Pickerington North Roundup: Defense powering boys soccer team's historic season

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
First-year starting goalie Ty Bowden is among the players responsible for the North boys soccer team posting 10 shutouts through its first 12 games. The Panthers were ranked fourth in the state in Division I last week.

Pickerington North boys soccer player Donovan Williams admitted he had high expectations for the Panthers’ defense entering the season, but not necessarily an inkling of how dominant it has become.

“At the beginning of the year, if anyone would have told me we’d have allowed two goals (at this point of the season), I’d have looked at them kind of shaky,” said Williams, a senior defender. “Our team wasn’t put together yet. We had a lot of new kids coming in. We didn’t have a preseason, so we definitely were missing a piece of that chemistry but then after the first game when we had a shutout, we could tell we were jelling together. We could play well with the team we had.

“We’re bonding. We’re talking. That’s going to carry us to even more than what we’ve already done.”

What North already has achieved has put this year’s team among the best in the program’s 18 seasons. Paced by a senior-laden defense, the Panthers outscored their first 12 opponents 43-5 and before an Oct. 1 game at Grove City had posted 10 shutouts, putting them one short of the program record set in 2015.

Ranked fourth in the state in Division I last week, North’s undefeated start came to an end Sept. 29 with a 3-1 home loss to Upper Arlington. The Panthers had been 10-0-1 overall and were 2-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Grove City.

“It’s quite an accomplishment,” coach Darrin Monhollen said. “You’re going to give up goals. That’s just a reality in soccer, but what I wanted to see was how they responded to that adversity and I couldn’t have been more pleased.”

Consecutive 5-0 wins over Pickerington Central and Watkins Memorial to start the season set the tone. North did not give up a goal until its seventh game, and both came around halftime of a 5-2 win at Thomas Worthington on Sept. 10.

“We have to stay focused because one mistake, one bad bounce off the grass and it’s a goal. If we stay tight and work together, it’ll be good,” said defender Cam Stanzione, one of seven players to join North after emphasizing club in recent years.

“This was a good choice,” said Stanzione, who previously was a forward for FC United but moved to defense during informal drills when he displayed a knack for winning 50-50 balls.

Such moves are not unprecedented for the Panthers. Current Ohio State player Brayden Durbin joined North for his senior season and helped lead the team to what to date is its only district championship.

Williams plays outside with Hayden Stevens and Tim Zach because of his speed. Jacob Henry and Alex Watros are defensive midfielders, and Joel Perez and Stanzione are center backs in front of first-year starting goalie Ty Bowden.

“Ty has improved a great deal. He’s gone from leading by example to leading and directing,” Monhollen said. “He makes sure we press when needed and he can track marks through the midfield.”

Even with North’s dominance, Williams said there has been no complacency.

“One slip-up can cost us a goal,” he said. “In a big game, that can mean a lot.”

Girls soccer team

enters key stretch

After a brief stretch of adversity in mid-September, girls soccer coach Doug Peterson liked where his team stood as it entered a stretch that would determine its OCC-Ohio championship fate.

North was 8-2-2 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Ohio before playing defending league champion Grove City on Oct. 1.

The Panthers played host to New Albany, which was ranked sixth in Division I in last week’s state poll, on Oct. 6, and wrap up league play Thursday, Oct. 13, at Gahanna.

“We definitely have a few more challenges in front of us,” Peterson said. “It’s been more of a team effort than any one person standing out. We’ve done very well organizationally when it comes to defense. The girls have worked together really well.”

North’s losses entering the week came in consecutive games, 3-2 at Hilliard Darby on Sept. 10 and 2-0 at Watterson on Sept. 12. That the Panthers bounced back with a 6-1 win over Westerville Central on Sept. 15 and a 1-0 shutout of Dublin Coffman two nights later most impressed Peterson.

“I got on them a little bit after the Watterson game not because we lost, but because of how we played,” he said. “I am proud of how we responded. To put it together like we did against Coffman is a big, big deal. That infused a lot of confidence in this team.”

Volleyball team

in title chase

A 20-25, 25-23, 25-15, 18-25, 15-12 home loss to Gahanna on Sept. 24 knocked the girls volleyball team out of sole possession of first place in the OCC-Ohio, but the Panthers still were tied for the top spot with the Lions and Westerville Central as the second round of league play began last week.

North was 6-7 overall and 4-1 in the league before playing Central on Oct. 1.

Lilian Muszynski led the team in kills with 124 through 12 matches, ahead of Lauren Greegor (65) and Kyleigh Bryant (54). Muszynski also had 27 blocks and Bryant had a team-leading 11 aces.

Brooke Norwood, Anna Martin and Bryant had combined for 340 digs.

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