First-year Thomas Worthington High School girls soccer coach Tara Zimmer has faith that her team will put the pieces together this season once it gains experience.
The Cardinals have returned just one starter from last season, when they finished 13-5-1 overall, went 3-2-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to place third behind champion Dublin Jerome (6-0) and lost to Gahanna 2-0 in a Division I district final.
"Even though we lack varsity experience on the whole, we have a great group of upperclassmen and leaders, plus a talented younger group," Zimmer said. "The girls are willing to learn and committed, so we'll continue to grow. We will need to perform with teamwork, proper fundamentals, focus and hustle to have success."
The Cardinals were 0-3-1 before playing Hilliard Bradley in the OCC-Cardinal opener Aug. 29.
Thomas opened Aug. 18 with a 4-0 loss to Upper Arlington and lost to Worthington Christian 3-1 on Aug. 22 and Olentangy 3-0 on Aug. 24 before playing Westerville Central to a scoreless tie on Aug. 26.
Zimmer took over for Brad Pitman, who was named coach in the spring but stepped down after coaching the Cardinals during summer scrimmages. Pitman had replaced Tim Barton, who compiled an 83-60-23 record in nine seasons.
Zimmer was an assistant coach at the University of Mount Union in 2012 and '13 and spent the past two seasons as an assistant at Bexley.
Senior defender Lauren Hitt is the lone returning starter. Other returning letterwinners are seniors Mary Beth DeRuntz (forward), Julia Geiger (midfielder/forward) and Alix Steele (midfielder/forward), junior Mackenzie Peeke (mid-fielder/forward) and sophomore Sophia Tyler (midfielder).
"(Freshman goalkeeper) Brooke Ackley, Mackenzie Peeke and Sophia Tyler all demonstrate great skill and fundamentals," Zimmer said. "They are great competitors with exceptional attitudes. Brooke's distribution, ability to play with her feet and knowledge of the position make her great.
"Mackenzie has a good fitness level, is comfortable under pressure and is strong on the ball. Sophia has good vision with the desire to have the ball at her feet and is a playmaker."
Freshman Claire Sever was expected to join Peeke, Tyler and Steele in the midfield. The starting forwards entering the season were junior Annie McClue and freshman Grace Florence, and starting on defense alongside Hitt were juniors Maddy Sever and Anna Fenker and freshman Tatum Snyder.
Others looking to contribute are juniors Caroline McGill (midfielder) and Emma Weber (forward) and freshmen Lyndsi Fritz (defender), Lily Houser (forward) and Ella Tyler (defender/midfielder).
Boys soccer team
The boys soccer team is looking for a winning season after finishing 8-9-2 overall last season.
Expected to lead the Cardinals are seniors John Kennedy (forward) and Mitch Ament (midfielder) and junior Jon Tchounguen (forward).
Junior Andrew Goa will join Kennedy and Tchounguen at forward, while junior Jonah Kuntz and sophomore Drew Holman are in the midfield alongside Ament.
Seniors Ben Dawson, Len Sasaki and Tommy Swift and sophomore Aaron Cockerham are on defense in front of senior Carter Dickson or sophomore Reilly Conley, both of whom will see time in goal.
"We possess the ball really well and have extremely strong team chemistry," third-year coach Ben Neer said. "What I like about this team is that our talent is very widespread and we don't have one complete standout. Our junior class is very strong."
Also seeking playing time are seniors Mike Boyd (forward) and Spencer Steele (midfielder) and juniors Nate Baer (forward), Justin Harrison (forward) and Teddy Swift (forward).
"We need to find the back of the net when we get chances, because we usually have the majority of possession," said Neer, whose team opened Aug. 24 with a 3-all tie against Grove City and began OCC-Cardinal play Aug. 29 against Bradley.
Last season, the Cardinals went 2-3-1 in the league to place sixth behind champion Jerome (6-0).
Aug. 24 -- vs. Grove City
*Aug. 29 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley
Aug. 31 -- at Big Walnut
Sept. 2 -- at Centennial
*Sept. 5 -- at Dublin Jerome
Sept. 7 -- vs. Westerville North
*Sept. 12 -- vs. Delaware
Sept. 14 -- at Olentangy Orange
Sept. 21 -- at Reynoldsburg
Sept. 23 -- vs. Upper Arlington
*Sept. 26 -- at Dublin Scioto
Sept. 30 -- vs. Briggs
*Oct. 3 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
Oct. 5 -- at Westerville South
*Oct. 10 -- at Kilbourne
Oct. 12 -- vs. Whetstone
Aug. 18 -- vs. Upper Arlington
Aug. 22 -- vs. Worthington Christian
Aug. 24 -- at Olentangy
Aug. 26 -- vs. Westerville Central
*Aug. 29 -- at Hilliard Bradley
Aug. 31 -- at DeSales
*Sept. 5 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
Sept. 9 -- vs. Big Walnut
*Sept. 12 -- at Delaware
Sept. 14 -- at Marysville
Sept. 21 -- vs. Westerville South
*Sept. 26 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
Sept. 28 -- vs. Westerville North
*Oct. 3 -- at Hilliard Darby
Oct. 5 -- at Olentangy Orange
*Oct. 10 -- vs. Kilbourne
Below are the coming schedules for the Thomas cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, girls tennis, girls volleyball and girls water polo teams:
Sept. 2 -- Duels at DeWine Farm in Cedarville
Sept. 1 -- Home vs. Toledo St. Ursula Academy
Sept. 5 -- Lancaster Invitational at Lancaster Country Club
Sept. 5 -- Hilliard Davidson and Olentangy Orange at Mentel Memorial
*Aug. 31 -- At Dublin Scioto
*Sept. 5 -- Home vs. Hilliard Darby
Sept. 6 -- Home vs. Centennial
*Sept. 5 -- At Dublin Scioto
GIRLS WATER POLO
Sept. 1-2 -- Milford Invitational