The prep soccer season has begun for a couple of local teams, but a few more are set to kick off this week.
At Urbana, the boys are featuring a few key returners in Caleb Peterson, Cooper Johnson, Tristin Williams, Michael Trudo, Jordan Norris, Nate Harrigan and Braeden Lehman. Daniel Westcott, Omri Smith and Austin Rooney will get significant playing time as newcomers.
Still, there are some holes to fill in the lineup.
“At this point, I haven’t sorted out which guys those will be,” UHS Coach J.M. O’Connor said. “We’re making some minor adjustments in defensive tactics and on the other side of the ball, really working on much better possession and crisper passing.”
The Hillclimbers have still set some lofty goals after winning the CBC’s Mad River Division last season. Now, they’ll compete in the Kenton Trail Division with the same goal.
“I know the boys want to repeat as division champions,” O’Connor said. “Ideally, we win not only the division, but also the overall conference crown. We’re still sorting out alignments. One seems to be working better than the others, but it’s still not without its hiccups. Putting the ball on guys’ feet and having them make a nice first touch is going to be critical.”
The UHS girls look to have an edge in the CBC also, having dismantled London 8-0 in their first game of the season.
Cassidy James and Madisyn Horn will provide some scoring punch, with Marissa Horn, Sam Tracy and Tessa Armstrong getting in on the action in the London game.
Taje Mack, Kinleigh White and Zhoe Evans will help out from supporting positions.
At Graham, the boys are taking shape with Hunter Kauffman, Brendan Gallagher and Davin Jordan leading the charge as seniors. Freshman Andrew Robeson looks like he might have a promising season.
“This is the earliest we’ve ever started a season. We’ve never had this busy of an August,” GHS Coach Ryan Stradling said. “For the little bit of time we’ve had so far, I’ve seen a lot of improvement over the last month. I’d like to be competitive for the Mad River Division.”
The Graham girls could be scary, with quite a few athletes shining in the team’s 8-0 throttling of Southeastern over the weekend.
Natalie Woodward netted a hat trick, setting herself apart as a scoring threat. Taylor White, Alli Neeld, Katelyn Nash, Greta Rembold, Alannah Miller and Madison Bryant all got in on the offensive action, sharing the ball and delivering goals.
In goal, the lanky Ashton Curnutte made six saves and earned a shutout, which should help the defense play with some confidence going forward.
At West Liberty-Salem, the Tiger boys are flooding the pitch with returning letterwinners.
Christian Parker, Bishop Williamson, Mason Woodruff, Isaac Kauffman, Jordan Smith and Connor Motzko are all back as seniors, with Raiph LeVan, Neil Markin, Elias Kirker-Napiorkowski, Daniel Lehman, Jared Bowden, Logan Cole and Jacob VanHorn returning.
The orange and black also have a handful of talented guys stepping in to learn the system.
Ethan Cole, Ian Wolfe, Gavin Harrison and Hayden Hostetler will all be joining the ranks.
“There’s a good group of them that understand what we’re trying to accomplish,” WL-S Coach Tim Wolfe said. “One of the things we’re working on is developing our depth. We will be competitive in every game we play. I expect us to have a solid winning season. We have a good mix of age and experience.”
The WL-S girls look to be one of the strongest teams in the area, returning Paige Shafer, Ashley Rabenstein, Laine Godwin, Kenedie Cox, Ally Smith, Madison Bender, Taylor Lauck, Gabby Hollar, Dierdre McGill, Lily Yoder and Mikalia McIntosh from the squad that finished 17-2 and as division title runners-up last season.
Rachel Davis, Kaitlyn Michael, Caidryn Wade and Peyton Kerns will add some extra firepower as newcomers.
“Just like every season, our goals are to win the OHC Conference and challenge for a district title,” WL-S Coach Andy Cotrell said.
This might be the season the Tigers get over that hump, having won the OHC and sectional championships last season.
At Mechanicsburg, the girls will be looking to take a big leap forward in terms of winning percentage.
The Indians return Tori Jacobs, Megan Hux, Gabby Terry and Megan Troth to the pitch this season. Joining them will be Morgan Handy, Casey Schipfer, Chloe Jacobs and Skyler Campbell.
“We’re going to start a lot of freshmen, so we’ll definitely be young,” Mechanicsburg Coach Matt Frost said. “But a lot of the youth that I’m getting are experienced players.”
Frost indicated that many of his incoming freshmen have experience on travel teams or have been playing organized soccer for years.
“This is going to be a building year. I only have one senior,” he said. “We may be young, but I expect to be a little better. We’ve progressed, for sure.”
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.