As a first-year program with no seniors last fall, the Olentangy Berlin girls soccer team was looking for leaders.

Coach Tara Zimmer awarded the captain's armband to three players who had competed on varsity as sophomores at Olentangy. Those three -- goalkeeper McKinley Hoffmann, midfielder Olivia Neidhardt and forward Sydney Walker -- have helped to build a culture for the program.

The Bears are 8-6 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Cardinal Division. Last season, they finished 6-13 overall and 3-4 in the league.

"I think we're better confidence-wise not only because we have a year under our belts, but I think it's really that we're so much stronger together," Hoffmann said. "Last year, it was different because it was a new school and there were new people that we had never really played with before. This year, we have a year together, we have so much fun together and we play well together. That's the big difference."

Berlin defeated Hilliard Darby 3-1 on Sept. 24, tying the Bears and Panthers in the league standings, a game behind co-leaders Dublin Jerome and Hilliard Bradley, both of which are 4-1.

Junior forward Ashley Kerekes scored two goals and freshman forward Cameryn Susey scored the third. Hoffmann had 18 saves.

"I don't know if it's that we learned a lot as much as it's that we have (nine) seniors this year," said Walker, who has a team-high 12 goals. "We wear the captain's label, but it's not just us three. I hear (senior defender) Haley (Cera) talking a lot to everybody. We all really support each other."

Neidhardt said everyone has an extra year of experience, which is the benefit of not losing any players to graduation.

"Last year, it was mainly just us three who had varsity experience and so now everyone has more experience," said Neidhardt, who also competes in track and field. "They know what to expect and can play with more confidence. In addition to that, we have a few freshmen who have come in and really helped us out."

Zimmer said not only is the team playing well, but it is playing well in all phases of the game.

"We have played well as a team," she said. "It's not that the offense is having great games, but the defense is also doing what they should be. I think it goes all across the board, and that's what's been getting wins for us. That's focusing game by game as a unit."

Hoffmann said the team has taken cues from someone who knows about winning: former Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer.

"One of the things we have been talking about is what we learned from listening to Urban Meyer's podcast called 'Win the Moment,'" said Hoffmann, who has a 4.23 GPA, scored a perfect 36 on her ACT and wants to play soccer and study chemical engineering in college. "That's one of our big goals now. We're starting to focus on each moment, each play, each 50-50 ball, each pass. Yeah, we want to win the game, but we also have to win the little moments to get there."

Walker wants to study nursing at Ohio University, but doesn't plan to play at the next level.

"I decided not to play club this year and I decided not to play in college so this is the last of everything for me," she said. "I want to make the most of every moment I have."

Last season, the Bears reached a Division II district semifinal, where they lost to Granville 7-1. This year, they play in Division I and will learn their district draw Sunday, Oct. 6.

"I don't know if (moving up to Division I) will have an effect on us because we have played Division I teams in our league for the past couple of years," Neidhardt said. "We're used to playing them and we're ready to take on the teams at a higher level."

Boggess takes second in Bear Den Dash

Meghan Boggess led the girls cross country team in the home Bear Den Dash on Sept. 28, finishing as runner-up (19 minutes, 41.1 seconds) to Lancaster's Megan Ward (19:04.5).

The Bears placed third (55 points) of six teams behind Lancaster (46) and Westrville Central (52).

Katie Balthaser (eighth, 20:07.2), Rebecca Koppelman (13th, 20:52.6), Ada Freeman (19th, 21:29.9) and Grace Dahlke (20th, 21:30.5) also scored.

Corey Rinehart was sixth (16:56.5) to lead the boys, who finished fourth (127) of nine teams behind champion Upper Arlington (55).

Also scoring were Calvin Davies (27th, 17:37.1), Jack Dunlop (33rd, 17:50.5), Jacob Reitz (36th, 17:56.0) and Grant Schrieber (38th, 17:59.7).

Franz earns top seed in tennis sectional

Sophomore Ella Franz of the girls tennis team received the top seed for a Division I sectional Thursday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 5, at Pickerington Central.

The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district Oct. 10 and 12 at Reynoldsburg.

Juniors Emma Reger and Sydney Webb also will play singles. Senior Vidya Puttagunta and junior Janna Harris are seeded fourth in doubles, and seniors Maddie Reger and Maggie Torlone comprise the other doubles team.

The Bears were 13-8 after losing to Watterson 4-1 on Sept. 30.

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Berlin field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:

FIELD HOCKEY

*Oct. 7 -- Home vs. Liberty

*Oct. 9 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome

BOYS GOLF

Oct. 2 -- Competed in Division I sectional at Turnberry. The top four teams and top four individuals not on those teams advanced to district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.

Oct. 5 -- Wedgewood Showcase at Wedgewood

GIRLS GOLF

Oct. 1 -- Competed in Division I sectional at Royal American. The top three teams and top three individuals not on those teams advanced to district Oct. 8 at New Albany Links.

BOYS SOCCER

*Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne

Oct. 8 -- Home vs. Fairbanks

GIRLS SOCCER

*Oct. 3 -- At Kilbourne

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Oct. 8 -- At Westerville Central

*League contest