Third-year Thomas Worthington girls soccer coach Jeff Sever said this season has been challenging at times because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
However, the Cardinals have been resilient as they work to find their footing.
"The girls have fight. They're not quitting," Sever said. "Even though it's been a rough start from an organizational standpoint, every game we've gotten better from a structural standpoint. It's really good to see that. Now, it's just a matter of the details and becoming more disciplined throughout the entire 80 minutes of the game.
"Once we put that together, we'll be perfectly fine going forward."
The Cardinals lost six players to graduation after finishing 6-8-3 overall and 1-3-3 in the OCC-Cardinal Division a year ago. But they return a promising group of seniors, including last season's leading scorer in Claire Sever, a senior forward/midfielder who accounted for 11 of the team's 25 goals.
Other key players in the midfield include seniors Grace Florence and Jazmine Rogers. Florence also plays forward.
Seniors Ella Tyler and Tatum Snyder and sophomore Eleanor DeMartini make up the core of the defense, while junior Olivia Ankrom and senior Julie Riell will rotate at goalie in place of 2020 graduate Brooke Ackley.
Sever said junior midfielders Molly Bruck and Allison Marielli and junior defender Dani Curtiss also will see playing time.
"I think we have a great group of girls," Snyder said. "We all have really good chemistry and we're able to work together and read each other on the field. Hopefully that'll be an advantage for us."
Sever said while the start to the season has been challenging, the Cardinals hope to hit their stride entering the Division I district tournament. Last year, they lost to Hilliard Darby 3-0 in the second round.
"The biggest thing to be honest at this point is keeping everybody healthy and getting through and playing a full season," Sever said. "We're trying to get caught up to speed here. We're a little bit behind from a practice standpoint. We're kind of treating our first four games almost like a preseason, where we're trying to get ourselves organized and mix in the new players and get some experience in there.
"Obviously we want to win every game, but it's a little bit challenging right now early in the season at least. The biggest goal is to get through the season and then at the end of the season be playing (well), and hopefully making a run in the tournament."
The Cardinals opened with an 8-1 loss to Olentangy Liberty on Aug. 21 and won 4-1 over Reynoldsburg on Aug. 25. They lost to Watterson 5-0 on Aug. 27, fell to Hilliard Bradley 1-0 on Sept. 1 and lost to Olentangy Orange 3-0 on Sept. 3.
Thomas opens OCC-Cardinal play Tuesday, Sept. 15, against Dublin Jerome.
Wolves expect to improve
Fifth-year Kilbourne coach Meghann Moore said this season's team is among the best she's coached from a talent standpoint.
The Wolves are trying to bounce back from a season in which they finished 6-8-4 overall and 0-4-3 in the OCC-Cardinal.
"It is a strange year. It is also a (league) realignment for us (moving to the OCC-Capital). Obviously our goal is always to capitalize on our games and have a winning season, but also to win some titles for our school. And with this group, I feel like we have the ability to bring home that hardware," Moore said. "The group is very driven, and probably one of the most technically sound groups that I've had in a long time.
"The talent is pretty significant this year, so we're really thankful that we have a season to be able to watch everyone play."
Key contributors will include senior defender Ella Bally, who Moore said stands out in many ways.
"She's a very tiny human, but so incredibly smart defensively," Moore said. "She reads the field very well. Her offensive presence makes her a threat not only defensively but offensively as well."
Senior midfielder/defender Abby English is expected to have an imposing presence in the middle of the field.
"She was a previous center back for me, but (she's) now moving into the center-mid to capitalize on offensive pressure," Moore said. "She's fantastic in the air, (has) great field vision (and) her physicality can't be matched."
Junior forward Molly Humphrey is expected to be a key player up top for the Wolves.
"She's the hardest worker on our team, but just dominates with her speed and her ability to see the field and runs off the ball," Moore said. "She makes a significant impact up top whether she's playing outside forward or central forward. She's really able to do both quite well."
Humphrey should be joined by sophomore midfielder Mara McGlone.
"She is up top this year for us playing center-forward; that's a new role for her," Moore said. "She's strong in the air and also kind of sneaky in her movement, which makes her a pretty powerful threat."
Junior goalie Celeste Sloma, a three-year letterwinner, anchors the defense.
"She's just phenomenal," Moore said. "You don't always get great keepers coming through as a high school coach. It's tricky, you wait years until you have them, and she is just an incredible leader."
Moore said junior midfielder/forward Abby Halm, sophomore midfielder Kate Passella, freshmen defenders C.J. Smith and Audrey Bally and freshman midfielder Megan Miller also will see playing time.
"I'm not ever worried about subbing," Moore said. "It's not a first-string, second-string kind of deal we have going on. Every player on our team when they go on the field, you don't notice a difference between starters and non-starters. It's a really solid group of kids."
The Wolves opened with a 3-0 victory over Licking Heights on Aug. 21, followed by a 2-0 loss to Watkins Memorial on Aug. 25. They opened OCC-Capital play with a 3-0 win over Canal Winchester on Sept. 1.