. 22 -- Lost to Davidson 1-0

Sept. 24 -- Lost to DeSales 3-1. Olivia Hein scored.

Last Saturday -- Lost to Medina 8-1

Last Tuesday -- Played Gahanna

Saturday -- Home vs. St. Paris Graham

*Tuesday -- Home vs. Coffman

Of note: The Wolves were 4-6 overall before last Tuesday and are 1-2 in the OCC-Central.

THOMAS BOYS

Sept. 22 -- Lost to New Albany 5-1. Jake Szabo scored.

*Last Tuesday -- Played Hilliard Darby

Today -- Home vs. New Albany

Tuesday -- Home vs. Pickerington Central

Oct. 8 -- Home vs. Olentangy Liberty

Of note: The Cardinals were 3-4-3 overall and 0-1-2 in the OCC-Central before last Tuesday.

THOMAS GIRLS

Sept. 22 -- Lost to New Albany 4-1

Sept. 24 -- Defeated Westerville North 2-0. Haley Cross and Haley Reeb scored.

*Last Tuesday -- Played Darby

*Today -- Home vs. Davidson

Tuesday -- At Pickerington Central

Oct. 8 -- Home vs. Liberty

Of note: The Cardinals were 3-5-2 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Central before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Central game