The New Albany girls soccer team's plans for this season haven't changed since the Eagles lost to Dublin Coffman 3-0 in a Division I district final last year.
Early on, those plans were coming to fruition.
With senior forward Brooklyn Harris, a USC commit, back from injury to lead the offense in addition to several other key players -- including senior midfielder and Oklahoma commit Kelis Brown -- returning, New Albany was 2-1-1 before playing Ontario on Sept. 5.
"As soon as last year's season was over, we had the expectation to simply do better and get beyond where we were the past two years of being a district runner-up," fourth-year coach Jared Dombrowski said. "Yes, we want to win a district title. With the OCC (realignment), we've had our success the past few years but with a different alignment, it's a different challenge. I think we're ready. We're excited for that, growing little by little day by day."
Harris, who had 23 goals and 13 assists as a sophomore and missed all of last season because of knee surgery, had six goals in the Eagles' first two games, a 10-0 win at Chillicothe Unioto on Aug. 22 and a 3-1 victory over Hilliard Davidson in their home opener three nights later.
Brown had 17 goals and seven assists last year to earn first-team all-district and third-team all-state honors as the Eagles finished 12-4-3.
The rest of the key returning players are seniors Madison Cofer (defender), Jordan Conley (goalie) and Morgan Wiest (defender), juniors Ashley Clinger (defender), Faith Grisdale (defender) and Kate Partridge (forward/defender) and sophomore Addison Scharver (forward). Wiest was a forward last year but plays defender in club, according to Dombrowski.
"Having (Harris) back, we added Allie Metcalf in the middle and Amelia Horton at forward (both of whom are freshmen) so we have the flexibility that if we need Morgan to be up top, we can move her," Dombrowski said. "They balance each other extremely well in the back. We have the depth and ability to tinker and figure out what works best."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Harper Anderson (goalie), Emily Hess (midfielder/forward), Avery Lowden (defender) and Lily Sayre (defender), juniors Ella Boyles (midfielder), Bella Haas (forward) and Meredith Whitaker (junior), sophomores Abby Bojko (midfielder), Maddie Kindell (defender), Nadia Yingling (defender) and Carolyne Young (defender) and freshman Amelia Horton (forward).
New Albany, which also fell 2-0 at home to West Chester Lakota West on Aug. 29 and played host Coffman to a scoreless tie Sept. 1, begins OCC-Ohio Division play Tuesday, Sept. 15, at defending league champion Grove City.
"It's a tough conference and that is always a goal of ours, coming in and being the new team to spoil things for everybody else," Dombrowski said. "We can only focus on what we have in front of us and move forward."
Juniors to lead boys soccer team
Returning experience across the field, much of which lies in a large junior class, helped the boys soccer team to a 2-1 start before playing Pickerington Central on Sept. 8.
"We had 10 or 11 sophomores last year and even with that group back, we're pretty young all over the place," sixth-year coach Johnny Ulry said. "We had our chances against Dublin Jerome (in a 1-0 season-opening home loss Aug. 21) and we found more of a scoring stride against Johnstown (in a 5-0 road win Aug. 27). We had a pretty tough scrimmage schedule lined up against teams like (defending Division I state champion Cleveland) St. Ignatius, Toledo St. Francis and Massillon Jackson and we didn't get those, so we're still getting up to speed."
Seniors Jakob Bering (midfielder), Ryan Blackburn (defender) and Will Fischer (midfielder) and juniors Derrick Harris (forward), Henri Heyes (defender), Kam Kist (forward) and Gaige Weiner (goalie) are expected to lead the way for New Albany, which went 12-6-1 last year and lost to St. Charles 3-0 in a Division I district final.
Sophomore forward Gabe Anthony had four goals against the Johnnies.
Harris scored both goals in a 2-1 home win over Coffman on Sept. 1.
The rest of the roster consists of seniors Grant Bush (defender), Tyler Campbell, Nick Fisher (defender), Tyler Hutchison and Hunter Mowery, juniors Ashton Bilow (midfielder), Calvin Creger (midfielder), Oliver Cush, Gavin Miriello (defender), Ayden Osmera and Jack Ryzenman (forward), sophomores Spencer Chadwick (defender) and Kyle Lapper and freshman Kaden Kist.
New Albany begins OCC-Ohio play Tuesday, Sept. 15, at home against Grove City.
The Eagles' three-year run of OCC-Capital championships came to an end last year when they went 4-1 in the league, second behind Groveport (5-0).
"We're really excited about upping our level of competition in this new league. There's nobody you can sleep on and I'm not sure if you can say anybody is the favorite," Ulry said. "It'll do us good to have those better teams on our schedule. This will only help us going into the tournament. League championships are nice, of course, but our focus is always on the tournament."