Coming off the program's first district title since 2010, the Westerville Central boys soccer team is looking to create more memories this season.
The Warhawks defeated Dublin Scioto 1-0 in double overtime to win a Division I district championship before losing to Olentangy Liberty 3-0 in a regional semifinal to finish 11-9-1 overall.
Central went 2-3 in the OCC-Buckeye Division to finish third behind champion Liberty (5-0), which lost 4-0 to Cleveland St. Ignatius in the state championship game.
The Warhawks are now competing in the OCC-Ohio with Gahanna, Grove City, New Albany, Pickerington North and Westland.
Central opens league play at home against North on Tuesday, Sept. 15.
"I said for years that our goals are to win the OCC, get into a district championship and then anything can happen from there," said coach Dave Pence, who is in his 18th season. "We've been pretty good through the years in accomplishing a lot of those goals. Our goals are the same. This team has a lot of potential. We just have to get into our groove."
The Warhawks opened the season by losing three of their first four games.
Central defeated Watkins Memorial 1-0 on Aug. 29 before falling to Worthington Kilbourne (1-0 on Aug. 21), Westerville North (2-0 on Aug. 25) and Upper Arlington (2-0 on Sept. 1). Senior forward Kyle Stewart scored against Watkins Memorial.
Junior goalie Jack Fowler, a returnee, had three saves.
Pence expects Fowler and senior Sam Rojanasakdakul to split time in goal, and the defense in front of them will be led by senior Enrique Monzalvo, who was first-team all-league last season.
Junior midfielder Aidan Nowell was second-team all-league, and senior midfielder Rollie Crawford is another key returnee.
"We talk about last season a lot," Crawford said. "At practice we talk about topping what we did last year, so that's one of our goals and something that we look forward to that we're trying to reach and get to that point again."
Also back are seniors Matt Alloway (forward), Dylan Bertelsen (goalie), Patrick Curran (midfielder) and Jack Gontkovic (midfielder) and juniors Jack Bumbico (midfielder), Abdi Mohamud (forward), Jack Roberts (defender), Gabe Schuck (midfielder), Nathan Seabury (midfielder) and Trent Wendling (defender).
Central lost a key player when junior midfielder Brad Leonard suffered a left ACL injury during summer basketball. He was first-team all-league and second-team all-district a year ago.
Other players are seniors Pete Achigbue (forward) and Andrew Morrison (midfielder), junior Liam Kallay (midfielder) and sophomore T.R. Hope (defender).
"We have some depth this year, which is something we're not used to having," Pence said. "There's a lot of competition in practices. It will be week-to-week what our starting lineup will be."
Warriors looking to carry over momentum
After winning just once in 2018, North posted a 9-6-3 record last season.
Second-year coach Noah Davidson said his players have been working hard to continue the upward trend.
"When I came here, the teams would win one or two games a season, and we wanted to change the idea that Westerville North was a 'gimme game,' " said Davidson, whose team finished sixth (0-4-1) in the OCC-Buckeye last year. "We have a very hard-working group. They had a little bit of success last year and hope to build on that. They're focused on what they need to do to improve."
Seniors Jordan Bossman (forward), Cam Coughlin (midfielder), Logan Dowling (goalie) and Ryan Slate (forward) and juniors Drew Cooper (midfielder), Max Scholl (midfielder/defender) and Nick Tener (defender) are returning starters.
Also seeing varsity action last season were seniors Evan McWhorter (midfielder/forward) and Noah Robertson (midfielder/forward) and juniors Carlo Ceckitti (midfielder/defender) and Alex Lowrey (forward).
"Our midfield might be one of the strongest in the area with Cam Coughlin, Ryan Slate and Drew Cooper," Davidson said. "They all fit well together and are skilled players who play with high-level club teams."
Scholl and Tener anchor the defense in front of Dowling.
"The guys on defense are strong and fit and are soccer junkies," Davidson said. "They're always watching and willing to learn."
The Warriors opened with non-league wins over Gahanna (1-0 on Aug. 21) and Central (2-0 on Aug. 27) then defeated Franklin Heights 2-0 on Sept. 1 in their OCC-Capital opener.
The league also includes Westerville South, Big Walnut, Canal Winchester, Delaware, Scioto, Franklin Heights and Kilbourne.
"This is my second year and we've started the foundation of a culture," Davidson said. "They're understanding that this is a program that we try to build up to compete with the best schools in the area."
Wildcats hope to improve on last year
South is looking to improve on a 2-12-3 record from a year ago, when it also went 1-3-1 in the OCC-Buckeye to finish fifth.
"South is where the heart is," said coach Wynleux Henderson, who is in his fifth season. "Westerville is home for me. There's no place I'd rather be. I had no plans on leaving after last season. Teams are always going to have down years and it's about how we can respond. Our guys are doing a really good job responding to the adversity."
South is competing in the OCC-Capital with Westerville North, Big Walnut, Canal Winchester, Delaware, Scioto, Franklin Heights and Kilbourne.
"We're going to be traveling a lot this year," Henderson said. "We're spread out a lot, but our OCC is still a competitive one. There's great teams in it (such as) Worthington Kilbourne. Westerville North is going to be tough. Dublin Scioto is tough. We're expecting to compete in it. Delaware is another good game. Canal Winchester has a new coach (in Cody Thomas and it's) always a tough environment to play at."
The Wildcats, who opened league play with a 2-0 loss at Scioto on Sept. 1, defeated Central Crossing 3-0 on Aug. 21 and Reynoldsburg 5-1 on Aug. 27. They also played Hilliard Darby to a scoreless tie Aug. 25.
Senior forward Nick Lovell, who was first-team all-league and third-team all-district, is back to lead the offense, while junior goalie Ethan Gary was honorable mention all-league.
Also back are seniors Tate Marcelain (defender), Milo McNabb (defender) and Thomas Stathulis (midfielder), juniors Caden Carfagna (defender), Henry Hutchinson (midfielder) and Jackson Miller (defender) and sophomores Sayed Ahmed (defender), Landon Beckwith (forward), Jonathan Cheruiyot (defender), Avery Parker (midfielder) and Aiden Sutherland (defender/forward).
The roster also includes seniors Solomon Jumu (defender), Nkhondo Lungu (forward/midfielder), Isaac Smith (goalie) and Donovan Urquilla (midfielder), juniors Daniel Kahssai (defen-der) and Jason Karanja (midfielder), sophomore Nikita Kitaev (midfielder) and freshmen Samuel Agyemang (forward), Raul Diaz (def-ender) and Cheick Tounkara (forward).
"We talk about playing every game with a perfect effort and not worrying about what the next day is going to bring because we don't control it," Henderson said. "The guys have done a really good job. They're playing really well, playing with a sense of pride that is really fun to watch."
Stallions look to learn from early losses
As DeSales cooled down after a 1-0 season-opening home loss to Worthington Kilbourne on Aug. 25, coach Domenic Romanelli watched from the sidelines and pondered how the season would play out.
A handful of Stallions missed the game because of injuries or other factors, including three expected starters in seniors Alex Hatcher (defender) and Oscar Marquez-Trejo (forward/midfielder) and junior Ethan Lusenhop (midfielder).
Three underclassmen started and a fourth saw playing time, something Romanelli expects will pay off down the road as DeSales hopes to make another deep postseason run in Division II after spending last year in Division I.
"I think we'll be OK. I don't think we're going to walk through (Division II) for sure, but we need to stay healthy. We have to find the right combinations," said Romanelli, who is in his 14th season.
"We all want to win. Sometimes we may not be patient, but we'll be OK."
DeSales, which finished 14-4-1 last season, fell to 0-2 with a 3-1 loss at Granville on Sept. 1.
Romanelli called junior midfielder Andrew Shaffer "the guy we'll go to" offensively in the wake of losing 35 goals to graduation between Jack Francisco (19 goals, 8 assists in 2019) and Will Shaffer (16 goals, 12 assists). Francisco now is at Capital and Shaffer signed with Wright State.
Andrew Shaffer's nine goals and 11 assists last year were best among all returning players.
The Stallions had won five consecutive district championships, all in Division II, before losing to Dublin Jerome 3-2 (4-2 shootout) in a district semifinal last fall.
"Andrew can't do it all, though," Romanelli said. "We'll figure out who else will be an offensive threat as we go. We'll need guys to step up."
Senior goalie Gabe Weikert also is back, leading a group of returnees that includes seniors Vigo Bertolo (defender) and Nick Kennedy (midfielder), juniors Alex Shaffer (midfielder) and Andy Shoemaker (defender) and sophomore Zack Rennie (midfielder).
Marquez-Trejo is recovering from a torn ACL and might return this season, according to Romanelli.
Rounding out the roster are seniors J.J. Baughman (goalie), Gibran Cuevas (defender) and Kaeden Fox (defender), juniors Marcus Berger (midfielder), Ryan Gustafson (defender), Alejandro Martinez (defender) and Jack Stonis (forward), sophomores Ryan DeStefanis (midfielder) and Yair Perez-Gonzalez (forward) and freshman Luca Romanelli (defender).
Romanelli is the coach's nephew.
DeSales began CCL play Sept. 8 at Hartley.
Other highlights of the schedule include a Sept. 17 visit to last year's Division I state runner-up, Olentangy Liberty, and a Sept. 22 game at St. Charles, which is going for its fourth CCL championship in five years.
"You learn from these games. (Close losses) are hard to take, but I am proud of them," coach Romanelli said after the loss to Kilbourne. "We're excited to be back down where we belong. We have a heavy Division I-oriented schedule and I hope that doesn't come back to haunt us, but I have to be careful. You don't want to get beat up every night and have that take a toll."
@ThisWeekSportsAt a glance
*Coach: Dave Pence, 18th season
*Top players: Enrique Monzalvo, Aidan Nowell, Sam Rojanasakdakul and Kyle Stewart
*Key losses: Aaron Milliren, Alex Perrini and Tyrone Rukoro
*Last season: 11-9-1 overall
*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Olentangy Liberty (5-0), Olentangy Orange (3-1-1), Westerville Central (2-3), Olentangy (1-1-3), Westerville South (1-3-1), Westerville North (0-4-1)
*2019 postseason: Defeated Hartley 5-0; def. Thomas Worthington 3-2 (OT); def. Pickerington North 3-2; def. Dublin Scioto 1-0 (2OT); lost to Liberty 3-0 in Division I regional semifinal
*Coach: Noah Davidson, second
*Top players: Jordan Bossman, Carlo Ceckitti, Drew Cooper, Cam Coughlin, Logan Dowling, Alex Lowery, Evan McWhorter, Noah Robertson, Max Scholl, Ryan Slate and Nick Tener
*Key losses: Austin Bealer, Jacob Grant, Jacob Gruber, Suber Hassan, Rhyse Martin, Owen Thompson and Drew Wright
*Last season: 9-6-3 overall
*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Liberty (5-0), Orange (3-1-1), Central (2-3), Olentangy (1-1-3), South (1-3-1), North (0-4-1)
*2019 postseason: Def. Hilliard Darby 1-0; lost to Dublin Coffman 1-0 in second round of Division I district tournament
*Coach: Wynleux Henderson, fifth season
*Top players: Ethan Gary, Nick Lowell, Milo McNabb and Thomas Stathulis
*Key losses: Aidan Braxton and Anthony Vilardo
*Last season: 2-12-3 overall
*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Liberty (5-0), Orange (3-1-1), Central (2-3), Olentangy (1-1-3), South (1-3-1), North (0-4-1)
*2019 postseason: Lost to Licking Heights 3-1 in first round of Division I district tournament
*Coach: Domenic Romanelli, 14th season
*Top players: Vigo Bertolo, Alex Hatcher, Andrew Shaffer and Gabe Weikert
*Key losses: Jack Francisco and Will Shaffer
*Last season: 14-4-1 overall
*2019 CCL standings: St. Charles (4-0), DeSales (3-1), Hartley and Watterson (both 1-2-1), Ready (0-4)
*2019 postseason: Defeated Columbus South 9-1; def. Licking Heights 4-0; lost to Dublin Jerome 3-2 (4-2 shootout) in Division I district semifinal