Having returned 13 letterwinners, including nine starters, the Whetstone girls soccer team is taking aim at regaining City League supremacy from Centennial.
The Stars have won the past two City championships after the Braves reeled off five consecutive titles from 2012-16.
"I think we have a chance at winning the City championship if we stay healthy," said third-year coach Doug Kohler, whose squad opened Aug. 19 against Sparta Highland and begins league play Sept. 19 at home against Briggs. "We have some good experience back, but not as much depth as we did last year."
Senior midfielders Lily Mathys and Ellis Scanlon-Kimura return as starters, as does senior defender Olivia Mullins. Mathys and Mullins are third-year starters for the Braves, who went 5-9-1 overall and 3-1 in the City League to place second behind Centennial (4-0) last season.
"Those three make us solid through the middle and all three are seniors and leaders," Kohler said. "Olivia and Lily are fourth-year players and Olivia is expected to play multiple positions."
Also back as third-year starters are juniors Amelia Morris (defender) and Annabelle O'Neal (defender/midfielder). The other returning starters are junior Mira Dush (forward) and sophomores Lily Hoyt (midfielder), Ella Norris (defender) and Nezzie O'Malley (midfielder).
Expected to fill the other starting spots are seniors Salma Kebe (goalkeeper) and Elise Peters (midfielder), although Kohler said the lineup could change.
"We're still working out the kinks because the core members have been there, but a lot of the young girls have had trouble getting to practices," Kohler said. "We have to get a better idea of how the newcomers will fit in and how that will impact the flow and movement of some others. We haven't had enough practices with everyone there to get a real feel. It could be awhile before we get things settled and see how the girls jell and where they might fit best. We're still fine-tuning details."
Completing the roster are senior Edee Malley (defender), juniors Julian Calderone (midfielder) and Roselina Napolitano (forward), sophomore Ava Schweitzer (forward) and freshmen Maria Brooke (forward), Noemi Cuarenta (defender), Summer Dush (forward) and Fin O'Shaughnessy (midfielder).
Boys soccer team seeks more offense
The boys soccer team hopes it has found the answer to the scoring troubles it had last season when it was shut out six times and scored two or fewer goals in 11 of its 16 games.
"We should be improved offensively in all positions and our defense is as strong as last year if we can find a consistent goalkeeper," seventh-year coach Larry Howell said. "We also have good depth at most positions."
Last season, Whetstone finished 7-8-1 overall and went 1-4-1 in the City-North Division to tie Beechcroft for fifth behind co-champions Mifflin and Northland (both 5-0-1).
"We've got 14 lettermen back and they want to make amends for last year and are excited to see how things unfold this year," Howell said.
The Braves lost four players to graduation, including goalie Nathan Hochstetler. Candidates to replace him are senior Jacob Barczak and juniors Leo Davey and Andy Pineda, although Barczak also is a returnee in the midfield.
The Braves are expected to be led on defense by seniors Louis Schirmer and Brandon Clem.
"Those are two guys who should lead the defense," Howell said. "Both of them were all-City last year and we expect even more from them this year. They share captain duties with (junior midfielder) Max Cipriani."
Cipriani, junior midfielder Brack Dillon and freshman forward Kelvin Mkwara are expected to lead the offense.
"Brad and Max are very solid players offensively and Kelvin is going to have a great year and a great future," Howell said. "Kelvin has great footwork and a tremendous soccer IQ. Max can make things happen and has great vision and Brack is a finisher and he's as fast as grease lightning."
Also vying for positions are seniors Ibrahim Bangura (midfielder), Tika Barnes (midfielder), C.J. Brown (defender), Elijah Lothrop (defender) and Sam Yersavich (midfielder), juniors Sam Cipriani (forward), Javier Cruz (defender/midfielder), Leo Davey (mid-fielder/goalie), Jacob Hoffman (forward), Chance Mpigirwa (midfielder), Andy Pineda (goalie), Lucas Poirer (defender) and Ajay Rai (defender), sophomores Rafael Arbelo (defen-der), Carson Dellesky (defen-der) and Milo Herman (midfielder) and freshmen Samual Garcia (midfielder) and Kwagisha Mpigirwa (forward).
The Braves opened Aug. 19 at Sparta Highland and played Marion Harding on Aug. 21. Their league opener is Sept. 10 at Beechcroft.
Below are the coming schedules for the Whetstone cross country, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 24 -- Baron Blast at Buckeye Valley
*Aug. 27 -- Briggs and Northland at Mentel Memorial
Aug. 23 -- At Lancaster
Aug. 28 -- Home vs. Central Crossing
Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Westland
Aug. 26 -- Home vs. Hamilton Township
Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Worthington Christian
*Aug. 28 -- Home vs. International
*Aug. 22 -- Home vs. East
Aug. 26 -- At Columbus Academy
*Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Beechcroft