The words "coachable" and "good chemistry" get thrown around a lot by high school coaches who have teams full of seniors and veteran players.

The words "coachable" and "good chemistry" get thrown around a lot by high school coaches who have teams full of seniors and veteran players.

The typical line of thinking is that the older and more mature players get, the easier they're able to mold. That might be true, but New Albany boys soccer coach Chad Schuler said the young team he has this season is unlike any he's coached before.

"This is the most coachable group of kids I've ever had in 10 years of coaching," said Schuler, who is entering his fifth year as head coach at New Albany. "It's really making it enjoyable. They want to learn, and it's funny because when we go over something in training, the next scrimmage we have, you see it."

The team is determined to continue the progress it has made over the past several years despite the loss of a large group of seniors. The Eagles had seven seniors last season, mostly starters, whereas the current team features five sophomores and just three seniors.

In addition, the Eagles are in Division I now. Just five years ago, they were competing in Division III, but the Eagles believe that their stiff non-conference schedule in recent years should have them prepared for the Division I competition this postseason.

"We've had D-I schedules for the past few years, so it's just changing the way our postseason is," senior Matt Washington said.

"When tourney time comes up, we know it's time to go because we're going to be playing the powerhouses," junior Trent Guy said.

New Albany finished 7-8-4 overall last season, but its tough schedule paid off in the Division II district tournament when it reached a district final before losing to Big Walnut 1-0 in a shootout.

In the OCC-Capital Division, the Eagles finished fourth at 2-2-2 behind Delaware (4-0-2), Mount Vernon (4-1-1) and Orange (2-1-3) and ahead of Big Walnut (1-2-3), Watkins Memorial (1-4-1) and Franklin Heights (0-6). Franklin Heights will not field a team this fall, but the league has added first-year school Hilliard Bradley.

The Eagles have a fairly experienced defense, led by Guy and senior Jay Griffith. Griffith is a two-year starter on defense, and Guy got significant playing time at center midfield last season. Also expected to start on defense are junior Braden Passias and sophomores Chad Coomes and Alek Buck. Passias and Coomes are returning letterwinners.

Sophomores Chad Guy and George Brand are competing for the starting spot in goal.

In the midfield, seniors Washington and David Soldaini, junior Kyle Wisniewski and sophomore Derek Moon are expected to rotate through the three spots. All except Moon lettered last season.

At forward, junior Jack Buck and Tyler Washington are expected to start after each saw significant action last season.

Also on the roster are junior midfielders Ryan Little, Eric Macchi and Rob Bradbury.

•The girls team is coming off an admittedly difficult season in 2008, when several injuries left the Eagles playing with a largely inexperienced lineup.

Most of the top players from last season's team are back. However, fourth-year coach Tony Macerollo said he believes his team learned some hard lessons last season that have them more prepared this fall.

"We saw the night and day between j.v. and varsity, and we learned that when we bring j.v. players up, that speed of play is 100 times faster," Macerollo said. "(This fall), we see it during matches. You can definitely see that they're aware that the pace of play picks up. Everything has to happen quick."

Senior Lauren Thomas said that speed of play has been a point of emphasis for the Eagles during the preseason.

"We say, 'Move your body fast but think slow,'" Thomas said. "So you're thinking about the game as you're going, but the actions are just fluid. We're all on the same page. We're all communicating."

Last fall, New Albany finished 6-11-1 overall and advanced to the second round of the Division I district tournament before losing to Dublin Coffman 3-0.

In the OCC-Capital Division, the Eagles took third at 4-2, behind Big Walnut (6-0) and Olentangy Orange (4-1-1) and ahead of Watkins Memorial (2-3-1), Delaware (1-3-2), Mount Vernon (2-4) and Franklin Heights (0-6). Franklin Heights will not field a team this fall, but Bradley has been added to the league.

The Eagles have experience at a variety of spots on the field. On defense, Thomas is a two-year starter and seniors Emily Haupt and Kayleigh Helten both started last season. Seniors Murphy Ferguson and Erin Hamilton and juniors Sarah Litterst and Katelyn Williams also are expected to contribute.

Senior Katherine Gaiser and sophomore Shana Marks are competing for the starting goalie spot. Gaiser started last season.

The Eagles also have their top three goal-scorers back. Junior forward Sydney Curley led the team with 14 goals, followed by junior midfielders Jordan Mazzi (eight) and Taylor Cameron (six). Macerollo also said he expects the team to get a boost from sophomore Morgan Moroi, who played club soccer last season but did not play on the high school team.

Also contributing in the midfield are seniors Sam Sikyta and Brooke Tolnar, juniors Stephanie Lee and Katie Lackey and sophomore Jill Singer. Joining Curley at forward are junior Jordyn Albritton and sophomore Delaney Barrett.