The Dublin Scioto boys soccer team returned to its winning form last year in its first season under coach Erik Ekis.
The Irish are looking to continue that success this fall.
Scioto posted its first winning season since 2015 last year, finishing 10-6-4 overall and 4-2-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division and reaching a Division I district final before losing to St. Charles 2-0.
The Irish had finished 2-15 in 2017 and 1-13 in 2016 after going 9-8-1 in 2015 under then-coach Chad Snider.
"In my second year, they have a better understanding of what we need out of them," said Ekis, whose team opened Aug. 17 with a 5-2 win over Watkins Memorial and begins league play Tuesday, Aug. 27, at Olentangy Berlin. "We have a better understanding of who we have to work with. We're thrilled with the direction of the program. The biggest thing is trying to get better."
The Irish defeated Watterson 5-0 on April 19 in a game stopped early in the second half because of bad weather.
Scioto tied Jerome for second in the OCC-Cardinal last season behind Worthington Kilbourne (6-1). The Irish visit the Wolves on Sept. 17 and play host to the Celtics on Oct. 10 in their league finale.
"Our league is strong this year, loaded," Ekis said. "There's a lot of teams in our league that can compete. It's really a toss-up. Kilbourne is going to be tremendous, Jerome will be strong, Berlin is going to be fantastic, Delaware is strong, Hilliard Darby is always strong. I don't think we have a weak opponent in our league. I think we're in the mix, but so are six or seven other teams."
Scioto returns a solid group, led by senior defender/midfielder Zack McQuade, who was named first-team all-district and all-league last season.
"Coach has turned this around," McQuade said. "We won a lot more games last season and we'd like to be a lot better than we were last year. We want to work harder than we did last year and hope we can make things happen."
Senior defender/forward Gavin Wigg was first-team all-league and third-team all-district a year ago. Senior forwards Marshall Smilonich and Jayden Tharp were second-team all-league and sophomore midfielder Jayden Lunsford was special mention all-league.
Senior Declan Farrell is expected to replace 2019 graduate Ben Bolyard at goalkeeper.
Other returnees are seniors Aidan Bunner (midfielder) and Collin McKenzie (defender) and juniors Shea Adesso (defender/midfielder), Jesus Arellano (forward/midfielder) and Brayden Cunningham (forward).
Also on the team are seniors Aidan Keidel (forward), Ayush Mehra (forward) and Eli Nutter (defender/forward), juniors Andrew Berkebile (midfielder), Max Edling (goalie) and Jacob Johnson (defender), sophomores Vince Kawana (defender), Hiro Maki (forward) and Devan Smith (midfielder) and freshman Jeb Smoot (goalie).
"Our goal is just to be better every day," Ekis said. "We want to play the best brand we can, which means getting better every day, and we want to enjoy every experience. We want to take it a day at a time, a week at a time and make sure that we're not so focused on long-term goals that we don't enjoy the moment."
Girls soccer team returns 'young core'
Kevin Masterson begins his second year as girls soccer coach hoping his team can improve on last season when it finished 7-7-4 overall and 3-3-1 in the OCC-Cardinal.
The Irish opened Aug. 17 with a 1-0 win over Watkins Memorial and begin league play Tuesday, Aug. 27, at home against Berlin.
Against the Warriors, sophomore defender Kylie Nettles scored off an assist from sophomore forward Mya Swearengin and junior goalie Abbey Topetzes had five saves.
Topetzes has replaced 2019 graduate Brianna Rogers in goal.
"Abbey had a great offseason and she's looking good right now," Masterson said. "I'm happy with that."
Scioto tied Thomas Worthington for third in the OCC-Cardinal last year behind champion Jerome (7-0). The Irish conclude league play Oct. 10 at Jerome.
"I would love to be competing for an OCC championship against Jerome," Masterson said. "That's the last regular-season game and I would love for us to be right around 10 wins. That's a healthy challenge. There's a lot of good teams, but we can compete."
Among the returnees are senior midfielder Maddie Salvator, who was special mention all-league last season, and sophomore midfielder Tiffany Trinh, who was honorable mention all-league.
Masterson expects sophomore forward Rachel Fullerton to be a key offensive threat.
Also back are Nettles, Swearengin, seniors Andrea Downing (midfielder), Alexis McKee (midfielder) and Hope Miller (defender) and sophomores Natalie Beasley (midfielder) and Sammi Norrod (midfielder).
Rounding out the team are senior Amara McCullough (goalie), juniors Avery Fadorsen (defender), Marian Krier (defender), Camryn Snyder (midfielder) and Audrey Wininger (midfielder), sophomores Devin Keidel (midfielder) and Cameron Robinson (midfielder) and freshmen Madison Fullerton (midfielder) and Kiarah Richardson (midfielder).
"We have a young core coming back," Masterson said.
Below are the coming schedules for the Scioto cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 24 -- Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North
Aug. 23 -- Home vs. New Albany
Aug. 26 -- Home vs. Hilliard Lynx
Aug. 28 -- Home vs. Columbus School for Girls
Aug. 22 -- Westerville North at Royal American
Aug. 28 -- OCC-Cardinal at Darby Creek
Aug. 22 -- Hilliard Darby at Rolling Meadows
Aug. 27 -- Hilliard Bradley at Mentel Memorial
Aug. 28 -- OCC-Cardinal at Royal American
Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Grove City
*Aug. 27 -- At Olentangy Berlin
Aug. 24 -- At Lancaster
*Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Berlin
*Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Darby
Aug. 26 -- Home vs. Bexley
*Aug. 27 -- At Worthington Kilbourne
*Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Delaware
*Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Darby