From a win-loss perspective, the Thomas Worthington High School boys soccer team has been on the upswing the past three seasons.
First-year coach David Fairchild has been around long enough, though, to remember when the Cardinals were more than just a slightly above-.500 program.
"Since I graduated from Thomas, it was an opportunity I couldn't turn down," Fairchild said. "There's never any shortage of talent for the program. We just want to get them on the same page and aspire to win the league championship."
Fairchild, a 1989 Worthington graduate and the director of coaching for the GNA Revolution travel program, takes over a Cardinals program that went from 4-9-4 in 2015 to 8-9-2 in 2016 and 10-6-2 last fall in three seasons under Ben Neer.
The Cardinals placed fourth (3-3) in the OCC-Cardinal Division last season behind champion Dublin Jerome (5-0-1).
They opened with a 3-2 loss to Olentangy Orange on Aug. 21, tied Whitehall at 2 on Aug. 23 and lost to Perrysburg 2-0 on Aug. 25 before opening league action Aug. 28 against Hilliard Bradley.
Seniors Nate Baer (defen-der), Kyler Block (defender), Andrew Gao (forward), Jonah Kuntz (midfielder), Tommy Swift (midfielder) and Jon Tchounguen (forward), juniors Aaron Cockerham (midfielder) and Drew Holman (midfielder) and sophomore Rye Conley (goalkeeper) all are key returnees.
Tchounguen is the leading returning scorer for the Cardinals, who lost seven players to graduation.
Senior Sounak Dey (midfielder) and juniors Jeff Beck (defender) and Landon Chase (forward) also are key players, while senior Ryan Willis is the backup goalie.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Abdul Altabchi, Jimmy Marielli and Noah Tennant, juniors Jason Burghart, Mohamed Sekria and Owen Graham and sophomores Caleb Opoku and Graham Werbovitz.
"We're definitely learning to play with a new coaching system," Fairchild said. "For some of these guys, they're going into their fourth year being a part of the program so they're learning a different style of play."
Girls soccer team seeking consistency
Jeff Sever is hoping the girls soccer program can become more stable under his leadership.
Since Tim Barton stepped down following the 2016 season with an 83-60-23 mark in nine seasons, the Cardinals have gone through three other coaches.
Barton was replaced by Brad Pitman in the spring of 2017, but Pitman stepped down two weeks before his first season. He was replaced by assistant coach Tara Zimmer, who guided the Cardinals to a 4-9-5 record last season on an interim basis.
Courtney Irwin, who coached Kilbourne from 2002-05 and 2007-15, was tabbed as coach last November, but health issues forced her to step down during the spring.
"I just want to get the program some consistency," said Sever, who has been a coach with Worthington United 94 for eight years and has managed day-to-day operations for the Worthington United Premier program for five years. "It's a good group of seniors and we're just looking to build off of them."
The Cardinals opened with a 1-0 loss to Upper Arlington on Aug. 17 and followed with losses to Olentangy (3-1 on Aug. 21) and Dublin Coffman (3-0 on Aug. 23) before opening OCC-Cardinal action Aug. 28 against Bradley.
Junior Brooke Ackley returns at goalie after making first-team all-league and second-team all-district last season.
Other returnees include senior midfielder Mackenzie Peeke, who was first-team all-league last year, and sophomore center back Tatum Snyder, who was honorable mention all-league.
Junior Sophia Tyler is another top midfielder.
The other seniors are Riley Adams (defender/midfielder), Anna Fenker (defender), Annie McClure (forward), Caroline McGill (midfielder), Maddy Sever (defender) and Delaney Steele (midfielder/defender).
Joining McClure at forward are junior Eve Hertz and sophomore Claire Sever, both of whom will see time in the midfield.
Sophomore Ella Tyler is another on defense.
Also on the roster are sophomore midfielders Grace Florence, Peyton Hughes and Jazmine Rogers.
"We (started out) 0-3, but we've gotten better every game," coach Sever said. "We've got nine returning starters and 11 or 12 returning letterwinners overall with seven key seniors, which will help. It's just a matter of becoming consistent. Unfortunately, we haven't had any consistency the last four years."
Volleyball team has experienced unit
Although the girls volleyball team has a new coach in Natalie Walter, its returning experience has helped her transition.
The Cardinals have six starters back from last season when they went 9-14 overall and 2-10 in the OCC-Cardinal under coach Emily Oren, who guided the team to an 8-15 overall record in her first season in 2016.
Thomas was 1-2 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Cardinal before facing Delaware on Aug. 28. The Cardinals opened with a 21-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-21 loss to Bradley on Aug. 21, beat Westerville South 25-21, 25-16, 25-16 on Aug. 22 and lost to Jerome 25-23, 26-24, 25-10 on Aug. 23.
"(We have) an incredibly experienced team this year," Walter said. "This experience allows us to be focused in practice and matches even through adversity and no matter the score. With a good number of returning seniors, there is a sense of urgency that propels us toward our goals. Our athletes are ready to show what hard work in the preseason and a pride in Cardinal volleyball can do for a program."
The top returnee is senior Brie Wight, a 6-foot-1 middle hitter who has committed to Tiffin.
The other returning starters are seniors Meredith Althouse (libero/defensive specialist), Layne Keegan (outside hitter/opposite/setter), Cat Jackson (outside hitter/opposite) and Gabrielle Ramsay (outside hitter/opposite/middle hitter). Keegan is starting at setter.
Rounding out the senior class are Liz Clemens (outside hitter/opposite) and Becca Hobbs (defensive specialist/outside hitter).
Juniors Celeste Sanfrey (setter) and Rosa Spurgeon (defensive specialist) and sophomore Grace Matthews (defensive specialist/outside hitter) are others in the program.
Walter, an Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary graduate who graduated from Otterbein in 2015, was the Cardinals' junior varsity coach the past two seasons.
"It's been going pretty well," Walter said of the transition. "I don't think (our record reflects) the growth the program has had over the summer. We're just kind of finding our groove and getting the right mix of players. I definitely think there's a lot of ability to go very far.
"We've got lots of seniors and lots of experience, which is really helpful for us. Having these seniors creates that sense of urgency that it's your last moment to make an impact."
Aug. 21 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
Aug. 23 -- at Whitehall
Aug. 25 -- at Perrysburg
*Aug. 28 -- at Hilliard Bradley
Aug. 30 -- at Olentangy Liberty
*Sept. 4 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
Sept. 6 -- vs. Pickerington North
Sept. 11 -- at Upper Arlington
*Sept. 13 -- at Delaware
*Sept. 20 -- vs. Olentangy Berlin
*Sept. 25 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
Sept. 27 -- at Westerville Central
Sept. 29 -- at Whitehouse Anthony Wayne
*Oct. 2 -- at Hilliard Darby
Oct. 4 -- vs. Westerville South
*Oct. 9 -- vs. Kilbourne
Aug. 17 -- at Upper Arlington
Aug. 21 -- at Olentangy
Aug. 23 -- at Dublin Coffman
*Aug. 28 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley
Aug. 30 -- vs. Westerville North
Sept. 1 -- vs. DeSales
*Sept. 4 -- at Dublin Jerome
Sept. 8 -- vs. New Albany
*Sept. 13 -- vs. Delaware
*Sept. 20 -- at Olentangy Berlin
*Sept. 25 -- at Dublin Scioto
Sept. 27 -- at Westerville Central
*Oct. 2 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
*Oct. 9 -- at Kilbourne
Oct. 11 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
*Aug. 21 -- at Hilliard Bradley
Aug. 22 -- at Westerville South
*Aug. 23 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
*Aug. 28 -- at Delaware
*Aug. 30 -- vs. Olentangy Berlin
*Sept. 4 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
*Sept. 6 -- at Hilliard Darby
Sept. 8 -- vs. Hamilton Township
Sept. 11 -- at Newark
*Sept. 13 -- vs. Kilbourne
Sept. 17 -- at Marion Harding
Sept. 18 -- vs. Mount Vernon
*Sept. 20 -- vs. Bradley
Sept. 22 -- at Watkins Memorial with Canal Winchester
*Sept. 25 -- at Jerome
*Sept. 27 -- vs. Delaware
Sept. 29 -- vs. Franklin Heights
*Oct. 2 -- at Berlin
*Oct. 4 -- at Scioto
*Oct. 9 -- vs. Darby
*Oct. 11 -- at Kilbourne
Below are the coming schedules for the Thomas cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf and girls tennis teams:
Sept. 1 -- Dual at the DeWine's in Cedarville
*Sept. 5 -- At Olentangy Berlin
Sept. 4 -- Lancaster Invitational at Lancaster Country Club
Sept. 4 -- Hilliard Bradley at Mentel Memorial
*Aug. 30 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto
*Sept. 4 -- At Hilliard Darby
Sept. 5 -- At Olentangy Orange