The Centennial girls soccer team returns seven starters and 12 letterwinners from last season, both positives in its pursuit of a third consecutive City League championship.
Those athletes also will play key roles as the Stars try to rise above the .500 mark. They finished 6-7-1 overall last season and went 4-0 in the City in the regular season before defeating Whetstone 4-1 in the league title game.
"Experience around the field will help guide the team in the direction we need to go and will help push the freshmen or new players to grow and improve their skills to be future impact players," eighth-year coach Barb Melig said. "We are lucky to have quite a few impact players in each position, most of which can be interchangeable and each knows their flexibility is a great asset to our team."
The Stars opened Aug. 20 at Licking Valley. Their league opener is Sept. 17 against Northland.
Returning in the midfield are seniors Yana Napier and Nina Zimmerman and sophomores Breanna Reesman and Rachael Schutte.
"Those four are very flexible and (showed) great work and skill in the preseason," Melig said. "A handful of other players got a good deal of playing time last year and we'll look to expand on their use this season, like senior Cada Dixon and juniors Zoe Velez and Sabrina Fallon."
Juniors Sophia Ferry and Sophia Pizzurra return on defense in front of senior goalkeeper Sarah Clifton, who is a three-year starter.
"(Clifton is) looking to build on her game and work on the little things that will make her even better," Melig said. "I think we have a few freshmen and some returning girls who will change positions to shore up the defense."
Senior Sarah Thompson is expected to start at forward and also see time in the midfield.
"Sarah has speed and aggression and we're looking for her to grow in her understanding and commitment," Melig said. "A few other players will get chunks of time up top as well."
Completing the roster are senior Lucy Bednar-Warren (defender), junior Bella Moore (defender), sophomore Anna Dixon (forward) and freshmen Zoe Latta (midfielder), Brooke Loudner (mid-fielder/forward), Safi Munywoki (defender), Leila Mzibri (midfielder) and Naa Shidaa Korley (defender).
Boys soccer team feeling optimistic
The boys soccer team has hopes of improving on last season's 7-5-1 record and competing for the City-North Division title.
With seven starters and 15 letterwinners returning, there looks to be reason for optimism.
"We've got experience and depth and we can play with possession and creativity," said seventh-year coach Scott George, whose team went 4-2 in the City-North last year to finish behind co-champions Mifflin and Northland (both 5-0-1). "We also should have a very stout defense."
Seniors Harold Deanda and Matt Jacobsen return in the midfield for the Stars, who will utilize a 4-4-2 formation. They will be joined by classmates Diego Giraldo and Josh Male.
"Matt Jacobsen is a speedy and flashy dribbler who creates chances from the right side of the field," George said. "He is a third-year starter and was third-team all-league last year. Harold also was third-team all-league."
Juniors Derrick Ibrahim and Nicky Oberdick return at forward.
"Nicky Oberdick brings an aggressive style of play and creativity up top to create goal-scoring chances for us," said George, whose team opened Aug. 20 against Central Crossing. "He also is a third-year starter and he was second-team all-league last year."
Returning on defense are senior Jeremiah Upchurch and juniors Ayoub Benaaouinate and Vinny Flinders. Senior Hamid Chafi and junior Braden Lee are seeking to fill the last spot in front of junior goalie Milosz Rehfus.
"Upchurch is a fourth-year starter and should be a leader in the back, but it's a very experienced group overall," George said. "I think the keys to success this year will be getting effective communication and unselfish play. We also need to capitalize on our opponents' mistakes and make sure we finish."
Completing the roster for the Stars, who open league play Sept. 10 at Mifflin, are seniors Evan Massey (midfielder) and Tyler Morefield (defender), juniors Linton Frimpong (forward/midfielder), Nick Loudner (midfielder), Bjarmi Mohr (defender) and Kyengo Munywoki (forward/midfielder) and freshman Taiyo Norris (midfielder).
Below are the coming schedules for the Centennial cross country, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 24 -- Newark Catholic Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion
*Aug. 27 -- Independence and South at Airport
Aug. 22 -- At Jonathan Alder
Aug. 24 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
Aug. 26 -- At Caledonia River Valley
Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Central Crossing
Aug. 26 -- At River Valley
*Aug. 26 -- Home vs. Northland
Aug. 27 -- At Africentric
*Aug. 28 -- At Mifflin
*Aug. 22 -- At Beechcroft
Aug. 26 -- At Westerville South
*Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Northland