As a teacher in the English language learners program at Hilliard Davidson High School, Dan Hoover has the opportunity to meet a diverse group of students.

One of Hoover's encounters prior to the school year has benefited the Davidson boys soccer team, which he coaches. Among the students he met was Daiki Matsuoka, whose family had moved to Hilliard this summer from Tokyo after Matsuoka's father, Hiroki, took a job at Honda of America Manufacturing in Marysville.

Although his English has improved since the start of the season, Matsuoka communicates through senior forward Sho Weinstein, who is of Japanese descent.

"America is a lot of fun," Matsuoka said via Weinstein. "I had a little bit of trouble getting used to the culture of America. I'm not used to cars driving because in Japan everybody travels by foot and train, so that was a very big change. There was a very big shift in culture with the kind of food we eat. I like American food and I'm really enjoying it here."

Matsuoka, a sophomore, has emerged as a key contributor for Davidson, earning a starting position at forward and recording one goal and two assists through 11 games.

"He's a very intelligent player, so a lot of visual queues and physical queues he takes very well," Hoover said. "There's certain words we've learned to get him to do what we want."

Matsuoka quickly developed friendships with his teammates, including Weinstein, whose family moved to Hilliard from Vancouver, Washington, when he was young. Weinstein volunteered to serve as a translator for Matsuoka, helping to improve the language barrier.

Weinstein and Matsuoka both agree that Matsuoka's understanding of the English language has greatly improved since the start of the season, as Matsuoka was able to answer some questions without any assistance from Weinstein.

Several players on the team have studied the Japanese language to better communicate with their new teammate. That includes senior captain Luke Petersen, who Weinstein said can now count to 100 in Japanese.

"They have really taken him under their wing," Hoover said. "He's really been an inspiration to a lot of our team, becoming part of our brotherhood. To have another player on the team be able to translate things has caused a different dynamic on the sideline.

"It's made us a lot closer and it's opened the eyes of some of the other players on some of the realities of people that move here from other countries. It's rubbed off on other kids. They want to learn his language as much as he wants to learn ours."

Matsuoka, whose favorite subject is math, said he and his family plan on remaining in Hilliard for his junior and senior years. He hopes to play in college someday.

Matsuoka and Weinstein first met at the Columbus Japanese Language School, which meets Saturdays in Worthington to help students who have moved from Japan adapt to their new lifestyle.

In addition to adapting to the American culture, Matsuoka has had to adjust to the style of soccer played in U.S.

"In Japan, everyone plays a lot more passive," he said.

The Wildcats were 5-5-1 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Central Crossing on Sept. 26.

Davidson bounced back from a 7-0 league loss at Dublin Coffman on Sept. 12 to defeat Upper Arlington 1-0 in a league contest Sept. 19 and Pickerington Central 3-1 on Sept. 21.

Goals have been at a premium this season for the Wildcats, as they had scored only 14 through 11 games, but Hoover lauded the play of his defense and freshman goalkeeper Lorenzo Nieves, who had four shutouts. The Wildcats had allowed 18 goals through 11 games, but seven came in the loss to Coffman.

"Historically, we've finished pretty strong to prepare ourselves for the (Division I district) tournament," Hoover said. "Our schedule has been a pretty big gauntlet, playing all the top 10 area district teams, with Olentangy Liberty on the schedule and Coffman on the schedule. We want to do well against those teams."

Girls soccer team
preps for postseason

The girls soccer team was 5-6-1 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Central before playing Central Crossing on Sept. 26.

The Wildcats defeated UA 3-2 in a league game Sept. 19 as Sonia Vargas had two goals and Alexandra Lenko scored one.

Goalie Lauren White had 10 saves in a 1-0 loss to Canal Winchester on Sept. 21.

Girls runners place
fourth at Centerville

The girls cross country team finished fourth (191 points) of 25 teams in the Saturday Night Lights meet Sept. 23 at Centerville, behind champion Centerville (81).

Sophie Lewis placed 10th of 229 runners in 18 minutes, 16.4 seconds, followed by Lindsay Stull (35th, 19:04.2), Sydney Petersen (49th, 19:22.7) and Meghan Sculli (72nd, 19:52.5).

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Davidson cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Sept. 30 -- Boys: Rochester (N.Y.) McQuaid Invitational

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 30 -- Dublin Jerome Honorary Invitational at Tartan Fields

Oct. 3 -- Division I sectional at Darby Creek. Top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 10 at Apple Valley.

GIRLS GOLF

Sept. 28 -- Superintendent's Cup at Thorn Apple

Oct. 3 -- Division I sectional at Mentel Memorial. Top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 10 at Cooks Creek.

BOYS SOCCER

*Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Westland

GIRLS SOCCER

*Oct. 3 -- At Westland

GIRLS TENNIS

Sept. 28 -- At Westerville Central

Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Sept. 30 -- Home vs. Big Walnut and Gahanna

*Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Central Crossing. The Wildcats defeated the Comets 25-12, 25-15, 29-27 on Sept. 12.

*League contest