The Groveport Madison boys soccer team is hoping to jell quickly this season.
The Cruisers are coming off a season in which they finished 9-6-3 overall and 2-2-1 in the OCC-Capital Division to tie Big Walnut for third place behind New Albany (5-0) and Canal Winchester (4-1).
However, Groveport was still trying to figure things out under first-year coach Scott Gleason when the season opened Aug. 16 with a 5-3 loss at Reynoldsburg.
"Our team is talented, but we are all still feeling each other out," said Gleason, who coached Central Crossing from 2013-17. "The guys are trying to learn about me and my expectations as I try and learn what roles each players can serve for this team. I believe we are very talented, though, and suited to make a run at an OCC title."
Returnees for the Cruisers include seniors Caleb Dailey (defender), Melvin Escamilla (midfielder), Austin Gautier (defender), Eddie Monroy (goalkeeper) and Austin Snyder (midfielder/forward) and juniors Jeffrey Asamoah (midfielder) and Edward Olusemo (midfielder).
"Austin (Snyder) is our captain and is the best player in central Ohio that a lot of teams don't know about," Gleason said. "He will be instrumental in our success, as will Jeffrey Asamoah in the middle. He must help win balls and be a rock. Melvin is also very talented and will help anchor our midfield."
In the opener, Asamoah was joined by junior Jeffrey Minah in the attacking midfield, with Escamilla at defensive midfielder, Snyder on the left side and sophomore David Pascua on the right side.
Defensively, Dailey was at stopper, with Gautier and junior Foday Camara at center backs. Juniors Mitch Ashburn and Chandler Jones were at right back and left back, respectively, and Monroy was in goal.
"Eddie, our goalkeeper, will also play a huge role on this team," Gleason said. "He's very talented and has the ability to keep us in tough games."
Completing the roster are seniors Austin Evans and Eusebio Manglona, juniors Abdul Ahmed and Calvin Blevins, sophomores Ali Alanfagi and Harris Musungu and freshman Abraham Ochoa.
The Cruisers, who played Ready on Aug. 20, will try to come together quickly.
"We are going to have to hit the ground running because we have five games in 11 days starting with Reynoldsburg," said Gleason, whose team begins league play Sept. 10 at Franklin Heights. "A few of these games are very important in sending a message to central Ohio that we are a formidable opponent.
"The keys for us will be playing together and learning how to mesh as a team as opposed to playing as individuals. We'll go as our leaders go."
Experienced girls team looks for improvement
Having returned 10 letterwinners, including eight starters, the girls soccer team appears to be primed to improve on last season when it finished 4-14 overall and 1-4 in the OCC-Capital.
"We are committed to getting better," third-year coach Mark Coyer said. "We work hard on the practice field and that should translate to better play during games. We just need to keep practicing and playing hard every day."
The returning starters are seniors Alissa Blackstone (goalie), Emilie Sithixay (defender) and Sydney Wermter (forward), juniors Madelyne Brown (defender), Samantha Gray (defender), Jasmine Hylton (midfielder) and Lyla Khanthachack (midfielder) and sophomore Shelby DeMatteo (defender).
Khanthachack was named first-team all-league last season and Sithixay was on the second team.
"Lyla will need to be touching the ball a lot for us on offense," Coyer said. "She is everything you want in a player. She's intelligent, a hard worker, a very good player and a great person."
Blackstone was special mention all-league a year ago and DeMatteo was honorable mention.
"Alissa is ready to have her best year in goal as she finishes her high school career," Coyer said. "She leads by example on and off the field and is a captain for us."
Expected to join the returnees in the lineup are senior Melanie Torres (midfielder) and freshmen Nicole Mohler (midfielder) and Mirielle Wall (forward).
The other returning letterwinners are juniors Veronica Bumgardner (defender) and Grace Marquis (goalie).
Completing the roster are senior Maimouna Ba (forward), juniors Diana Licea (midfielder) and Tristelle Wall (defender), sophomores Kyra Fulton (defender) and Braylee Moore (forward) and freshman Katelyn Gray (forward).
"For us to have success, we need to have our seniors leading the team in a positive way," Coyer said. "We need to stay healthy and continue putting in the work."
The Cruisers opened Aug. 16 with a 13-0 loss to Reynoldsburg. They begin league play Sept. 10 at home against Franklin Heights.
Below are the coming schedules for the Groveport Madison cross country, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 24 -- Panther Classic at Pickerington North
Aug. 28 -- OCC-Capital at Turnberry
Aug. 22 -- At Delaware
Aug. 24 -- Home vs. Teays Valley
Aug. 27 -- At Pickerington North
Aug. 22 -- At Columbus School for Girls
Aug. 24 -- At Teays Valley
Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Pickerington North
Aug. 20 -- At Lancaster
*Aug. 22 -- At Franklin Heights
*Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester
*Aug. 24 -- At Canal Winchester
*Aug. 26 -- Home vs. New Albany
Aug. 28 -- Home vs. Whetstone