The Thomas Worthington High School girls soccer team has high hopes this season, as it returns 11 letterwinners, including seven starters, led by senior forward Jenna Szabo.
The Cardinals had a strong finish to last season, going 7-1-1 in their last nine games to finish 11-6-2 overall.
"We are hoping to get off to a faster start this season," said seventh-year coach Tim Barton, whose team opened Aug. 19 at Delaware and plays host to Olentangy on Thursday, Aug. 21. "We were 4-5-1 in the first half last year."
Szabo had 13 goals and nine assists last year and was named second-team all-state in Division I and first-team all-district and all-OCC-Central Division. Sophomore forward Grace DeLuca had nine goals and six assists and was second-team all-league.
"We will be led by Jenna Szabo and Grace DeLuca," Barton said. "They were our top two scorers last year and we are hoping they continue where they left off. They have very good chemistry and work well off of each other."
Junior midfielders Maddie Hamilton and Grace Smith also will play vital roles. Smith was special mention all-league a year ago.
"Hamilton and Smith will anchor the midfield," Barton said. "Their distribution will be a big key to how successful we are this year."
Thomas also picked up another strong midfielder in junior Carli Taute, a transfer from Kilbourne who was second-team all-OCC-Capital last year.
Another key returnee is senior defender Jordan Fischbach.
"Fischbach will definitely be a leader of the group (of defenders), but we're young in the back," said Barton, whose team is utilizing a 4-2-3-1 formation. "We have some newer faces in the back line, but we'll work it out and hopefully compete for a shot at the OCC-Central title and progress deeper into the (postseason) tournament."
Last season, Thomas reached a Division I district semifinal before losing to Dublin Jerome 3-0 and went finished 4-3 in the OCC-Central to place fourth, behind champion Dublin Coffman (6-0-1).
The Cardinals open league play Tuesday, Aug. 26, at Upper Arlington.
"(The OCC-Central) is stacked as usual," Barton said. "We will have to go through Dublin Coffman and Hilliard Davidson as the frontrunners. However, Olentangy Liberty has a lot of talent and should be up there. Marysville is coming off a great year going to the regional and Upper Arlington could make a play for the title under their new coach."
The other returnees are seniors Tara Banks (defender) and Brea Weber (midfielder) and juniors Rachel McPherson (goalkeeper), Jessica Schweickart (defender) and Marissa Weiner (midfielder).
Rounding out the roster are junior Jessica Marielli (forward) and sophomores Callihan Clayton (defender), Avery Filicky (forward), Annie Howell (defender), Brianna Nauman (defender), Hannah Ong (goalie), Rian Reid (forward) and Rachel Traxler (midfielder).
Wolves dealing with many roster changes
Kilbourne lost just five players from last season to graduation, but several others either did not return or will be sidelined because of injury.
Key returnees for 13th-year coach Courtney Irwin, whose team finished 12-7-2 overall and was a Division I district runner-up last season, include senior forward Claire Chilcoat, junior defender Julia Tout, junior midfielder Annie Mosca and sophomore midfielder Abby Eymann. Chilcoat is the only senior on the roster who is expected to play.
Mosca and Tout were second-team all-OCC-Capital last year, as the Wolves went 4-2 to tie New Albany for second behind in the league to place third, behind Olentangy Orange (6-0).
Senior goalie Alex Lawrence, who was honorable mention all-league a year ago, and junior midfielder Margaret Link both are expected to be sidelined the entire season because of ACL injuries.
In addition, defender Mia Greco and midfielder Katie McIntyre did not return for the senior seasons after being starters a year ago, and Taute, who was a starter in the midfield, transferred to Thomas.
Among the players who graduated were sweeper Celeste Fushimi-Karns, who had six goals and 12 assists and was second-team all-state and first-team all-district and all-league, and forward Kelley Zebrowski, who scored 21 goals and was second-team all-district and first-team all-league.
Fushimi-Karns is playing at Ohio University.
Kilbourne, which lost to Hilliard Davidson 3-0 in a district final last year, opened Aug. 19 at home against Gahanna and plays Thursday, Aug. 21, at Hilliard Darby. The Wolves open league play Tuesday, Aug. 26, at Delaware.
Taking the spot of Lawrence in goal is junior Sarah Johnson. Also in the starting lineup are Chilcoat, Eymann Mosca, Tout, junior midfielders Kylie Kott and Erin Wesolowski, junior defender Maddy Greenlee, sophomore defenders Rylee Miller and Alexis Thompson and sophomore forward Sadie Giesman.
Rounding out the roster are juniors Hannah Beyer (forward), Jordyn Floyd (midfielder) and Annika Thomas (defender), sophomores Cassidy Crouch (midfielder), Hunter Martin (goalie), Morgan Moritz (defender) and Kelsey Nadolson (forward) and freshman Maggie Crozier (midfielder).
Aug. 19 -- vs. Gahanna
Aug. 21 -- at Hilliard Darby
Aug. 23 -- vs. Upper Arlington
*Aug. 26 -- at Delaware
Aug. 28 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
*Sept. 2 -- vs. Mount Vernon
Sept. 4 -- at Thomas
*Sept. 9 -- at Big Walnut
Sept. 11 -- at Westerville South
Sept. 16 -- at Franklin Heights
Sept. 18 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
*Sept. 23 -- vs. Olentangy
Sept. 27 -- at Whitehouse Anthony Wayne
*Sept. 30 -- at New Albany
Oct. 2 -- vs. Watkins Memorial
*Oct. 7 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
Aug. 19 -- at Delaware
Aug. 21 -- vs. Olentangy
Aug. 23 -- at Pickerington North
*Aug. 26 -- at Upper Arlington
Aug. 30 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
*Sept. 2 -- at Westland
Sept. 4 -- vs. Kilbourne
*Sept. 9 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
Sept. 11 -- at Hilliard Darby
*Sept. 16 -- vs. Marysville
Sept. 18 -- vs. Gahanna
Sept. 22 -- at Watkins Memorial
*Sept. 23 -- at Central Crossing
*Sept. 30 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
Oct. 2 -- at Westerville North
*Oct. 7 -- at Olentangy Liberty