When Alex Setser accepted the position of Whitehall-Yearling High School girls soccer coach, he promised his team he would be devoted to the program.
Setser displayed that commitment during the Rams' opener Aug. 22 against visiting London.
Despite undergoing left ACL surgery earlier in the day, Setser attended the game while wearing a leg brace and walking with a limp.
"I had ACL surgery (in the) morning and I told these girls I would not let them down and I made it happen," said Setser, who injured his knee June 3 playing in a summer soccer league. "We take a lot of pride in having each other's back and being a team and being here for each other."
The Rams, who trailed only 2-0 at halftime, lost 8-0 and were 0-2 before playing Lakewood on Aug. 27. They also lost at Teays Valley 12-0 on Aug. 23.
Setser replaced Deanna Mascia, who stepped down after two seasons. He graduated from Whitehall in 2005 and played soccer and football for the Rams.
"My No. 1 thought was I want to come home and I want to build a (soccer) program," said Setser, who also is a special teams coach for the football team. "I have a lot of pride in this school, and I want to build something. We're headed in the right direction, but we just have to keep getting better."
Whitehall, which went 1-12 overall and 0-7 in the MSL-Ohio Division last season, opened league play Aug. 29 against Bexley.
Goalkeeper Illeen Aguirre, a senior returnee, was busy in the first two games, finishing with 18 saves against London and 13 against Teays Valley.
"We're a lot better this year," Aguirre said. "We have a lot better guidance. We wouldn't be here without coach Alex or Mr. (Ron) Revadelo. ... We want to play our butts off every single game, leave our hearts on the field."
Revadelo is an assistant coach.
Also back are juniors Selamawit Alebachew (midfielder) and Bethelhem Tamene (defender).
Midfielder Anna Navarro Gonzalez is the other senior on the team.
Other players are juniors Chalitis Bakeye (midfielder), Maria Gonzalez (forward), Veronica Rivas (defender) and Yabesera Tadesse (defender), sophomore Fatmata Jalloh (midfielder) and freshmen Ililli Bakeye (midfielder), Abril Garcia (forward), Brooke Greer (forward), Kim Hernandez (defender), Ximena Lazaro (midfielder), Jessica Revadelo (defender) and Maria Torres (forward).
"We're a really young team, but the girls fight their butts off and we have to get better," Setser said. "I saw a lot of good things (against London) and I saw a lot of things we need to improve on. From where we started, we've come a long way and I'm proud of them. ... We definitely have a foundation to build on."
Football team looks to rebound
Football coach Rod Lightfoot is confident his team will bounce back from its opening loss when it plays host to Northland on Friday, Aug. 31.
Whitehall lost 19-6 to Westerville Central on Aug. 24 at home.
The Rams drove deep into Central territory three times, but came up empty each time.
Raymell Byrd accounted for Whitehall's points when he returned a kickoff 98 yards in the second quarter to tie the game at 6.
Wayne Blackshear rushed for 105 yards on 17 carries, and Byrd added 108 yards passing and 89 rushing.
"For the last three months, we've been working on how we're going to work through situations that give us some problems and we didn't respond the way we know how and that has to be corrected for us to move forward from tonight," Lightfoot said. "We have to learn from it and we can. These kids are resilient."
Northland opened with a 28-27 loss to visiting Zeeland (Michigan) West on Aug. 24.
The Vikings are led by senior running back John Branham Jr. and junior quarterback Kalil Branham, who are brothers. Branham Jr. rushed for 1,129 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.
Whitehall is looking to avenge a 31-28 loss to the Vikings a season ago.
"These first two weeks are a tremendous challenge," Lightfoot said. "Northland is going to be loaded and ready to go against us. They have a tremendous running back and their offensive line is going to come off the ball hard. They'll be ready. They'll throw the ball around as well, so we have to be ready."
Boys soccer team looks for improvement
Second-year boys soccer coach T.J. Mohammed expects his team to improve on last season's 3-6-3 record.
The Rams were 0-0-2 before playing Mifflin on Aug. 27. They played Olentangy Berlin to a scoreless tie Aug. 21 and tied Thomas Worthington at 2 on Aug. 23.
"We lost one senior (Efrem Gebreambes), but we've improved," Mohammed said. "The players that are left picked up the tab. We thought when Efrem left it was going to be difficult, but so far, so good. We worked hard the whole summer and hopefully we will achieve something. We just have to make a name for the community and the school."
Senior forward Lauro Guijosa scored two goals against Thomas, including the tying goal off a direct kick from 25 yards with about five minutes remaining. He was honorable mention all-league last season.
Junior goalie Jared Alvarez had eight saves. He also was honorable mention all-league last fall.
Also back are senior midfielders Kelvin Gutierrez and Bereket Woldeamanuel. They were second-team all-league last season.
Other players are seniors Reynaldo Arias (defender/midfielder), Andy Artica (defender/midfielder), Jose Carachure (defender), Maxwell McQuate (defender), Sabri Nurhamid (forward), Fernando Sanchez (forward), Brook Wale (midfielder/forward) and Doctur Ward (defender).
Also looking to contribute are juniors Cesar Artica (midfielder/forward), Jonathan Guijosa (defender/midfielder), Casey Hernandez (defender), Alex Herrera (midfielder/forward) and Jose Vines (defender) and sophomores Miguel Godinez (goalie/forward), Edwin Gutierrez (goalie/forward), Ebrima Jobarteh (midfielder/defender), Jefferson Martinez (mid-fielder/defender) and Yared Yesuf (defender/midfielder).
"We have some talent, some of them are young coming up," Mohammed said.
Whitehall opens league play Wednesday, Sept. 5, against visiting Grandview. Last season, the Rams went 2-2-1 in the MSL-Ohio to finish fourth behind champion Columbus Academy (3-0-2).
Aug. 21 -- vs. Olentangy Berlin
Aug. 23 -- vs. Thomas Worthington
Aug. 27 -- vs. Mifflin
*Sept. 5 -- vs. Grandview
*Sept. 8 -- at Columbus Academy
Sept. 11 -- at Logan
Sept. 15 -- vs. Teays Valley
Sept. 17 -- vs. Reynoldsburg at Baldwin Middle School
*Sept. 19 -- at Worthington Christian
Sept. 25 -- at Independence
Sept. 26 -- at Delaware
Sept. 29 -- at Hamilton Township
Oct. 3 -- vs. Horizon Science
Oct. 6 -- vs. Groveport
*Oct. 10 -- at Bexley
Oct. 11 -- at Westerville Central
Aug. 22 -- vs. London
Aug. 23 -- at Teays Valley
Aug. 27 -- at Lakewood
*Aug. 29 -- vs. Bexley
Sept. 1 -- vs. Athens
*Sept. 5 -- vs. Grandview
*Sept. 8 -- vs. Columbus Academy
Sept. 10 -- at Mifflin
*Sept. 12 -- at Wellington
Sept. 15 -- at Marion-Franklin
Sept. 17 -- vs. Cristo Rey
*Sept. 19 -- vs. Worthington Christian
*Sept. 26 -- at Zanesville Rosecrans
Sept. 29 -- at Cristo Rey
Oct. 6 -- at Westland
Oct. 11 -- vs. Liberty Union
Below are the coming schedules for the Whitehall-Yearling cross country, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 1 -- Granville Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion
Aug. 30 -- At Buckeye Valley
*Sept. 4 -- Home vs. Grandview
Sept. 1 -- Heath Invitational