The Grove City boys soccer team entered the season with lofty goals, aiming to earn its first league title since 2004 and advance far into the postseason.
The Greyhounds finished 8-5-6 overall last season and went 2-1-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division to tie Gahanna for second behind Pickerington North (5-0). Grove City lost to North 5-0 in a Division I district semifinal.
The Panthers have won three consecutive OCC-Ohio titles. The Greyhounds close the regular season Oct. 10 at North in a game they hope is for the league championship.
"(Winning the league title is) our No. 1 goal," senior goalkeeper Casey Thompson said. "We've been talking about what we have to do to win the OCC title and how we're going to do it and I think this is the year to do it."
The Greyhounds opened Aug. 16 by defeating Fairbanks 9-1 and begin league play Sept. 10 against Lancaster.
Thompson finished last season with 116 saves and was first-team all-league and second-team all-district.
"We're super excited," he said. "We're looking forward to a good year. We have a lot of competitors. We have a lot of people who want to win. They have the drive to win. We have a lot of individual players who are super good on the ball. We just have to work on our chemistry as a team, and once we get that, we can compete with anybody."
Senior Elvin Martinez also could see time in goal, according to sixth-year coach Bryan Mulvany.
"We have an embarrassment of spoils at goalie," Mulvany said. "Most schools don't have a keeper that's as good as our top goalie and most people don't have a backup as good as Elvin."
Also back is junior midfielder Nick Isaac, who led the Greyhounds with 14 goals last season and was second-team all-league.
"Nick is going to be the one that runs our attack," Mulvany said. "He doesn't have to finish the ball every time, which is going to be nice to take that pressure off of him, but he's going to be a key factor."
Senior forward Colby Ross was special mention all-league. Other returnees are seniors Alec Bollinger (defender), Aaron Falcon (forward), Tilden LaBarge (midfielder), Colin Mountain (forward), Nathan Steinhauser (defender), Noah Stogner (forward) and Conner Williams (midfielder), juniors Tyler Lantzy (defender), Alec Ray (midfielder) and Luke Taylor (midfielder) and sophomore Brayden Harvey (defender).
"Brayden is a stud," Mulvany said. "He's the best lockdown defender we have. He's been it since his freshman season."
Other players are senior Hayden Cartt (midfielder) and juniors Jack Bogner (defender), Jarod Fuchs (forward), Tyler McGonagill (defender), Jaden Poole (defender) and Ryan Seitz (defender).
Senior forward AB Abdullahi is a transfer from Westland and should contribute.
"I love what we have coming back," Mulvany said. "We're champing at the bit. Our boys have put in a lot of hard work. We had a conversation: Are we willing to put in the work? Who's going to help us go to the next level, and these guys are ready to go."
Girls soccer team seeks winning mark
The girls soccer team is looking to improve on its 7-7-3 record from a season ago.
Grove City opened Aug. 16 by defeating Watkins Memorial 2-0 and begins league play Sept. 10 at Lancaster.
The Greyhounds went 1-3-1 in the OCC-Ohio last season to finish fourth behind co-champions Gahanna and North (both 4-0-1).
"Lancaster is taking steps forward, Reynoldsburg has a decent team and you have Pick Central, Pick North (and) Gahanna," 10th-year coach Josh Keller said. "It's a gauntlet and we're just trying to compete. I would like to finish in the top half. We're definitely a work in progress. We're not where we want to be, but I don't think anybody is. We're just going to keep grinding and hope the results come our way."
The top returnee is senior defender Natalie Querry, who was first-team all-league and third-team all-district last season.
Senior midfielder Anjuli Anderson was second-team all-league. Senior forward Kennedy Fulks was special mention all-league, and junior defender Kendall Jameson was honorable mention all-league.
Junior Madison Evans and sophomore Ashleigh Mastilak are competing for the starting goalie position. Anna Guy and Autumn Hawkins, both 2019 graduates, shared the position last fall, although Evans and Mastilak both saw time late in the season as Guy and Hawkins battled injuries.
Also back are seniors Arica Dougherty (defender), Alexia Jones (forward), Maria Rossi (midfielder) and Camryn Rush (midfielder), juniors Macie Dearth (midfielder/goalie), Jenna Slabaugh (midfielder) and Sophia Tristano (defender) and sophomore Alissa Schiff (midfielder).
Other players are junior Skyla Sanborn (forward) and sophomores Caitlyn Chittum (midfielder), Morgan Dible (defender), Reganne Elliott (midfielder), Belle Ransburgh (midfielder), Alexis Steinhauser (midfielder) and Emily Talbott (defender).
"It's always more effective when you have everybody contributing," Keller said. "One of the things we're emphasizing is that everybody on the team has full license to take good shots and likewise everybody on the team has some sort of defensive responsibility."
Below are the coming schedules for the Grove City cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 24 -- Pickerington North Classic
Aug. 28 -- Canal Winchester Invitational
Aug. 27 -- OCC-Ohio at Denison Golf Club
Aug. 24 -- The Fall Open at Cooks Creek
Aug. 28 -- OCC-Ohio at New Albany Links
Aug. 22 -- At Dublin Scioto
Aug. 24 -- Home vs. Columbus Academy
Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Central Crossing
Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Olentangy
Aug. 27 -- At Central Crossing
*Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Lancaster
*Aug. 27 -- At Reynoldsburg
Aug. 22 -- At Newark
Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Central Crossing
Aug. 28 -- Home vs. Ready