The Thomas Worthington High School boys soccer team hopes it has remedied a problem that plagued it most of last season.
The Cardinals, who finished 8-6-5 overall last fall, struggled to put the ball in the net, totaling 25 goals in 19 games. They were shut out five times and held to one goal in eight games, posting a 2-6-5 record in those 13 contests. They were 6-0 in games in which they scored two or more goals.
First-year coach Carlos Bonilla believes his team has enough talent in the midfield and at forward this season to increase its offensive production. He plans to utilize a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 formation.
"We have good skill and ball control and I think we'll be fine on offense," Bonilla said. "What we've been working on most is revamping the defense and goalkeeping."
Bonilla takes over the program from Josh Fenton, who stepped down after four seasons. A native of Colombia, Bonilla coached Upper Arlington the past three years after spending 13 seasons at Reynoldsburg. He had a combined record of 123-88-37 with the Golden Bears and Raiders and won three OCC titles, including one with UA in 2011.
Bonilla will face both of his former teams this season. Thomas, which opens Thursday, Aug. 22, at home against Dublin Jerome, plays host to UA in its OCC-Central Division opener Tuesday, Aug. 27, and will travel to Reynoldsburg on Sept. 19.
The Cardinals, who placed third in the OCC-Central at 4-1-2 last season and reached a Division I district semifinal before losing to Pickerington North 2-1 in overtime, return seven letterwinners in seniors Kofi Agyepong, Ben Frazier, Tommy Hoerauf, Marcos Viscaino, Stephen Withers, Carter Wright and Hunter Young.
Frazier, Hoerauf, Wright and Young were forwards last season, but Frazier and Wright moved to the midfield and Hoerauf and Young are defenders.
"Frazier has all the tools and will be a strong presence in the middle for us," Bonilla said. "He has worked very hard at the physical aspect and is now as strong physically as he is mentally. He has speed and agility and he handles the ball well in traffic. At some point, he may have to do a little more creating by inviting double teams and distributing.
"Wright won't start the season because he's coming off an injury, but he's a very skilled player. He's intelligent with a high soccer IQ and he's also strong on the ball."
Viscaino, who had seven goals, has moved from midfield to forward, where he joins Agyepong, and Withers returns as a defender and will be joined in the starting lineup in the back by Hoerauf, Young and sophomore David Alex Medina.
Senior Michael Bee is expected to start at goalkeeper.
In addition to Frazier and Wright, expected to start or see significant playing time in the midfield are juniors Christian Quinn, Jordyn Tennant and Austin Haimerl and sophomore Ezekiel Morris.
Last season, Withers was named second-team all-league, Quinn was special mention and Frazier was honorable mention.
Completing the roster are senior Corbin Salyer (defender) and juniors Camilo Cangrejo (midfielder), Andrew Edison (midfielder), Charlie Holman (defender) and Alex Nesterov (goalie).
Experience should help Wolves improve
Kilbourne returns 11 letterwinners, including eight who started multiple games, from last season, when it finished 5-8-3 overall, placed fifth in the OCC-Cardinal at 3-4 and lost to Delaware 2-1 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
Leading the list of returnees are senior goalie Joey Cipicchio and senior forward Jake Kovacs, who made first-team and second-team all-league, respectively.
"Cipicchio is a three-year starter and would've been a four-year starter if he wasn't hurt as a freshman," coach Jon Sprunger said. "He's a great leader who has the ability to do so many things on the field. He's also a bit of a secret weapon. He is probably our best field player, too, and we can move him out of the box when we need to do so. Kovacs is the smallest kid we have, but he has the biggest heart. He's not scared to mix it up and he runs through tackles. He's always running and on the move. He's our little engine that could."
Senior defender Carter Grimm has rejoined the team after spending last season playing for Crew Academy.
"He was a starter as a sophomore and he wanted to return this season and play with his friends and for his school," Sprunger said. "Obviously, he will be a big help for us. He can play center (midfield) or defense. He's very fast and we're experimenting with the pieces and where he'll help us most."
The other returning starters are seniors Ray Gardner, Grant Nash and Sam Shaffer, juniors Justin Jiang and James Reymann and sophomore Clark Moats. Shaffer and Moats are defenders, Gardner could split time between defense and the midfield and Nash returns at forward. Jiang and Reymann are midfielders.
Others looking to contribute are seniors Tony Comas (forward), Alex Hendricks (goalie), Ian Price (defender), Ian Redding (defender), Lucky Shaut (midfielder) and Harrison Velez (forward), junior Andreas Enderson (midfielder) and sophomores Alex Cash (defender) and Carlos Guerra (midfielder).
Kilbourne, which opened Aug. 20 against Hilliard Bradley, has moved to the OCC-Capital this season. Olentangy Orange won the OCC-Capital title last year, going 7-0.