The Upper Arlington boys soccer team fell short of two of its top goals within a three-game stretch to end last season, but coach Kevin Donovan and his players are using that as motivation for getting over the hump in both the OCC-Central Division race and the Division I district tournament.
The Golden Bears did not lose a game in the OCC-Central last year, going 8-5-3 overall and 3-0-2 in the league, but couldn't hold a 2-0 lead against Dublin Coffman, tying the Shamrocks at 2 in a game that decided the league title.
Eleven days later, UA fell to Thomas Worthington 3-2 (5-4 on penalty kicks) in the second round of the district tournament.
"This is the last year before (OCC) realignment, so we want to finish on top," said Donovan, whose third season began Aug. 16 with a 5-0 home win over Westerville Central. "We want to be a team that makes a district final and is able to sustain and repeat that feat year after year.
"Historically, we have been a competitive program during the season that hasn't found what it takes to make a deep playoff run. We have challenged this year's group to get to (a district final) and spoken with our (junior varsity) group about doing it again next year."
UA returns three starters in seniors Joe Cannon (defender) and Anthony Reisman (forward/midfielder) and junior Sergio Ly (midfielder) and must compensate for the graduation of forward Fernando Dapino, who scored a team-high 17 goals and was named second-team all-state last year. Donovan called that his team's biggest challenge offensively.
"We will have some versatility in our attack that will make it difficult for teams to key in on one guy," Donovan said. "I think we have a more talented group on the whole than last year, but we are a little younger. We should also be much improved both attacking and defending set pieces this year, as that is an area we were not very good at last year.
"The key will be for our attack to try to get into a good rhythm early in the season, which is always the last thing to come around it seems like. We have some scrappy defenders in our back line and our midfield that should keep us in most games, but we will need to be consistent in terms of creating and taking our goal-scoring opportunities."
Junior forward Alex Woods had two goals against Central, half of his total of four from last year, which was second on the team behind Dapino. Ly and junior forward/midfielder Perry Stevenson both scored three goals a year ago.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Justin Menke (midfielder), Nicholas Mullins (forward), Michael Reisman (defender), Jonny Studley (defender) and Kenneth Trinh (forward), juniors Matthew Acock (forward), Nate Erre (defender), Tyler Grimm (midfielder), Alex Kennedy (defender), Sam Milburn (defender), Mac Scholl (goalkeeper) and Duke Takanashi (midfielder), sophomores Evan D'Herete (defender), Ethan Howe (forward/midfielder) and Zac Yoakam (defender) and freshman Miles Bonham (forward).
Scholl also was one of the starting goalies last spring for the boys lacrosse team, which advanced to a Division I state semifinal.
UA begins OCC-Central play Sept. 10 at Central Crossing. The Bears finished second in the league last year behind the Shamrocks (4-0-1). Those two teams will finish OCC-Central play against each other Oct. 8 at Coffman.
Donovan considered an opening stretch that also included road games Aug. 20 at Olentangy Liberty and Friday, Aug. 23, at Dublin Jerome, key to a successful start. Both Liberty and Jerome won Division I district titles last year and the Patriots lost in a state semifinal.
"If we do get off to a fast start, we could be onto something," Donovan said.
Experience guiding girls soccer team
Fourth-year starting goalie Carolyn Stehle and two third-year starters in seniors Sydney Lape (forward) and Grace Wild (defender) hope to lead the girls soccer team up the OCC-Central standings and toward its first Division I district championship since 2015.
UA also returns its leading scorer in sophomore forward Abby Reisz, who had 19 goals and seven assists and was named second-team all-state last season as the Bears went 11-5-3 overall and 2-1-2 in the league.
"It's a good group with a lot of senior leadership. We're coming into our own," said sixth-year coach Chris Merrick, whose team opened Aug. 20 at home against Liberty. "We've done well possessing the ball and we're playing well out of the back. I think we can take advantage of a lot of opportunities offensively. We can play at a faster level this year and get good reads."
An experienced defense in front of Stehle, who stopped 66 of 80 shots last season, consists of Wild and seniors Ellena Schildmeyer and Katerina Regules. In addition, junior Bailey Farrell got considerable playing time last year.
"(Schildmeyer) is our enforcer in the back. Physically, she's our strongest defender," Merrick said. "Carolyn is the most vocal kid on the field. She keeps everything organized in the back. She's collected, experienced and as solid as they come."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Morgan Clark (forward), Valerie Feller (midfielder/forward), Emily Keyes (forward), Rachel Ooms (midfielder), Annie Reinke (goalie), Abbie Sells (defender), Julianna Schlatter (defender), Izzy Walther (midfielder) and Jackie Yerke (forward), juniors Adiah Bonham (midfielder), Hailie Clark (forward) and Piper Farrell (midfielder) and sophomores Camryn Callaghan (midfielder), Cecilia Dapino (forward) and Sophie Esquinas (forward).
The Bears begin OCC-Central play Sept. 10 at home against Central Crossing. They finished third in the league last season behind champion Coffman (4-0-1).
Of UA's seven home games this season, four take place during a six-game stretch from Sept. 19 to Oct. 10.
The Bears' non-league schedule includes an Aug. 29 game at Watterson, a Division I regional champion last year, and a Sept. 7 visit to defending Division I state champion Beavercreek.
Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis, girls volleyball, boys water polo and girls water polo teams:
Aug. 24 -- Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North
Aug. 24 -- Home vs. Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown
*Aug. 28 -- Home vs. Olentangy Berlin
Aug. 26 -- Elk Invitational at Yankee Trace
Aug. 28 -- OCC-Central at Apple Valley
Aug. 24 -- Fall Open at New Albany Links
Aug. 28 -- OCC-Central at Mentel Memorial
Aug. 23 -- At Dublin Jerome
Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Westerville North
Aug. 24 -- At Sylvania Southview
Aug. 27 -- At Westerville North
*Aug. 22 -- At Central Crossing
Aug. 24 -- Canfield Doubles Tournament
*Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson
Aug. 22 -- At Olentangy
Aug. 24 -- At New Albany with Worthington Kilbourne
Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Westerville North
BOYS WATER POLO
Aug. 23-24 -- Mason Invitational
GIRLS WATER POLO
Aug. 24 -- Cincinnati Princeton Invitational