The Olentangy Berlin boys soccer team fell one win short of a district title in its inaugural season, leaving the players wanting more.
The Bears finished 7-9-4 overall, losing to Bexley 1-0 in a Division II district final. As good as that might seem, junior defender Kyle Rinehart said it wasn't enough and the loss stuck with the players in the offseason.
"We had a great time during the tournament run, but it forced us to step up," said Rinehart, whose team also went 0-6-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division. "It was a test for our culture and it got us to play for each other. That was nice, but this year we want to win a district title."
To do that, the Bears will have to run the gauntlet in Division I. However, they have the experience to make that type of run.
Berlin returns seven starters, including its defensive corps. Junior Connor Sexton is back at goalkeeper with Rinehart and senior Adam Wiseman in the back.
"(Playing in a district final) set the bar very high for our expectations," said second-year coach Josh Diehl, who was named district Coach of the Year last fall. "We are not content with the success from last year. We need to go out every day and do our best to improve."
The midfield is led by senior Dominic Antronica, who was first-team all-district and all-league last season and scored four goals. Also returning in the midfield are senior Luke Eisenhower (special mention all-league) and juniors Landon Kuhn and Ryan Miller (honorable mention all-league).
Junior midfielder Harrison Bialos and junior forward Austin Corley both had three goals last season. Senior Ethan Cochran and junior Will Harrington, both forwards, also are key scoring threats.
"We will be an attacking-minded team and I anticipate lots of guys contributing to our scoring," Diehl said. "Will Harrington, Dominic Antronica, Austin Corley and Ethan Cochran will be dangerous going forward.
"Ethan is a senior who was out due to injury last year, but he will be a great addition to our attack. Will Harrington has a high work ethic and can make things happen up top."
The Bears opened Aug. 16 by tying Orange at 1 as Rinehart scored and Sexton had three saves. Last season, the teams tied at 2.
Berlin begins OCC-Cardinal play Tuesday, Aug. 27, at home against Dublin Scioto.
"This group daily is striving to make winning habits in all they do," Diehl said. "As a (second-year) program we are still forming our identity and who we want to become. We are working on taking all our strengths and combining them into establishing a solid, cohesive team. This group is very motivated and they are becoming closer to each other every day."
Girls soccer team returns top talent
The girls soccer team returns four all-district performers from its first season.
Senior goalie McKinley Hoffmann made 232 saves last fall to earn first-team all-district and all-league honors as the Bears finished 6-13 overall and 3-4 in the OCC-Cardinal.
Senior forward Sydney Walker (second-team all-district and all-league) had 11 goals and one assist. Senior defender Haley Cera was second-team all-district and special mention all-league, and senior midfielder Olivia Neidhardt (4 goals) was third-team all-district and honorable mention all-league.
"It's our second season and it's nice to have some experience," second-year coach Tara Zimmer said. "We have nine seniors after having none last year, so that's exciting. All nine seniors played on varsity last season."
Rounding out the senior class are midfielder Cara Susey and defenders Ruth Pfeiffer, Aneesha Rockwell, Sydney Sainey and Hannah Wilt.
Junior midfielder Sarah Cain and junior forward Ashley Kerekes also return.
"I like the leadership that we have," Zimmer said. "Last year we were building a culture and the leadership set the tone last year, and that continues."
The Bears opened Aug. 16 with a 2-0 loss to Orange as Hoffmann had 16 saves. They begin league play Tuesday, Aug. 27, at Scioto.
"I think we learned (last fall) that the schedule was tough and we didn't have a lot of experience," Zimmer said. "We have the experience this year and still have a tough schedule. We don't have excuses this year. Our expectations and standards are higher this year."
Below are the coming schedules for the Berlin cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 24 -- Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North
Aug. 24 -- Home vs. New Albany
Aug. 26 -- Bob Pritchard Memorial Invitational at Moundbuilders
Aug. 28 -- OCC-Cardinal at Darby Creek
Aug. 22 -- Orange at Royal American
Aug. 28 -- OCC-Cardinal at Royal American
Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Whitehall
*Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto
Aug. 22 -- At New Albany
*Aug. 27 -- At Scioto
*Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome
*Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington
Aug. 28 -- Home vs. Westerville North
*Aug. 22 -- At Hilliard Bradley
*Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Jerome