The Central Crossing girls soccer team is downshifting to a lower gear.
The Comets lost five players to graduation who were four-year starters, and four of them are playing at the collegiate level.
Those losses left ninth-year coach Amy Williams with a young roster that will learn on the fly.
"We're definitely rebuilding," said Williams, whose team finished 7-8-2 overall and 1-4 in the OCC-Central Division last season. "Last year, we were playing a more advanced game, and we had really strong players. This year, we're back to the basics. We're coaching the fundamentals, positioning and field awareness."
Leading the returnees are juniors Mariana Lopez-Herrera (defender/midfielder), Emma Malkowski (mid-fielder/forward) and Emily Smits (midfielder/forward) and sophomores Emily Chatfield (defender), Kylee Eiben (defender), Georgia Lakso (forward) and Christa Phillips (defender).
"I learned from last year's seniors not to give up and keep playing with the players you have," Lakso said. "You have to always try your hardest and keep playing hard with your teammates."
Williams said she switched formations to help the younger players get acclimated to the varsity game.
"We're using a 4-5-1 formation this year throughout the season to help within the midfield," said Williams, whose team opened Aug. 19 against Columbus School for Girls. "We have moved a lot of people around and they are learning new positions."
The Comets have three seniors in Marelyn Lopez (midfielder), Cali Rosado (defender) and Faith Steinbrecher (midfielder/defender).
They also have seven freshmen, including Rachel Jaynes, who is battling for goalkeeper duties with sophomore Ely Lopez.
"The girls are doing a great job of adjusting to the changes," said Williams, whose team opens OCC-Central play Sept. 10 at Upper Arlington. "Our skill level has changed, but the girls are incredibly coachable and committed. They come out and work really hard.
"They need to go out and play hard and be as competitive as they can. We hope to have a .500 or above season."
Among the graduation losses, Hallie Fryman is playing at Ohio Dominican and Kennedy Edwards, Brittany Hanson and Maddie Ross are playing at Ohio Christian.
Boys soccer team features new look
The boys soccer team lost 12 players to graduation, leaving second-year coach Will Denney with a youth movement.
"Anytime you lose that many seniors, it puts pressure on younger guys," said Denney, whose team finished 4-11-2 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Central last season. "My younger guys want to change a culture and build a good program and good reputation. This team is as competitive as I have been around."
Senior midfielders Ben Kelley and Marcos Rios-Gutierrez return along with junior Tyler Terrell, who was a forward last fall but will play multiple positions this year.
Senior Jon Murillo and sophomore James Johnson will anchor the defense, and sophomore Isiah Prophet will have a similar roving role to that of Terrell.
"We will rotate a lot of the players, especially up front," Denney said. "We run a system where it's hard to scout. We have consistency in formation, but we move guys around depending on the options. We like to put pressure on defenses."
The Comets opened Aug. 20 against Centennial and begin league play Sept. 10 against UA.
"We're in a rebuilding year with a good freshman and sophomore class, so the future looks good," Denney said. "They have really bought into the culture and our vision. They see there can be some progress made."
Below are the coming schedules for the Central Crossing cross country, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 28 -- Canal Winchester Invitational
Aug. 26 -- Bob Pritchard Memorial Invitational at Moundbuilders
Aug. 28 -- OCC-Central at Apple Valley
Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Northland
Aug. 27 -- At Grove City
Aug. 28 -- At Whetstone
Aug. 22 -- At Centennial
Aug. 24 -- Home vs. Licking Heights
Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Grove City
*Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington
Aug. 26 -- Home vs. Grandview
*Aug. 27 -- At Marysville
Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Groveport
Aug. 27 -- At Grove City