City League Roundup: Girls soccer squads excited to return to field

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Centennial’s Amelia Harris (left) and Whetstone’s Ella Norris compete for possession of the ball during their game Sept. 23. The Stars and Braves are among four City League girls soccer programs this fall, joining Northland and West.

Northland didn’t have a girls soccer team from 2015-18 before coach Chase Montana restarted the program last fall.

Despite City League sports programs being suspended for two weeks in late August because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Montana had 13 players come back when the suspension was lifted.

The Vikings are among four City schools that have girls soccer this fall, with Centennial, West and Whetstone being the others, and each team played the others twice each. There also is expected to be a City tournament.

On Sept. 21, Northland opened its schedule by losing 6-3 to Centennial.

“The team has shown great dedication and responsibility this season,” Montana said. “I hope that we stay healthy, continue to improve as a team and continue to build this program.”

In Northland’s opening loss, senior midfielder Malika Khadka scored all of the Vikings’ goals. Junior Arpana Chhetri (defender) and sophomore Sustika Ahangkari (forward) also are key players.

Rounding out the roster are seniors Samjana Basnet (midfielder), Laxmi Darnal (forward), Arati Kharel (defender/goalie), Samjana Rai (defender) and Grace Tamang (defender), juniors Anusha Dahal (defender/goalie) and Amisha Sanyasi (midfielder) and sophomores Bidya Kharel (defender), Ketya Lufungulu (forward) and Juliane Lukambo (defender/forward).

Centennial is coming off a season in which it went 4-10 under Barb Meleg, who is in her eighth season as coach.

Seniors Sophia Ferry (defender) and Sophia Pizzurro (defender) and sophomore Brooke Loudner (midfielder/forward) are among the top players for the Stars, who lost to Whetstone 1-0 last season in the City championship game.

Also on the team are seniors Sabrina Fallon (forward/midfielder/goalie), Bella Moore (goalie) and Shaden Musa (midfielder/forward/defender), juniors Rachael Schutte (midfielder/defender) and Zoe Velez (midfielder/forward), sophomores Zoe Latta (midfielder/forward) and Safi Munywoki (defender) and freshman Amelia Harris (midfielder/forward).

“My girls are excited to at least have a season and look forward to making it their season to remember for various reasons,” Meleg said. “Seniors are grateful to be able to play one last season. Freshmen want to experience a varsity sport and get to know their peers. Any returner wants to demonstrate how hard they’ve worked this offseason to build on their game and improve their endurance. In all, this team is looking to show they’ve improved from last year and want to showcase that on the field.”

Vikings, Cougars

football teams grow

As first-year Northland football coach Ryan Sayers was delivering his postgame message Sept. 26 following a 20-6 victory over Centennial, he was surprised with an ice water bath in celebration.

It was the first of what the former Pickerington North assistant hopes is many to come with the Vikings, who will be competing in the Division II, Region 7 playoffs beginning Friday, Oct. 9.

“It’s just for the kids,” Sayers said. “They did everything I could ask them to do. We just played better (against Centennial than in our opener). We started being more demanding of our players to have them start working harder and we started making sure they were more physical. It’s all new for the kids, so it’s going to be slower having them learn what we’re putting in. The most improvement you show is between Weeks 1 and 2.”

Northland and Beechcroft both were 1-1 before playing one another Oct. 1.

The Vikings are using senior Shemar Watson at quarterback and freshman Amir Brown at running back as they look to improve on last year’s 4-6 finish, which included a 4-2 record in the City-North Division.

City teams played a three-game regular season, which began Sept. 17. They are expected to have a playoff between some of the top programs in the league in late October, but no format has been announced.

Beechcroft went 7-3 last season but has a new coach for the fourth consecutive season in Humphrey Simmons, who also is the school’s boys basketball coach.

The Cougars, who finished second (5-1) in the City-North last season behind Centennial (6-0), followed a 25-0 loss to Marion-Franklin on Sept. 17 by beating East 34-24 on Sept. 25 for Simmons’ first victory.

The Division III, Region 11 playoffs begin Oct. 9 for Beechcroft, which last participated in the postseason in 2016.

Beechcroft had fewer than 25 players in uniform for its win over East.

“It feels really great (to get a win),” senior running back and defensive back Diante Latham said. “We practice hard. We took an ‘L’ in the first week but came back and came out even harder. We’ve been working all summer. We knew we had low numbers, so we’ve been trying to stay in shape and staying in the weight room.”

Boys, girls runners

begin season

The City cross country meet will be held Wednesday, Oct. 14, at Whetstone.

Northland played host to the Northland Invitational on Sept. 19 at Beechcroft, and Whetstone was host to the Braves Invitational on Sept. 23.

The Walnut Ridge Invitational on Sept. 30 also had several City teams in attendance.

“We’re trying to patch together something,” Vikings boys coach Tom Fast said. “That two weeks (when the City suspended sports in late August) hurt us. I had a couple people take jobs. We’re all battling numbers and all trying to build up our teams.”

Seniors Hassan Sesay and Vincent Sackeyfio are among the top runners for the Northland boys team.

Fast believes the Eastmoor Academy boys squad will be one of the best in the City this fall.

The Warriors are led by seniors Kahlani Booker and Khaleed Hudson and sophomore Preston Davis.

“Whetstone has almost their whole team back and they won the City last year and Walnut Ridge has got a good kid back,” Eastmoor coach Jason Lewis said. “The big thing with us having to stop and just now getting back, I just want to give the kids something to do that’s safe as opposed to worrying about how good we are. Let’s just have some fun.”

Maureen Kennedy is in her 20th season as the Northland girls coach and has guided the program to back-to-back City titles.

Competing for the Vikings are seniors Isabella Alberto, Fatima Bernard-Henderson and Tyra Thomas and juniors Nahdia Alcorn and Nahjae Alcorn.

“I’ve got a nice group of kids and we’re looking to get back in shape and see what we can do,” Kennedy said. “I can’t compare years because last year wasn’t like this and everyone is coming in with different levels of conditioning.”

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