Despite returning only four starters from last season, the Hilliard Darby High School boys soccer team entered this week unbeaten in six games.
Still, the Panthers weren't too stoked by their start.
"It's a good start that leaves us a lot to build on, but a few of our results weren't as good as we needed," said coach Kyle Reichle, whose team was 3-0-3 overall and 1-0-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division before playing Sept. 12 at Dublin Scioto. "But what we're excited most by is that we have good leadership and that the boys have bought in and are playing for each other."
The Panthers opened 3-0, beating Westerville South and Westerville North by 3-2 scores on Aug. 22 and 24, respectively. They then opened league play by beating Delaware 1-0 on Aug. 29 behind a goal by senior forward Jason Fleischman and two saves by junior goalkeeper Nick Hermosilla.
The victories were followed by a scoreless tie with Davidson on Aug. 31, a 2-all tie with Worthington Kilbourne on Sept. 5 and a scoreless tie with Reynoldsburg on Sept. 7.
"We think we had the better of play against Davidson and Kilbourne and didn't get the wins," said senior defender Josh Govine, who is joined on defense by senior Jack Gearhiser and junior Daniel Djelmis. "We really wanted the Davidson win because it's such an emotional game, but we didn't finish our (scoring) chances. The Kilbourne tie hurt because we led 2-0 and let it get away from us, and that's a league game."
Fleischman and senior Blake Sawicki scored against Kilbourne and Hermosilla had three saves.
"We're happy we're unbeaten at this point, but we expect to win because we know our potential," Fleischman said. "So we're not satisfied. We were a little uncertain after struggling some in the preseason, but things started to click in the beginning of the season and our expectations rose."
The Panthers were one of two OCC-Cardinal teams without a league loss entering this week. Dublin Jerome was 2-0, while Delaware and Thomas Worthington both were 1-1, Kilbourne was 0-1-1 and Bradley and Scioto both were 0-1.
Darby will play at Jerome on Tuesday, Sept. 19.
"Jerome is a great team with a lot of talent," Govine said. "They just have a great program. We need that one because it would be a tremendous boost in our goal to win the OCC. We'll just go there and give our absolute best and see what happens."
Jerome won the OCC-Cardinal title last season, finishing 5-1. The Celtics beat the Panthers 2-1, as Darby tied Bradley and Delaware for second place at 3-2-1.
"Our goal is to challenge Jerome for the OCC title, so this is a game that we marked on our calendar awhile ago," Fleischman said. "I think we have one of the better defenses in central Ohio, but we've been a little inconsistent on the attack. On good days, we're really, really good. But we need to be really, really good more often and not be so up and down."
Reichle thinks the Panthers learned from their tie against Kilbourne, which scored twice in the final 11 minutes to earn the draw.
"This team is not as talented as some of our teams in the past, so we can only get positive results by outworking our opponents," he said. "We need to keep and enhance our blue-collar mentality and leave it all on the field.
"We've got some great senior leadership, experience in the back and the potential for a high-powered offense. We're creating chances and combining passes, but we need to finish. It all starts with outworking other teams. If we can do that, we'll have a strong season."
Girls soccer team
out to strong start
The girls soccer team also entered this week unbeaten.
The Panthers were 4-0-2 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Scioto on Sept. 12.
But after scoring 16 goals in winning its first four games, Darby had scoreless ties against Big Walnut on Sept. 6 and Dublin Coffman on Sept. 9.
Junior goalkeeper Emily Schneck had three saves against Big Walnut and two against Coffman.
Junior forward Abbey Spencer and freshman forward Maddy Leone both scored two goals in the Panthers' 4-2 win over Kilbourne on Sept. 5. Schneck and senior goalie Gillian Tinney both made one save against the Wolves.
Darby will play host to Jerome on Tuesday, Sept. 19, in a key OCC-Cardinal game. The Celtics, who won the league title last season at 6-0, also were 2-0 in the league entering this week.
Runners fare well
in McGowan Invite
The girls cross country team placed eighth (247 points) behind champion Olentangy Liberty (80) in the 28-team Division I race in the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 9 at Watkins Memorial, as sophomore Daniela Santos finished third in 18 minutes, 19.1 seconds.
Anita Perie was 20th (19:34.6) for the Panthers, followed by Abby Cannon (35th, 20:11.7), Madison Murphy (85th, 21:28.1) and Jane Vulic (110th, 21:55.4).
The boys team placed 10th (298) behind champion Liberty (93) in the 32-team Division I race, as Dylan Newport finished 27th (16:43.6) to lead the Panthers. Owen Martin (46th, 16:58.9), Sean Carney (70th, 17:23.3), Colin Wagner (74th, 17:24.7) and Belaji Kurapati (86th, 17:31.1) followed for the Panthers.
Below are the coming schedules for the Darby cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 16 -- Galion Festival at Amann's Reservoir
Sept. 16 -- Howlett Invitational at Worthington Hills
Sept. 14 -- Davidson at Rolling Meadows
Sept. 20 -- Lancaster at Rolling Meadows
Sept. 14 -- Home vs. Olentangy
*Sept. 19 -- At Dublin Jerome
Sept. 14 -- At Olentangy
*Sept. 19 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome
Sept. 14 -- Home vs. Watkins Memorial
Sept. 20 -- At Marysville
*Sept. 14 -- Home vs. Delaware
*Sept. 19 -- At Worthington Kilbourne