Ian Monesmith hopes to become even more of an offensive threat this season for the Canal Winchester boys soccer team than he was last year, when his six goals were second on the squad to Sam Dowden's seven.
But given a lack of depth in the defense, Monesmith, a senior midfielder, sees a chance to prove that he can be an all-around player.
"I am trying to be the best all-around player I can," he said. "I have to be more offensive, but also, with the loss of a couple people on the back line, I have to be defensive, too. There's a balancing act.
"I love it. I love the challenge."
That is exactly what 22nd-year coach Erik Feinstein and his staff want to hear, as they return Dowden -- who is a junior -- as well as junior goalkeeper Jacob Stedman among a handful of players from last season when the Indians went 8-5-4 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Capital Division to finish second behind New Albany (5-0) for the third consecutive year.
Canal Winchester, which lost to Grove City 2-1 in the first round of Division I district tournament a year ago, opened Aug. 16 with a 2-1 win at Gahanna. Dowden scored in the first half and Monesmith netted the game-winner with 1 minutes, 50 seconds left.
"We're trying to fight against (a lack of experience). We're a team that loves to battle, so it's something we can definitely overcome," assistant coach Sean Roberts said. "A lot of the returners are taking that challenge in stride. There are a few players who didn't necessarily get a lot of varsity minutes last year but did play and we're bringing up some new blood as well, and they're taking it in stride. They're taking that pressure on and doing well with it."
Senior Connor Kasiara returns to lead the defense, while senior C.J. Motley and junior Jack Jenkins are back in the midfield.
"Our midfield works well together. Our back line works together," Monesmith said. "When we're all on the same page how we're playing, we're hard to stop."
Stedman backed up 2019 graduate Tristan Graber last season and competed with junior Johnny Bates and sophomore Caden Groff throughout the preseason to earn the starting job.
"We have six or seven (goalies) total in the program, not just varsity, but (Bates, Groff and Stedman) are our main three," said Roberts, who works with the goalies. "They're giving us a lot to think about as far as who will get the starting nod. It is bringing the best out of all of them."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Drew Adams (forward), Kyle Hoshor (forward) and Lalit Mishra (forward), juniors Korbin Martino (forward) and Will Root (forward), sophomores Caden Bjorklund (midfielder), Jacob Cressy (defender), Isaiah Hall (midfielder), Mark Hatley (defender), Kylan Lewis (defender), Hussam Mohamednoor (midfielder) and Piercen Phillips (defender) and freshman Evan French (midfielder).
Canal Winchester's home opener is Saturday, Aug. 24, against Pickerington Central. The Indians begin OCC-Capital play Sept. 10 at home against Big Walnut.
Experience guiding girls soccer team
Nine starters, including senior forward/midfielder Josie Sanders, senior goalie Keely Snode and two of its top three scorers from last year in senior forwards Lindsey Davis and Anaya Edwards, have returned as the girls soccer team tries to win its second OCC-Capital championship in three years.
Seniors Sydney Byrd (defender), Cassie Kolonchuk (defender), Angela Postage (defender) and Lexi Snider (forward/midfielder) and junior Elle Howard (midfielder) also are back from last season when Canal Winchester went 10-6-1 overall and 3-2 in the league to place third behind champion New Albany (5-0).
The Indians, who lost to Westerville North 4-3 (4-3 on penalty kicks) in the second round of the Division I district tournament last year, opened Aug. 16 with a 1-0 loss at Gahanna.
"We are very experienced," fourth-year coach Alex Wentz said. "We had a very balanced attack last season and look to do so again this year. Our back line is performing way above expectations right now. We should be very defensively sound. (Senior) Tori Auld is stepping in and playing as a holding midfielder, and she has looked really sharp in preseason. Snode is a rock in (goal)."
According to Wentz, Sanders, who has committed to Eastern Kentucky, is believed to be the program's first Division I commit.
Davis had a team-high 10 goals last year and Edwards scored eight.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Caiti Auld (defender) and Gwyneth Dunbar (defender), juniors Kylee Boss (midfielder), Holly Counts (forward/defender), Kaylee Deshong (defender), Sophia Riddle (midfielder), Molly Webster (defender) and Peyton Willford (defender/goalie) and sophomores Rylie Brackett (defender), Madelyn Frank (goalie), Ashlyn Hurley (forward), Mallory Lassiter (goalie), Payton McKinlay (forward/defender) and Mallory Sullivan (midfielder).
Riddle is expected to miss the entire season because of a knee injury, Wentz said.
The Indians' home opener is Monday, Aug. 26, against Granville. They begin OCC-Capital play Sept. 10 at Big Walnut, which advanced to a Division II state semifinal last year and took the early lead in the league race with a 2-1 win over New Albany in the season opener for both teams Aug. 16.
"We will have to play our best to win the league. If we stay healthy, I think we have the right mentality with our players," Wentz said. "And, of course, we want to go further in the tournament. We can be a district championship team. Our players would love to do that for the first time in our school's history, but I am trying to keep them focused one game at a time."
Below are the coming schedules for the Canal Winchester cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 28 -- Canal Winchester Invitational
Aug. 27 -- Bloom-Carroll at Pine Hill
Aug. 28 -- OCC-Capital at Turnberry
Aug. 28 -- OCC-Central at Mentel Memorial
Aug. 22 -- At Grove City
Aug. 24 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central
Aug. 27 -- At Westland
Aug. 26 -- Home vs. Granville
Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Westland
*Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Big Walnut
*Aug. 27 -- At Groveport
Aug. 28 -- At Granville
Aug. 22 -- At Lancaster
Aug. 27 -- At Westland