Tim Barton is hoping his inexperienced Thomas Worthington High School girls soccer team did its homework last season.

Tim Barton is hoping his inexperienced Thomas Worthington High School girls soccer team did its homework last season.

"We lost nine seniors and eight starters to graduation, but I think those girls did a good job teaching the younger girls how to lead and be successful," said the fifth-year coach, who was named OCC-Central Division Coach of the Year last season. "We've got eight seniors this year and I'm hoping they will be great leaders and pass that on to the younger girls, just like last year's seniors did."

Last season, Thomas finished 11-4-3 overall, marking its best record since 2006 when it went 12-7-1. The Cardinals went 4-1-2 in the OCC-Central and, seeded eighth, beat Olentangy 1-0 in its Division I district tournament opener before losing to sixth-seeded Dublin Scioto in a district semifinal.

Thomas placed third in the OCC-Central, behind Dublin Coffman (6-0-1) and Hilliard Davidson (5-0-2) and ahead of Upper Arlington (3-2-2), Hilliard Darby (2-3-2), Worthington Kilbourne (2-4-1), Central Crossing (1-6) and Westland (0-7).

As part of OCC realignment this summer, Darby and Kilbourne have moved into the OCC-Cardinal and were replaced by Marysville and Olentangy Liberty, both of which had been in the OCC-Cardinal.

Among the Cardinals' returnees are senior defenders Karly Boehm, Maddy Maxwell and Annie McFarland. Maxwell was first-team all-league last season.

"It's huge for us to have three returnees back there because we lost two goalkeepers last year who had shared starts for the past three seasons," said Barton, whose team opens Thursday, Aug. 23, at home against Olentangy and begins league play Tuesday, Aug. 28, at home against Upper Arlington. "The biggest gap for us to fill is at keeper. We had a senior, Mara Miller, ready to step in, but she tore an ACL and can't even begin rehabbing until at least September.

"So Bethany Geiser, a junior, has stepped in and is working hard and improving every day. Hopefully, with Maddy and Karly leading the defense, Bethany will have time to grow and get comfortable."

Freshman Maddy Hamilton also is expected to start on defense in the Cardinals' 4-4-2 formation.

Seniors Kat Cross and Morgan Kingseed will start at forward and will be backed up by junior Fatima Said and sophomore Jenna Szabo.

Seniors Leighann Holcomb and Maddy Smith will start at central midfield and juniors Jasmin Singh and Julia Smith will be outside midfield. Senior Kelen Jones also will see time as a midfielder and senior Sydney Sanders is the backup goalie.

"We'll be a better possession team this year, but we won't be as fast or as physical," Barton said. "This is more of a finesse team and we're still fine-tuning some things. We need to stay healthy."

Kilbourne looking to improve in 2012

Kilbourne, which opens Thursday, Aug. 23, at Delaware and begins OCC-Cardinal play Tuesday, Aug. 28, at home against Westerville South, is looking to improve on last season when it finished 4-11-1 overall.

The Wolves, who lost to Darby 1-0 in the first round of the Division I district tournament last year, return 10 letterwinners, including sisters Selena and Celeste Fushimi-Karns.

Selena, a senior forward, was second-team all-OCC-Central last season as a midfielder and Celeste, a junior defender, was first-team all-league.

Other returning starters are seniors Naomi Barker (midfielder), Paige Martinski (defender) and Hanna Vincent (defender) and junior Kelly Zebrowski (midfielder). Martinski and Zebrowski (9 goals, 11 assists) were forwards last year.

Also expected to start are freshmen Carli Taute (forward) and Julia Tout (defender) and sophomore Alex Lawrence (goalie).

"We have repositioned some returning letterwinners, so they are making adjustments and finding their new roles," 10th-year coach Courtney Irwin said. "This clearly could take some time. I think (another concern) would be the fact that we are young.

"At this point, we will be starting two freshmen and our keeper, who had a very successful (junior varsity) season (last year), is making her varsity debut. Everyone has a positive attitude, though, so the transition is going smoothly.

"I believe our strengths would be our height from front to back and an experienced defense that has played together."

Other returnees are senior Lindsey Bauer (midfielder), juniors Erin Mahaffey (midfielder) and Erika Simpson (defender) and sophomore Miriam Bassani (forward).

Rounding out the team are senior Katherine Watkins (defender) and sophomores Claire Chicoat (midfielder), Mia Greco (forward) and Katie McIntyre (midfielder).

"We have good-to-great speed on the perimeters," Irwin said. "Our outside fullbacks and halfbacks are very quick when recovering, but they also move the ball with speed. I believe that this will help with transitioning between lines and generating scoring opportunities.

"I'd like to think of my team as a possession team, playing the ball efficiently, but not forcing passes or shots."

Kilbourne finished sixth (2-4-1) in the OCC-Central last season. Joining the Wolves in the OCC-Cardinal this year are Dublin Jerome, Hilliard Bradley, Scioto, Westerville Central, Westerville North and Westerville South.