Westerville South girls soccer coach Mark Wise has been pleased with his players' work ethic as the Wildcats work to improve on last season's 5-11-1 finish.
However, with 15 players on varsity and 18 on junior varsity, he's hoping to see those numbers increase.
"I like the skill and the capability that we have," said Wise, who is in his sixth season. "We're a little low in numbers as always, but what we have is quality kids. It's always better to have a bigger pool of players to choose from. When you have larger numbers, you can develop some more internal competition."
The Wildcats opened Aug. 16 by playing the first of two games this season against Westerville North, dropping a 3-0 non-league decision at home. Sophomore goalkeeper Trinity Gonzalez had 17 saves.
The teams will meet again Oct. 3 in a league contest at North.
Last season, the Wildcats went 1-4 in the OCC-Buckeye to tie Westerville Central for fifth behind champion Olentangy (5-0).
"This is always going to be a tough division," Wise said. "All of the Olentangy schools will always be strong. They have a lot of numbers up there. They have a lot of kids playing club soccer and they're going to be tough groups. We're still hopeful that we'll shock a few people every once in a while with our hard work, tactics and team play."
A key returnee is senior defender Samantha Varney, who is in her third season as a starter.
"I really look forward to this time of the year," she said. "I feel a lot closer to the varsity players than I ever have been and I feel we're more unified as a team this year than we ever have been, so that makes me excited to play. I'm with a team that I know really well. We make jokes and have a lot of fun together."
Also back are seniors Ruthie Curry (midfielder), Kayla Kozik (forward), Mae Riggs (midfielder), Savannah Roush (defender) and Emma Secrest (defender).
Gonzalez replaces 2019 graduate Jenna Villacres, who was named second-team all-league last season and is playing at Murray State.
"It's different not having Jenna back there," Wise said. "I feel that Trinity can do a pretty good job. She's young and will make some mistakes, but I will also have her for three more years."
Other players are senior Sunny Weisenberger (midfielder), sophomores Anna Deichert (midfielder), Alleah Ebbinghaus (defender), Brooke Holloway (midfielder), Ellise Riggs (midfielder) and Hannah Thompson (midfielder) and freshmen Ava Kellar (midfielder) and Allie Kotik (goalie).
South also is looking to replace forward Deja Edwards, who was first-team all-district and all-league last season and now is playing at Indiana Wesleyan.
Boys soccer team opens with win
The boys soccer team opened Aug. 16 by defeating host North 1-0 in an OCC-Buckeye contest.
Junior midfielder/forward Nick Lovell scored off an assist from senior midfielder Anthony Vilardo, and sophomore goalie Ethan Gary had nine saves.
Along with Lovell and Vilardo, other key returnees are senior Aidan Braxton (defender), juniors Tate Marcelain (midfielder/forward), Milo McNabb (defender) and Thomas Stathulis (midfielder/defender) and sophomore Henry Hutchinson (midfielder).
Other players are seniors Sean Hagan (defender) and Eugene Ofosu (midfielder/forward), sophomores Caden Carfagna (defender), Anwar Hayow (midfielder), Aristote Kaka (midfielder/forward), Jackson Miller (defender), Marcos Ortega (defender/midfielder/forward) and Aidan Sutherland (defender/midfielder/forward) and freshmen Sayid Ahmed (midfielder), Landon Beckwith (defender/midfielder/forward), Johnathan Cheruiyot (defender) and Avery Parker (defender).
"After graduating 16 seniors last year, we have an extremely young team this season," fourth-year coach Wynleux Henderson said. "Our main goals are to focus on doing the little things right, trust the process we have in place, develop a competitive attitude and execute during games."
Last season, South went 7-6-4 overall and 1-2-2 in the OCC-Buckeye to finish fourth behind champion Olentangy Liberty (5-0).
"The OCC-Buckeye is one of the hardest divisions to play in," Henderson said. "All of the Olentangy schools are extremely competitive. Westerville Central and North will be very good this year."
Below are the coming schedules for the South cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 24 -- Pickerington North Classic
Aug. 27 -- OCC-Buckeye at Denison Golf Club
Aug. 28 -- Columbus Academy at Clover Valley
Aug. 22 -- Big Walnut at Bent Tree
Aug. 27 -- Thomas Worthington at Royal American
Aug. 28 -- OCC-Buckeye at Blacklick
Aug. 27 -- At Reynoldsburg
Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne
Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg
*Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Olentangy
*Aug. 27 -- At Olentangy Liberty
Aug. 22 -- At Pickerington Central