A slow start didn't prevent the Westerville North girls soccer team from reaching a Division I district final last fall in its first season under coach Ricky Konkolewski.
The Warriors started 2-8-1 but won seven of their next eight contests entering a district final against Watterson. They lost to the Eagles 3-0 to finish 9-10-1 overall, but gained confidence that has carried over to this season.
"From the beginning of (last) season, we were really rocky," senior defender Nia Hassey said. "We played together and worked as a team and started to pass the ball around more and the goals came to us."
The Warriors started strongly this year, defeating Westerville South 3-0 on Aug. 16 in a non-league contest. Sophomore forward Alison Rothmann scored twice and junior forward Mikayla Parry added a goal.
North won its second contest, also by shutout, 2-0 over DeSales on Aug. 19.
"We have high expectations of taking district," said Konkolewski, whose program last won a district title in 2007. "Going to the district final was great for us. The girls know they could be good, but they want to get better.
"We feel we have a top-10 program and feel we could be competitive. We lost to good teams last year by a goal, and we should be able to do better this year."
The Warriors return several players who contributed to the district-final run, including Hassey, Parry (special mention all-league; team-leading 6 goals, 2 assists) and Rothmann (3 goals, 1 assist). Also back are seniors Hannah Cripe (first-team all-league; 5 goals, 4 assists), Riley Nolder and Alyssa Wright and sophomore Sophie Bordron in the midfield, senior defenders Allie Balasico, Emily Kellar and Melissa Szwaranskyj and senior goalkeeper Abby Markley (honorable mention all-league).
"I think we have good leadership," Konkolewski said. "The entire senior class has high expectations. We had a hard summer and everyone was there. This group is really close and plays so well together."
North tied Olentangy Liberty for third (2-3) in the OCC-Buckeye Division last season behind champion Olentangy (5-0).
"Coach wants us to play as a team, move as a unit and play strong defensively," said Hassey, whose team begins OCC-Buckeye play Sept. 10 against Westerville Central. "We have to work on our shooting and keep getting better."
Davidson returns to boys soccer program
Noah Davidson is working to rebuild the boys soccer program.
The 2004 North graduate played on the program's last Division I state championship team in 2003. He was an assistant at New Albany the past four seasons.
The Warriors finished 1-12-4 overall and 0-2-3 in the OCC-Buckeye last fall.
"The first thing we have been focusing on is the culture and the expectation to support each other and do things for each other," Davidson said. "They need to be supporting each other by showing up on time and giving it all they have got in workouts. They have had a good attitude and they are being positive."
Senior defender Austin Bealer, senior midfielder/def-ender Jacob Grant, senior midfielder Jacob Gruber, senior forward Owen Thompson and junior goalie Sam Olson are the top returnees.
Forward Suber Hassan, defender Rhyse Martin and goalie Drew Wright round out the seven-player senior class.
North opened Aug. 16 by losing to South 1-0 in OCC-Buckeye play.
"We have had strong leadership from the upperclassmen in leading the younger kids by example," Davidson said. "They are putting in the work that they need to be doing and not asking teammates to do things they wouldn't do.
"It was such a rough couple years (combined 2-27-5) for them, and they are eager to buy into things as a unit. If they listen to the coaches, good things can happen."
Below are the coming schedules for the North cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 24 -- Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North
Aug. 22 -- Dublin Scioto at Royal American
Aug. 27 -- OCC-Buckeye at Denison Golf Club
Aug. 28 -- Reynoldsburg at Royal American
Aug. 22 -- Delaware and Thomas Worthington at Rolling Meadows
Aug. 26 -- Hilliard Bradley at Raymond Memorial
Aug. 28 -- OCC-Buckeye at Blacklick Woods
Aug. 22 -- At Hilliard Darby
Aug. 27 -- At Upper Arlington
Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Big Walnut
Aug. 27 -- Home vs. UA
*Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
*Aug. 27 -- At Olentangy
Aug. 28 -- At Olentangy Berlin
Aug. 22 -- At Marysville
Aug. 24 -- At Marion Harding
Aug. 27 -- At UA