When Mark Wise took over the Westerville South High School girls soccer team four years ago, he went to a youth movement because of what he anticipated would be a strong contingent of younger players coming through the program.
Junior forward Deja Edwards has rewarded Wise's faith by leading the Wildcats offensively. She had a team-high 10 goals entering the week, and South was 2-3-4 overall and 0-1-1 in the OCC-Buckeye Division before playing Olentangy Orange on Sept. 26.
"She was one of the girls we were looking forward to seeing, along with this other big class of juniors," Wise said. "They're very talented."
After missing her freshman season following surgery on her right knee, Edwards excelled a year ago, finishing with 22 goals and five assists. She was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district.
"There are two categories of talented players," Wise said. "(There are) talented players who know they're talented and they're a little obnoxious about it and then talented players who are very humble about it, and Deja is one of those players that exhibits that kind of humility. She knows she's a good player, but she doesn't flaunt it around everybody else. She doesn't make a big deal about it."
With no seniors on the team, Wise and Edwards hope the Wildcats continue to grow in the second half of the season and next year.
Early season highlights include a 3-0 win over Pickerington Central on Sept. 5 and a 2-all tie against Olentangy Liberty in a league game Sept. 19.
"Things are much better," Edwards said. "We have a really big (junior) class. We're all juniors and next year we'll be all seniors, so we're really learning each other. Each year we're getting better and stronger. I really love my teammates."
Edwards scored two goals against Pickerington Central and both goals against Liberty.
South finished 4-11-2 overall and 0-4-1 in the league last season, but Wise expects to improve on both marks.
South visits Westerville North on Tuesday, Oct. 3, and plays host to Westerville Central on Oct. 10.
"My goal before graduating is to beat Central and North," Edwards said. "It hasn't happened yet, but I have a feeling we're going to beat them this year."
Edwards developed her love for the sport when she was 4 years old and has played at the club level since she was 8 with Freedom Soccer Club.
She credits club coaches Ian Pena, Alphonso Kolliesuah, Kathe Theisen and Jarius Moto for helping her improve.
"I really love club soccer because it helps you learn the skills and when you come to high school you really know what you're doing, so it helps a lot," Edwards said.
Boys runners place
fourth at meet
The boys cross country team finished fourth (130) in the Pickerington Central Tiger Invitational on Sept. 23 behind champion Columbus Academy (73).
Nathan Ware was 10th of 107 runners in 17 minutes, 11.84 seconds and Cole Koehler was 19th (17:49.13), followed by Malachi Rispress (21st, 18:01.08) and Donovan Slattery (35th, 18:29.71).
"I am very pleased with our week-by-week development and very excited for what we can continue to evolve into over the course of the next four or five weeks," coach Jimmy Gaul said. "Right now we have 26 guys who are all committed to the same goals, who are working hard at every facet of practice and who are focused on running smarter and more strategic races each weekend."
Girls cross country
team finishes eighth
The girls cross country team finished eighth (174) at Pickerington Central behind the champion and host Tigers (67).
Ellie Bouton was 19th of 74 runners in 22:28.8 and Izzie Kotik was 32nd (23:32.86).
"We have a lot of young girls who are working hard every day and learning," Gaul said. "There is a lot more that goes into high school cross country than just running. They are getting a lot of experience and learning valuable lessons every day at practice and at every meet."
Below are the coming schedules for the South cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 30 -- Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic at London Country Club
Oct. 3 -- Division I sectional at Turnberry. The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 10 at Apple Valley.
Sept. 28 -- Westerville Classic at Westchester
Oct. 3 -- Division I sectional at West-chester. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 10 at Cooks Creek.
*Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Westerville North
Sept. 28 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne
*Oct. 3 -- At North
Sept. 28 -- Whetstone at Park of Roses
*Sept. 28 -- Home vs. Olentangy Liberty. The Wildcats lost to the Patriots 25-14, 25-17, 25-14 on Sept. 7.
Sept. 30 -- Home vs. Groveport
*Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange. The Wildcats lost to the Pioneers 25-15, 25-16, 25-14 on Sept. 12.