Central Crossing High School girls soccer coach Amy Williams has anticipated this season for several years.
The Comets have a five-member senior class that helped the program rise from 5-11-1 in 2014 to 8-9 in the players' freshman season. They followed that up with back-to-back winning seasons, including 9-7-1 overall last fall.
Now, they're ready to go even further.
"Our seniors are our strength," said Williams, whose team finished 9-8-1 in 2016 for the program's first winning season since going 10-8 in 2007. "They have been ball girls since they were in the fifth grade and having been playing together since the second grade."
The five seniors all are returning starters -- midfielders Kennedy Edwards (4 goals, 4 assists), Hallie Fryman (third-team all-district, first-team all-league; 8 goals, 7 assists) and Maddie Ross (honorable mention all-league; 11 goals, 8 assists), goalkeeper Brittany Hanson (second-team all-league) and defender Sofia Robledo (special mention all-league).
"Our strength is probably in the midfield, where we have a lot of seniors," said Fryman, who has committed to Ohio Dominican. "We have a lot of freshmen playing defense and, in time, we will be better."
Robledo leads a defense that includes sophomore Mariana Lopez-Herrera and freshmen Christa Phillips and Sadie Storts.
"I just have to make sure to keep talking to them to let them know where to be and where to mark," said Robledo, whose team finished fifth (1-4) in the OCC-Central Division last season behind champion Dublin Coffman (3-0-2). "Communication is key for us because we have a lot of new, young players and we don't know each other as well as in the past."
Hanson made 172 saves last fall and returns for her fourth season in goal.
"Brittany is the best goalkeeper to ever walk through the doors at Central Crossing," said Williams, who is in her eighth season. "She has been amazing for us in goal."
Emma Malkowski now is at midfielder after starting at forward last fall. Emily Smits (3 goals, 2 assists) started at forward last year and should return later in the season after recovering from a knee injury.
"Offensively we do a good job on combination plays, keeping the ball at our feet, and we do a really good job of possessing the ball," said Williams, whose team opens league play Sept. 13 against Upper Arlington. "They are a smart group and know where everyone else is on the field. They communicate really well and we have a lot of combination plays developing just from their working together so long and being used to one another."
The Comets opened Aug. 21 with a 1-0 loss to Columbus Academy. Fryman had six goals in a 9-0 win over Marion Pleasant on Aug. 23.
Volleyball team looks to club experience
The girls volleyball team has a roster filled with club players, which delights second-year coach Meredith Shifley.
The Comets are looking to improve on last season's finish of 2-18 overall and 1-9 in the OCC-Central.
"These girls have been around the game for a while and most of them are club players," said Shifley, whose team opens league play Tuesday, Sept. 4, at UA. "We have a lot of skill because of that club experience. We have some big hitters and big blockers and we're strong all the way around."
The Comets have five returning starters, including junior outside hitter Morgan Geddes, who led the team in kills (83), digs (89) and aces (13) last season and was second-team all-league.
Also back are senior Taylor Weddington (middle hitter; 30 kills, 33 blocks), juniors Jordan Brothers (defensive specialist) and Olivia Castle (setter; 94 assists, 63 digs) and sophomore Olivia Everett, who has moved from outside hitter to setter.
Senior Jordan Beverly (defensive specialist), junior Makayla Nolan (defensive specialist/right-side hitter) and sophomore Delaney Pfeiffer (defensive specialist) also saw varsity time a year ago.
The roster also includes 6-foot freshmen middle hitters Erin Brothers and Lauren Goff.
"Passing has been one of our weakest points, but we have been able to use that to get more blocks and swings from our players with height," Shifley said. "Right now, it's all about confidence for us. We need to build our confidence."
The Comets started 0-4, losing to Westerville Central 25-14, 25-16, 25-12 on Aug. 18, Fairbanks 25-20, 25-16, 25-12 on Aug. 20, Hamilton Township 25-18, 25-15, 25-16 on Aug. 21 and Groveport 20-25, 25-20, 26-24, 25-16 on Aug. 23.
New boys soccer coach likes team's veterans
The boys soccer team has a new coach in Will Denney, a business teacher at the school who was head coach at Ossian (Indiana) Norwell before moving to central Ohio last fall.
The Comets finished 5-11-1 overall last season and were sixth (0-5) in the OCC-Central behind champion Coffman (4-0-1).
"We have 12 seniors and they all play well for us," said Denney, who replaced Tyler Gleason after five seasons. "We rotate guys. I go with (starting those) who have practiced the best and done well on and off the field."
Senior Xavier Bradley (second-team all-league) and junior Marcos Rios-Gutierrez (honorable mention all-league) are back to lead the midfielders. Junior Ben Kelley also helps out in the midfield, with seniors Sel Adehe, Connor Livingston, Diego Lopez-Herrera and Willy Vazquez holding down the back.
"We have a big group of guys in the midfield and they are defensive-minded, which really helps us possess the ball," Denney said. "We really have been strong defensively early on."
Senior Tony Trujillo and sophomore Tyler Terrell are the top scoring threats at forward.
Junior Christian Petry is in his first season starting in goal.
"Christian has really progressed a lot," said Denney, whose team opens league play Sept. 13 at UA. "When he first started, he had great eyesight and footwork, but he has become more aggressive and assertive, which is something we need for him to do."
The Comets started 2-1, opening with a 3-0 loss to Teays Valley on Aug. 18 before losing to Lancaster 1-0 on Aug. 21 and defeating Briggs 2-1 on Aug. 23.
Aug. 18 -- at Teays Valley
Aug. 21 -- at Lancaster
Aug. 23 -- at Briggs
Aug. 28 -- vs. Grove City
Aug. 30 -- vs. Franklin Heights
Sept. 1 -- vs. Logan
Sept. 4 -- at Reynoldsburg
Sept. 11 -- vs. Hamilton Township
*Sept. 13 -- at Upper Arlington
Sept. 18 -- vs. Grove City Christian
*Sept. 20 -- vs. Marysville
*Sept. 25 -- at Hilliard Davidson
Sept. 27 -- at Grandview
Sept. 29 -- at Whetstone
*Oct. 2 -- at Dublin Coffman
*Oct. 9 -- vs. Westland
Aug. 21 -- at Columbus Academy
Aug. 23 -- vs. Marion Pleasant
Aug. 28 -- at Grove City
Aug. 30 -- at Lancaster
Sept. 4 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
Sept. 8 -- at Big Walnut
Sept. 11 -- at Hartley
*Sept. 13 -- vs. Upper Arlington
Sept. 18 -- at Groveport
*Sept. 20 -- at Marysville
*Sept. 25 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
Sept. 29 -- vs. Logan Elm
*Oct. 2 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
Oct. 4 -- at Westerville South
*Oct. 9 -- at Westland
Oct. 11 -- vs. Chillicothe
Oct. 13 -- at Wellington
Aug. 18 -- at Westerville Central
Aug. 20 -- at Fairbanks
Aug. 21 -- at Hamilton Township
Aug. 23 -- at Groveport
Aug. 27 -- at Hartley
Aug. 28 -- vs. Grove City
Aug. 30 -- at Reynoldsburg
*Sept. 4 -- at Upper Arlington
*Sept. 6 -- vs. Marysville
Sept. 10 -- at Utica
*Sept. 13 -- at Hilliard Davidson
*Sept. 20 -- at Dublin Coffman
*Sept. 25 -- vs. Westland
*Sept. 27 -- vs. Upper Arlington
Sept. 29 -- vs. Marion Harding
*Oct. 2 -- at Marysville
*Oct. 4 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*Oct. 9 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
Oct. 10 -- at Watterson
*Oct. 11 -- at Westland
Below are the coming schedules for the Central Crossing cross country, boys golf and girls tennis teams:
Sept. 1 -- Best of the South-West Invitational at Westland
Sept. 4 -- Licking Heights Invitational
Sept. 5 -- Westland at Oakhurst
*Aug. 30 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson
*Sept. 4 -- At Dublin Coffman
Sept. 5 -- At Hamilton Township