The Canal Winchester High School girls soccer team admits its goals this season are clear.
The Indians want to repeat as OCC-Capital Division champions and then win their first Division I district championship, something they were less than 16 minutes from achieving last year before losing a 1-0 lead late in the second half and falling to Pickerington North 2-1 in a district final.
Still, the Indians, who were 2-0 and had not allowed a goal entering a game against Westland on Aug. 28, are keeping their hopes in perspective.
"We can't get cocky," junior defender Sydney Byrd said. "We have to realize teams now know we are a strong team and they will come out expecting a hard game. We can't sit back against anybody. We will have to work very hard and just keep at it."
Canal Winchester finished 13-5-1 overall last year, winning its first OCC-Capital title before advancing to the first district final in program history. Eleven players graduated, including both starting goalkeepers in Delaney Hippler and Alaina Reher, but the Indians return their leading scorer in senior forward/midfielder McKenna Sullivan as well as senior defender Morgan Reeb and junior midfielder/forward Lexi Snider, among several others.
"We're blessed to have a lot of depth and talent," third-year coach Alex Wentz said. "Right now, we're as good as we were last year at the end of the year and we're able to be even better still. We want to keep this trend going.
"We're no longer the underdog. I think Canal Winchester has developed a good reputation in girls soccer, and we want to advance that forward."
Sullivan had a team-high three goals through two games. She scored the only goal early in a season-opening 1-0 win over visiting Gahanna on Aug. 17 and added two in an 8-0 home win over Chillicothe on Aug. 21.
"This year, I feel like this is my team," said Sullivan, a three-year starter who had nine goals last year. "We have a lot of good personnel and a lot of younger girls who have stepped up. I want to see everyone do well this year. We can reach our goals. It was such a tough game to lose (in the district final). Winning a district final is absolutely our goal."
Wentz said he would like to see his defense, which also includes senior Megan Rinehart and juniors Tori Auld and Angela Postage, regularly contribute to the attack.
"It's one of our stylistic keys," Wentz said. "We do a good job of encouraging our outside backs to get involved. We've had backs who have been able to overlap and press forward. If we can sustain possessions and get our outside backs moving, we can get a lot of goals that way. That's not quite where we want it to be yet, but I think we will be."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Ella Cressy (midfielder), Kaitlyn DeLong (defender), Karen Kaleli (defender), Kirsten Knight (forward), Mariah Parsley (midfielder) and Jamie Scollard (midfielder), juniors Lindsey Davis (forward), Anaya Edwards (forward), Cassie Kolonchuk (defender), Josie Sanders (midfielder/forward) and Keely Snode (goalie), sophomores Holly Counts (midfielder/defender), Elle Howard (midfielder) and Peyton Willford (defender) and freshmen Madelyn Frank (goalie) and Payton McKinlay (forward).
Canal Winchester begins defense of its league championship Sept. 13 at home against Big Walnut. The Indians went 4-0-1 in the OCC-Capital last year, just ahead of runner-up New Albany (3-0-2).
The Indians play host to the Eagles on Oct. 2.
Boys soccer team must reload
In some respects, Erik Feinstein still is getting to know his boys soccer team as he replaces 13 players lost to graduation.
Nonetheless, the 22nd-year coach couldn't have been prouder of his players, especially the senior class, as the season began. Many of them were part of a large group that honored the memory of former classmate Brock Johnson, a former teammate who died of a rare autoimmune disease at age 14 in 2015. Several members of the class gathered outside the home of Johnson's parents on Aug. 16, which would have been the first day of Johnson's senior year.
"They're fighters. They work hard. They like each other. They're a great group of kids, and what sticks out to me is not necessarily what they do on the soccer field. It's what they do off of it," Feinstein said. "Seven or eight of the guys (at Johnson's house) were soccer players. That's the kids they are in the community."
On the field, Canal Winchester was 1-0-2 before playing Westland on Aug. 28.
Seniors Tristan Graber (goalie), Will Jenkins (forward), Andrew Nack (midfielder) and Jared Wright (forward) and junior Ian Monesmith (defender/midfielder) return from last year's team that went 10-5-3 overall and 3-1-1 in the OCC-Capital, losing to Westerville South 3-0 in a Division I district semifinal.
The Indians began the season with consecutive 2-all ties at home, against Gahanna on Aug. 17 and Grove City on Aug. 23, before a 5-0 win at Pickerington Central on Aug. 25.
The rest of the roster consists of seniors Josh Browning (midfielder), Colton Davie (defender), Austin Harmon (midfielder), Connor Kasiara (defender), Nahom Ketema (forward), Tyler Sternberg (midfielder) and Noah Woods (midfielder), junior Crewe Edens (forward) and sophomores Drew Adams (midfielder), Sam Dowden (forward), Jack Jenkins (midfielder), Will Root (midfielder) and Jacob Stedman (goalie).
The Indians begin OCC-Capital play Sept. 13 at Big Walnut. They finished second in the league last year behind New Albany (5-0).
"We've made some decisions that as the season goes on, they will get better," Feinstein said. "I liked a lot of what I saw (early on)."
Football team preps for first-year Bears
The football team returns home after a disappointing opening loss to welcome an opponent hungry to sustain its own early success.
Coming off a 34-21 loss at Thomas Worthington on Aug. 24, Canal Winchester will play host to Olentangy Berlin on Friday, Aug. 31. The Bears routed visiting Briggs 53-22 on Aug. 24 in the program's inaugural game.
"They are incredibly disciplined," coach Josh Stratton said of Berlin. "You know exactly where they're going to line up and what coverage they will play. There aren't many secrets, and they won't hurt themselves. We will have to beat them."
The Indians led the Cardinals 14-7 in the second quarter but gave up 20 unanswered points to fall behind.
Quarterback Jack Beeler threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Stephan Byrd, fullback Michael Wilson scored on a 2-yard run and running back Darren Davis had a 5-yard touchdown to stem the Cardinals' run after they pulled ahead 27-14.
Beeler completed 18 of 31 passes for 205 yards and was intercepted twice.
Canal Winchester led Thomas 17-0 in last year's opener before losing 27-21 in double overtime.
Berlin's ground game thrived against Briggs as junior running back Johnny Spinner rushed for 235 yards and five touchdowns on 29 carries. He had 22 carries for 138 yards by halftime, when the Bears led 40-14, and also recovered a fumble as a linebacker.
Defensive back/wide receiver Corey Hill caught two touchdown passes from quarterback Jake Moeller and had an interception for the Bears, who have no seniors.
"Schematically, they're pretty similar to us offensively and defensively," Stratton said. "It will be a battle between two spread running teams running a 3-3 stack (defense). It's going to be a good game."
Davis had 14 tackles at linebacker to lead Canal Winchester's defense against Thomas.
This is the first game of a home-and-home series between the Indians and Bears. Canal Winchester will visit Berlin in Week 2 next year.
Aug. 17 -- vs. Gahanna
Aug. 23 -- vs. Grove City
Aug. 25 -- at Pickerington Central
Aug. 28 -- at Westland
Aug. 30 -- at St. Charles
Sept. 4 -- at Pickerington North
Sept. 6 -- at Westerville North
*Sept. 13 -- at Big Walnut
Sept. 15 -- vs. Logan
*Sept. 20 -- vs. Groveport
Sept. 22 -- at Watkins Memorial
*Sept. 25 -- vs. Franklin Heights
Sept. 29 -- at Clayton Northmont
*Oct. 2 -- at New Albany
Oct. 6 -- vs. Chillicothe
*Oct. 9 -- vs. Newark
Aug. 17 -- vs. Gahanna
Aug. 21 -- vs. Chillicothe
Aug. 28 -- at Westland
Aug. 30 -- at Westerville South
Sept. 4 -- vs. Pickerington North
Sept. 6 -- vs. Logan
Sept. 11 -- at Granville
*Sept. 13 -- vs. Big Walnut
Sept. 18 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*Sept. 20 -- at Groveport
Sept. 22 -- at Dublin Coffman
*Sept. 25 -- at Franklin Heights
*Oct. 2 -- vs. New Albany
Oct. 6 -- at Olentangy Orange
*Oct. 9 -- at Newark
Oct. 13 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley
Below are the coming schedules for the Canal Winchester boys golf, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 1 -- Bexley Invitational at Westchester
Sept. 5 -- Westerville North at Royal American
*Aug. 30 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
*Sept. 4 -- At New Albany
Sept. 5 -- Home vs. Granville
Aug. 30 -- At Pickerington North
*Sept. 4 -- At Big Walnut