The Bexley girls soccer team plans to go on the attack this fall.
The Lions return seven starters from last season, when they finished 12-5-2 overall and tied Grandview for second (6-2) in the MSL-Ohio Division behind Columbus Academy (8-0).
The returnees include Bexley's top three scorers from a year ago in junior forwards Grace Heilman (13 goals, 4 assists) and Ava Joseph (6 goals, 5 assists) and senior forward Aly Cox (honorable mention all-league; 6 goals, 3 assists).
"Our attacking is probably our strength because we have a really strong offense," second-year coach Scott James said. "We return a lot of forwards and attacking midfielders who will be able to provide offense."
The other four returning starters are senior defender Brooke Cowan, junior midfielder Sydney Tyler, junior goalie Katie Jude (second-team all-league; 69 saves) and sophomore forward Sofie Sheridan.
"I feel like we're hungry to win," Cowan said. "We have a positive energy. Everyone on the team is excited to play with each other and we're like a big family."
The play of Jude in goal should help offset the fact that Cowan is the lone returning defensive starter.
"Katie has fantastic hands and amazing footwork," James said. "She only gave up 16 goals all of last year, four coming in the league and only one against Division II opponents, which came in a 1-0 loss to Bloom-Carroll in the district semifinal. She makes sure the defenders are organized and where they need to be. We can rely on her a lot.
"Our back line has to get stronger. We only return Brooke on the back line. We have some players with some varsity experience, but they need to communicate better."
James said he also expects scoring production from senior midfielder Maddy Young and freshman forward Isabel Niermeyer.
"Grace broke out for us last year and she has to work more for goals and I think she can," James said. "But they just can't key on Grace because they still have to worry about Aly, Isabel and Sydney Tyler and Maddy Young."
Bexley had issues during the preseason because of COVID-19 coronavirus protocols. The Lions were not sure if they would have a season before the school board decided Aug. 21 to allow the program to continue playing.
The Lions opened Sept. 5 with a league game against Zanesville Rosecrans.
"I think one positive (from the situation) is that we have had to kind of focus on goal-setting for the season," Cowan said. "There are a lot of things that we weren't able to do and we had to build our fitness kind of leading up to everything. That gave us some time to focus on what we really want to do this season since we weren't able to get out there and get a head start."
Unicorns feature strong returnees
Genelle Castro believes her Columbus School for Girls squad will continue to make strides in her second season as coach.
The Unicorns return eight key players after finishing 7-9-2 overall and 2-6 in the MSL-Ohio a season ago.
Seniors Leah Giller (forward/midfield) and Eva Nicolosi (defender; second-team all-league), juniors Carly Priest (midfielder) and Emma Spangler (goalie; honorable mention all-league) and sophomore Annie Wagenbrenner (defender) all earned starts last season. Junior Allie Renshaw and sophomores Carmen Albrecht and Claudia Jones all alternated in as defensive midfielders.
"I feel good about the girls I have back, especially on defense and in the midfield," Castro said. "I feel really good about my defense. Eva Nicolosi is our last player in the back, and she is a senior and a heck of a leader. I have complete confidence with her in the back."
Albrecht should be a scoring threat along with freshmen midfielders Zella Lamaze, Avery Miller and Allie Salamon.
"We're toying with a lot of options," Castro said. "Carmen has been a central midfielder, but she has put a few away. That's something we have been looking for her to do in the last couple years. We want to increase her opportunities.
"Zella has a lot of confidence around the goal, and she will take the shot. Avery Miller has a cannon, plays high-level club and can help our attack even from the defensive midfield position. Allie Salamon is a defender, but we want to move her into more of an offensive position."
The Unicorns opened by tying Buckeye Valley at 1 on Aug. 31 in MSL-Ohio play. Freshman forward Jameson Pillifant scored and Spangler had five saves.