With several key players back, the Grove City Christian boys soccer team is looking to recapture its winning formula from 2017.

The Eagles reached their first Division III district final that season and finished 14-2-3 before slipping to 8-9-1 overall last season, but fourth-year coach Dan Milam believes his team can bounce back.

"This team definitely has potential," he said. "Last year we had challenges with our (current) senior players being a major part of our leadership of our team, taking on the leadership role. There were a lot of responsibilities put on their shoulders. This year they understand it. We're pushing them hard and we have high expectations because we know the potential is there."

The Eagles open Thursday, Aug. 22, against visiting Madison Christian and begin MSL-Cardinal Division play Sept. 5 against Fisher Catholic.

Last season, Grove City Christian went 3-5 in the league to tie Fisher Catholic for third behind champion Wellington (7-0-1). The Jaguars have moved to the MSL-Ohio.

"For us to be competitive at the highest level and to compete with all the teams in (the Central District), we have to come together as a whole unit," Milam said. "We can't rely on just a few players to carry us."

The Eagles lost three players to graduation, including goalkeeper A.J. Gillespie, who was named first-team all-district and all-league and now is playing at Indiana Wesleyan.

Senior Bailey Garren, who transferred from Ready before last season, has replaced Gilles-pie in goal.

"It's a tough position to replace," Milam said. "We were fortunate with his talent over the years and he just moved in at Indiana Wesleyan. We have a senior keeper to replace him, Bailey Garren. He's been preparing."

Also back are senior midfielder Zach Lauron (first-team all-league, second-team all-district) and senior defender Carter Stedtefeld (second-team all-league). Seniors David Claffey (midfielder), Juliana Hunt (midfielder), Griffin Milam (defender), Seth Ortega (midfielder/forward) and Cristian Quiroz (midfielder) were honorable mention all-league.

Other returnees are seniors Maddie Babcock (defender), Richard Gonzalez (midfielder), Ian Hester (midfielder) and Logan Kinstle (midfielder) and junior Sebastian Sosa (midfielder). Senior Kaitlyn Driftmyer (midfielder) has returned after playing as a sophomore.

Other players are senior Colton Sisler (defender), sophomores Jon Frush (defender) and Donovan Harmeyer (defender) and freshman Cameron Stedtefeld (defender).

"We have 16 seniors (in the program) and 12 are returning," coach Milam said. "This class has always been our largest class. We knew they were coming in from seventh grade on. The class kept on growing with some newer players coming out. It's exciting."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Grove City Christian cross country, boys golf, boys soccer and girls volleyball teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Aug. 24 -- Pickerington North Classic

BOYS GOLF

Aug. 22 -- Shekinah Christian at Marysville Golf Club

Aug. 26 -- Mechanicsburg and Morral Ridgedale at Cooks Creek

BOYS SOCCER

Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Madison Christian

Aug. 24 -- At Liberty Union

Aug. 27 -- at Ready

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Aug. 24 -- Home vs. Worthington Christian

*Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Harvest Prep

*League contest