The Hilliard Darby boys soccer team has been dealing with a lot of injuries, especially on its back line.
Couple that with an increase in strength of schedule and that equals a very difficult regular season for the Panthers.
"I don't know if we've had a consistent starting 11 all year with injuries and everything else creeping up," coach Kyle Reichle said. "We've really been in every game playing some of the top teams in the state."
Darby was 3-9 overall before playing St. Charles on Oct. 1 and is 1-3 in the OCC-Cardinal Division entering a game Thursday, Oct. 3, at Thomas Worthington. The Panthers had lost seven of their previous eight games before facing St. Charles.
"I'd like to see us play well (heading into the postseason)," Reichle said. "I'm not necessarily too worried about the results. I would like to get wins, but just playing our brand of soccer ... when we play like that, we look really good.
"We focus on results and winning. That's what every team's goal is: to win. But you've got to focus on the details, you've got to focus on the process to get to that win. I think if we play our specific way, our specific brand, I think that's what'll get us the wins in the end."
Senior forward Luke Lassiter missed time with an injury, but had three of his team-high four assists in a 3-1 win over Big Walnut on Sept. 19. The Panthers followed up that win with a 2-1 loss to Olentangy Berlin in league play Sept. 24 and a 3-1 loss to Grove City on Sept. 26.
Through 12 games, senior midfielder/forward Zach Jasper led Darby with six goals and an assist and sophomore midfielder Wassim Metatla had three goals.
But it's been hard for the Panthers to piece together a consistent lineup. At one point, three of their six players on the back line were sidelined.
"(Junior defender Brandon) Reynard has probably been the guy that's provided us with the most consistency," Reichle said. "He had to miss one game due to illness, but he's probably provided us the most minutes throughout the year."
Junior goalkeeper Brian Watkins had 75 saves through 12 games.
Girls soccer team also battling injuries
The girls soccer team also has been battling the injury bug, especially early in the season.
The Panthers were finally healthy Sept. 26 when they defeated Grove City 3-1 behind goals from Naomi Walters, Maddy Leone and Sydney Thomas. Briana Turner and Alexis Stewart both saw time in goal, with Turner making four saves and Stewart making two.
"We were down 1-0 at halftime," coach Kelsey Prichard said. "Honestly, it came down to will and effort. We were just ready to go and had three unanswered goals and kept possession in the second half and just played really well."
Darby was 6-6 overall before playing Olentangy on Oct. 1 and is 3-2 in the OCC-Cardinal.
Turner and Stewart both missed time this season with ankle injuries. Turner returned to the lineup for the game against Grove City, but suffered a finger injury and had to leave the game.
"It was the same finger she had had surgery on this summer," Prichard said. "That position is a little rough, unfortunately. Hopefully, it's not severe and just some time off will help that."
Carli Rigel (leg), Leone (leg) and Zayna Hampton (ankle) all missed a handful of games early in the season because of injury.
Through 12 games, Walters had 11 goals and Leone had five assists.
"(Walters) is super-fast and she's super-strong," Prichard said. "She's just very, very athletic, so she does a really good job of getting past people. We also have some playmakers that play behind her and beside her that set her up pretty well."
The Panthers close out the regular season with league games Thursday, Oct. 3, at home against Thomas Worthington and Oct. 10 at Hilliard Bradley and a non-league game Tuesday, Oct. 8, at home against Marysville.
"We're going in with a mindset that we can be successful because we have been successful," Prichard said. "We're focusing on us, doing what we need to do and playing the whole 80 minutes."
Girls tennis team set for sectional
The girls tennis team was 5-10 overall before closing the regular season Oct. 1 against Grove City.
The Panthers, who finished 2-5 in the OCC-Cardinal, posted two wins last week, defeating Westerville North 4-1 on Sept. 24 and Central Crossing 5-0 on Sept. 26.
"Our record is not reflective. We are getting better," coach Shawn Morris said. "Our conference schedule is one of the more difficult ones. We're an awfully young team. We only have one senior, so we're still building."
The Panthers are set to compete in a Division I sectional Thursday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 5, at Bradley. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district Oct. 10 and 12 at Reynoldsburg.
Allison Nolan, Hallie Zacatelco and Jordan Caple will be playing singles at sectional, while Nidhi Patel and Lexie Mincy will compete in doubles, as will Mckenzie Robertson and Chantrea Thip.
According to Morris, Patel has led the Panthers.
"She strokes the ball well," Morris said. "You can tell each shot has purpose. She's grown from just getting the ball back in play to having a purpose with that ball. There's a lot of strategy that she's implemented this year."
Below are the coming schedules for the Darby boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 1 -- Competed in Division I sectional at Darby Creek. The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.
Oct. 1 -- Competed in Division I sectional at Royal American. The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 8 at New Albany.
*Oct. 3 -- At Thomas Worthington
Oct. 8 -- At Marysville
*Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington
Oct. 8 -- Home vs. Marysville
*Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington