With improving health, the Hilliard Darby High School boys soccer team is seeking a strong finish to the regular season with an eye toward defending its Division I district championship.

After a choppy midseason that included a pair of 3-0 league losses to Dublin Scioto on Sept. 13 and Dublin Jerome on Sept. 20, Darby is putting the pieces back together.

"We've had a lot of injuries, more than I would think is normal for soccer teams," said coach Kyle Reichle, whose team was 7-3-2 overall and 2-2 in the OCC-Cardinal Division before playing Thomas Worthington on Oct. 2. "We had injuries to at least five key players and we just got three of them back recently. We should get one more back soon and we should know soon whether the other can return at all this year."

Those who have mended and returned to the lineup are forwards Zach Jasper and Luke Lassiter and midfielder Alexis Delarosa. Senior Daniel Djel-mis, who was second-team all-league last season, should be back soon. Senior goalkeeper Nick Hermosilla, however, was injured right before the start of the season and has yet to play.

Still, the Panthers went 4-2-2 in September, with a 1-all tie against Reynoldsburg on Sept. 6 and a scoreless tie against Olentangy on Sept. 11.

"We're hitting our stride now and coming back from that tough stretch," senior midfielder Jackson Janetski said. "We're a momentum team and right now we have momentum. That's fueling our confidence and we're also playing together. I think that comes from being more familiar with our top lineup in there.

"Our back line is very strong and will only get better when Daniel comes back. Those guys have done great distributing the ball through the midfield and that has helped us play more possession-style soccer rather than always playing the long ball."

Senior defender Aaron Mul-drow scored on a header off a corner kick to give Darby a 1-0 win over Olentangy Berlin on Sept. 25 and freshman forward Wassim Metatla scored in a 2-0 win over Grove City on Sept. 27, with the Greyhounds also scoring an own goal.

"I think we've had some guys step up and hold down the fort when called upon," Reichle said. "But I think we're ready to go now and we're finding ourselves again. We challenged them after the Jerome game and they've responded. We asked them how they wanted their season to end. Especially the seniors, how do they want to be remembered?

"We're feeling better now, but we've still got a tough stretch of games to close the regular season and only one game is guaranteed in the (district) tournament."

The Panthers will play at Bradley on Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the league finale. The contest also will determine the winner of the Hilliard Cup. Darby beat Davidson 2-1 on Aug. 30 and Davidson beat Bradley 1-0 on Aug. 17.

Santos leads girls runners at Bradley

Daniella Santos finished seventh in the Midwest Meet of Champions on Sept. 29 at Bradley in 18 minutes, 33.5 seconds, but the girls cross country team finished 31st (744 points) of 37 teams, behind champion Liberty Township Lakota East (89).

Alivia Cannon was next for the Panthers, placing 126th (21:10) of 256 competitors. She was followed by Madison Murphy (171st, 21:49.4), Madison Brokaw (224th, 23:19.2), Zarsha Khuhro (226th, 23:27.8), Erin Cowen (233rd, 23:43.2) and Jessica Govine (247th, 24:22).

The boys team finished 21st (519) of 39 teams in the Midwest Meet of Champions, behind champion Cleveland St. Ignatius (113).

Sean Carney finished 61st (14:44.7) of 274 runners to lead the Panthers. He was followed by Tyler Hessenauer (99th, 15:00.6), Eric Lowery (105th, 15:03.6), Belaji Kurapati (118th, 15:08.7), Owen Martin (141st, 15:18.7), Isaac Becker (200th, 15:45,2) and Witty Kwok (261st, 16:47.5).

Darby, which played host to the Darby Dash on Oct. 3, will participate in the OCC-Cardinal meet Oct. 13 at Davidson.

Girls tennis team set for sectional

The girls tennis team will compete in a Division I sectional Thursday, Oct. 4, and Saturday, Oct. 6, at Bradley.

The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament Oct. 11 and 13 at Reynoldsburg.

In singles at sectional, senior Sacha Smoot will play Olentangy Liberty's Cathy Zhu and senior Kelsie Huss will face Liberty's Ananya Dhati in first-round matches, while senior Saitling Su will face Mount Vernon's Lucy Ogle in a play-in match.

In doubles, senior Sydney Davis and junior Nidhi Patel have a first-round bye, while senior Mia Miller and freshman Lexi Mincy will play Davidson's Sophia Persad and Katherine Sarkel in a first-round match.

Golf teams hoped to extend seasons

The boys and girls golf teams competed in Division I sectionals Oct. 2.

The boys competed at Darby Creek, where the top four teams and top four individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to the district tournament Tuesday, Oct. 9, at Apple Valley.

The girls team competed in a sectional at Mentel Memorial, where the top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to district Oct. 9 at Cooks Creek.

From both district tournaments, the top two teams and two individuals not on qualifying teams advance to their respective state tournaments Oct. 19 and 20 at Ohio State.

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Darby boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:

BOYS SOCCER

Oct. 4 -- Home vs. St. Charles

*Oct. 9 -- At Bradley

GIRLS SOCCER

*Oct. 9 -- Home vs. Bradley

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Oct. 4 -- Home vs. Olentangy Berlin. The Panthers lost to the Bears 25-14, 19-25, 25-19, 25-20 on Sept. 4.

Oct. 6 -- At DeSales

*Oct. 9 -- At Thomas Worthington. The Panthers beat the Cardinals 26-24, 25-20, 25-10 on Sept. 6.

*League contest