Boys Soccer: Pickerington North working to get new personnel up to speed

DAVE PURPURA
dpurpura@thisweeknews.com
Senior midfielder and Ohio Dominican commit Tyler Reitano is North's only returning starter. The Panthers fell just short of their fourth consecutive league championship last year when they finished second behind Reynoldsburg in the OCC-Ohio.

Graduations have not been kind to the Pickerington North boys soccer team the past two years.

The class of 2019 included the crux of a team that led the Panthers to the program's only Division I district championship the previous fall, including Ohio State recruit Brayden Durbin and its all-time single-season leader in goals in Will Harr.

Then all but one full-time starter graduated last spring after North went undefeated in the regular season but lost in a district semifinal to finish 11-1-6 overall. One of them was Reece Allbaugh, who scored a program-record 51 goals in his career.

Still, 18th-year coach Darrin Monhollen is convinced that one aspect of the Panthers' system will work no matter the personnel.

"We have a number of newcomers and we've been working very hard to improve on our combination play," Monhollen said. "We really do a good job when we keep the ball moving with a lot of two- and three-touch play. When we do that, it opens up the third guy to score. Play one guy to the other, (defenders) step to him, send the ball to the third guy -- the 'three man' is what we call him -- and he gets a great opportunity because of the quick movement of the ball. A lot of times in our training, if we call a restriction of two or three touches, we're playing better."

Coupled with a largely effective offense, North did not allow a goal in its first four games and was 3-0-1 before playing Canal Winchester on Sept. 5.

North opened with consecutive 5-0 home wins over Pickerington Central on Aug. 21 and Watkins Memorial on Aug. 25 before playing Olentangy Orange to a scoreless tie Aug. 27 and routing host Lancaster 8-0 on Sept. 1.

Senior midfielder and Ohio Dominican commit Tyler Reitano is North's only returning starter, although senior midfielder Alex Watros started a handful of games.

Senior goalie Ty Bowden was 2020 graduate Cory Pulles' backup last year.

"You can really hear him directing things in the back. That's something that sets us apart from some teams. Not everybody has that," Monhollen said of Bowden. "He's a little quiet, so he's out of his comfort zone when he's out here, but he understands that it's important to have that attribute as our keeper. I've been pleased with how he's stepped up and taken charge."

Three other seniors started the opener in Nico Briones (midfielder), Cam Stanzione (defender) and Evan Yurko (midfielder).

Rounding out the roster are seniors Jude Eblin (forward), Johnny Khatib (midfielder), David Rome (midfielder), Devon Webber (midfielder), Tim Zach (midfielder) and Jose Zaragoza-Fuentes (defender), juniors Aaron Artica-Sanchez (defender), Jacob Henry (midfielder), Tate Newman (midfielder), Uche Odemena (forward), Joel Perez (defender), Hayden Stevens (defender) and Donovan Williams (defender) and sophomores Harry Agganis (goalie), Henry Sanders (defender) and Sam Scorziell (goalie).

North opens OCC-Ohio play Tuesday, Sept. 15, at Westerville Central.

The Panthers fell just short of their fourth consecutive league championship last year, when they went 3-0-2 to finish second behind Reynoldsburg (4-0-1).

Tigers trying to find right combination

Three returning players with varsity experience and a lack of scrimmages meant Central coach Brett Neiderman continued to tinker with his lineup throughout the first few weeks of the season.

Central was 0-3-1 before playing Westerville South on Sept. 3, having followed up the loss to North with a 4-all home tie against Canal Winchester on Aug. 25, a 4-0 loss to visiting Hilliard Bradley on Aug. 27 and a 2-0 setback at Gahanna on Sept. 1.

Seniors Nathan Bauer (defender) and Koen Droese (forward) and sophomore Jack Henry (midfielder) return from last year's team that went 8-6-4 and lost to eventual state runner-up Olentangy Liberty 3-1 in a Division I district semifinal.

"We'll have a huge learning curve. We're very young," said Neiderman, who is in his fourth season. "We have a strong group of sophomores, but they're pretty young. Physically, they're not there yet but they're smart and they're learning every single game. We've shown glimpses of what we can do, but we haven't put together a game yet (before Sept. 1) that shows what we're capable of."

Droese, a Trine commit, scored a team-high 17 goals last year and had eight assists. He scored his first three of the season against Canal Winchester.

"We might unfairly lean on him more than we need, but he is the backbone of the team. We'll go the way Koen goes," Neiderman said. "He's been in the program so long that he understands what we need to do."

Juniors Ian Camp and Aiden Sullivan split time in goal to start the season.

The promising group of sophomores includes Lazaro Fuentes (midfielder), Elhadji Mbow (midfielder), Michael Philabaum (defender) and Ethan Simmons (midfielder) and Daniel Stitt (defender).

Rounding out the roster are senior Abishek Phuyel (midfielder), juniors Daniel Asiamah (defender), Trevor Blankenship (defender) and Keaton Taylor (midfielder), sophomore Alex DiBernardo (midfielder) and freshmen Djibril Bah (midfielder/forward), Tyler Davis (midfielder) and Jeremy Jones (midfielder).

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

At a glance

PICKERINGTON CENTRAL

*Coach: Brett Neiderman, fourth season

*Top players: Daniel Asiamah, Ian Camp, Koen Droese and Michael Philabaum

*Key losses: Kwame Amaoko, Cavan Castellon, Elvis Fianko, Garvin Osei-Frimpong and Jaden Snell

*Last season: 8-6-4 overall

*2019 OCC-Ohio standings: Reynoldsburg (4-0-1), Pickerington North (3-0-2), Pickerington Central (3-2), Gahanna (2-3), Grove City (1-3-1), Lancaster (0-5)

*2019 postseason: Defeated Watkins

Memorial 7-3; def. Teays Valley 5-0; lost to Olentangy Liberty 3-1 in Division I district semifinal

PICKERINGTON NORTH

*Coach: Darrin Monhollen, 18th season

*Top players: Ty Bowden, Uche Odemana, Tyler Reitano and Alex Watros

*Key losses: Reece Allbaugh, Duvall Brannon, Cory Pulles and Cameron Williams

*Last season: 11-1-6 overall

*2019 postseason: Def. Whetstone 6-0; lost to Westerville Central 3-2 in Division I district semifinal

Senior forward Koen Droese is among the top returnees for the Central boys soccer team, which went 8-6-4 last season and lost to eventual state runner-up Olentangy Liberty in a Division I district semifinal.