In his first season as a full-time starter at goalkeeper for the Bexley High School boys soccer team, junior Sebastian Parra has worked hard to build a relationship with his teammates.

In his first season as a full-time starter at goalkeeper for the Bexley High School boys soccer team, junior Sebastian Parra has worked hard to build a relationship with his teammates.

Midway through the season, his teammates are starting to follow him blindly. Parra has allowed an average of 1.41 goals a game as the Lions are 4-6-2 overall.

"In the past, we'd hope he could come in (as a backup) and make the saves a goalkeeper is supposed to make, and if he could make one or two that are considered great saves, it would be a plus," coach Greg Kullman said. "This year we've really counted on him to be a presence back there. He's a great shot stopper and we were hoping he will continue to become even more consistent."

Parra struggled early as the Lions were outscored 9-1 in a 0-4 start, but he has allowed eight goals in the past eight games with four shutouts.

"It's way different than last year," said Parra, who had three saves in a 1-all tie with Hilliard Davidson on Sept. 24. "I was really nervous coming into the first couple of games and I didn't perform like I should have performed.

"I guess I am getting used to the pressure of knowing I am the first keeper now. Communication is a big problem for me, so I needed to open my mouth more."

It took a unique training session to help Parra strengthen his lines of communication with the Lions' defenders. Bexley had been struggling to mark players during throw-ins and corner kicks.

"We were losing a lot of those balls and it was killing us," Parra said. "One day in practice, we just got tired of it."

Players brought neckties to practice and blindfolded members of the defense. During the defensive drill, a player would have the ball and Parra would have to direct the blindfolded defenders where to go.

"After that practice, I started to talk more," Parra said. "One thing I do when I communicate is I try to bring the team up. When someone scores on us, our heads go down. I try to keep things positive."

"His communication has gotten better," Kullman said. "His confidence has gotten better. He just looks more comfortable back there."

Part of the reason why Parra and his teammates struggled early was the caliber of their opposition. Twelve of the 17 goals the Lions have allowed came against Division I teams, including a 2-0 loss to Gahanna - ranked second in the state poll last week - on Aug. 29.

Bexley, which competes in Division II, also lost to Worthington Christian 3-0 on Sept. 10. The Warriors were the top-ranked team in the Division III state poll last week.

However, the Lions are 3-1-1 overall against Division II opponents, scoring 23 goals while allowing only two.

"We know (the Division I teams) are going to be faster and more physical," Parra said. "If we're not there and we don't play our best, they'll kill us. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of those games, but it prepared us for our league."

Bexley has been stingy in MSL-Ohio Division. The Lions are 3-0-1 in the league and have outscored foes 23-1.

The lopsided scoring total in MSL-Ohio play isn't atypical for the Lions, who have outscored league opponents 87-6 the past three seasons while compiling a 12-0-4 record. However, Bexley has only one league championship during that time, when it finished 5-0 in 2009.

Kullman is hoping a 1-all tie with Granville on Sept. 6 doesn't prevent the Lions from winning the title this year.

"We're still very much in the title race," he said. "It's going to come down to how Granville does against (Columbus) Academy (on Oct. 6) and how we do against Academy (on Oct. 13). Our kids understand what it means to challenge for a league championship. Playing some of those top Division I teams prepared us for what the Mid-State League offers."