The Pickerington High School Central boys soccer team returns a bevy of starters and letterwinners and is hoping that will help it build on last season's success.

The Pickerington High School Central boys soccer team returns a bevy of starters and letterwinners and is hoping that will help it build on last season's success.

The Tigers finished 10-7 overall after losing to Worthington Kilbourne 5-1 in its opening game in the Division I district tournament. They went 5-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division to tie Pickerington North for second behind Gahanna (7-0).

"The key for us this season is our balance," 10th-year coach Brad Monhollen said. "This is the most balanced we've ever been. We're not exceptional at any single position, but we are solid all the way through the field. If we play well, we'll get some wins. We've just got to limit our mistakes and maximize our opportunities, and in order to do that, we have to stay on the same page."

The Tigers, who opened Aug. 21 against Granville and begin league play Tuesday, Aug. 28, against visiting Lancaster, return eight starters and 12 letterwinners.

Seniors Derrick Awauh (forward/midfielder), Nate Buccilla (center midfielder), Logan Federer (sweeper), Connor McAndrew (defender), Dillon Ricketts (forward) and Zack Schumach (midfielder) return as starters, as do junior Connor Napier (midfielder) and sophomore Collin Federer (goalkeeper).

Ricketts, an Ohio State signee, scored 10 goals last season and was first-team all-league and all-district.

"Ricketts is the most solid, basic-skill guy I've seen around here in a long time," Monhollen said. "He doesn't do anything real flashy; he just does everything consistently well. He's very unselfish. In the Adidas camp this summer in the senior spotlight games, he assisted all but one of his team's goals. He can make anybody look good."

Buccilla was second-team all-league and McAndrew was honorable mention all-league last season for Central, which was followed in the league by Reynoldsburg (3-3-1), Grove City (2-5), Lancaster (2-5), Groveport (1-4-2) and Newark (1-5-1).

"Gahanna is always strong and North has a ton of kids back like us," Monhollen said. "On paper, it looks like the same three near the top, but this league is getting so strong it's incredible. Newark showed a ton of improvement last year and Grove City and Reynoldsburg have had some good teams. I just think you have to be ready for every single league game."

Other letterwinners back are seniors Joe Abbarno (outside midfielder) and Nick Reade (stopper) and juniors Brian Krieg (forward) and Brandon Sanchez (defender).

Hoping to contribute are seniors Nick Apple (midfielder), Justin Arzadon (midfielder/forward), Kevin Erife (forward), Jarrod Honecker (midfielder/defense), Jonny Kuzmic (forward), Mason Moore (defender) and Lucas Stang (outside midfielder), juniors Saddique Adama (forward) and Jamie Strickler (goalkeeper), sophomore Justin McDermott (midfielder) and freshman Steve Bauers (midfielder).

"Adama is a move-in from Ghana with good foot skill," Monhollen said. "He's very solid and basic and has reasonable quickness. I think we have depth and balance, and I really like what I'm seeing so far."

North expecting strong season

North is hoping to surpass the point it reached last season.

The Panthers won eight games in a row before losing to Olentangy Liberty 6-1 in a Division I district semifinal to finish 12-6 overall. They beat Lancaster 4-1 and Canal Winchester 2-1 in the first two rounds of the tournament.

"With 12 seniors and nine starters back, the expectations certainly are to have a great season," 10th-year coach Darrin Monhollen said. "We want to be in the hunt for a (league) title and have a very nice tournament run. I will say that in my 20 years of coaching, whenever we've had teams with 11 or more seniors, we've typically won 12 or more matches.

"So that's the type of season we anticipate and I know we're capable of producing that even with our extremely difficult schedule."

The Panthers opened Aug. 21 against Dublin Coffman and begin league play Tuesday, Aug. 28, as host to Newark.

Although the Panthers lost leading-scorer Zach Monhollen, the coach's son, to graduation, as well as senior forward Tommy Harr, who committed to the Columbus Crew Academy, they return four others who also earned all-league status.

Senior midfielder Tanner Ebright was on the first team, senior defender Sean Goddard was on the second team, senior defender Jared Linkhorn was special mention and senior forward Marion Pugh was honorable mention.

"Tanner Ebright was our team MVP last season and was third-team all-district and obviously will be a key this season," coach Monhollen said. "He's a strong, physical player who plays with a lot of pace, makes good decisions and is an excellent team player who is willing to work hard."

Other returning starters include seniors Jarrod Brunet (defender), Andrew Johnson (defender), JoJo Stephen (forward), Trevor Swanson (midfielder) and Max White (goalkeeper), who is in a strong competition with classmate Steven Bannick.

"We're starting four seniors in the back in front of a senior goalkeeper, whether that is Max White or Steven Bannick," Monhollen said. "Although we're starting in a 4-4-2, we could switch to the 3-5-2 like we did when we went on our run last year. We're strong enough in the back to do that if we need to push more forward to create more chances. The goal early though is to build depth and confidence.

"We have stretches where we're playing games every other day and we need to cultivate a number of players who can play at this level by the time we get near the postseason."

Other letterwinners back are juniors Isaac Magnuson (forward) and Matt Skarsten (defender).

Completing the roster are seniors Mitchell McGuire (midfielder) and Jarrod Rennie (defender), juniors Conner Lynch (midfielder), Zach Norris (midfielder), Nathan Tawney (forward) and Luke Westkamp (midfielder), sophomore Brett Baumann (utility) and freshmen Derrick Reedus (midfielder) and Nick Snyder (midfielder).