By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — A lot changed during the offseason in the landscape of Miami County girls soccer.
The Greater Western Ohio Conference has undergone a massive restructuring, making one long-standing county rivalry now a divisional one and adding even more weight to it. Mix that in with the usual graduations, injuries, league races and various other storylines, and there’s plenty of questions entering the new season, which begins Saturday.
Here are just five of those questions:
1) Can Troy get back above .500?
The last time the Trojans didn’t have a winning record was in 2005, when they went 8-8-1. Last season, though, Troy finished 8-8-2, going .500 in the regular season and winning one postseason game before falling to Centerville to end the season. The Trojans did finish second in the GWOC North, though, with a 3-0-2 record, behind 4-0-1 champion Butler.
With the graduation of its top seven scorers from last season, though, the Trojans will need to look for offense from its younger, less experienced players this season. And while they’re coming along, finishing possessions could theoretically be a work-in-progress early in the season.
The Trojans do have an experienced defense coming back, though, with a number of seniors in the backfield — including All-GWOC honoree Bailey Hess — as well as an All-GWOC senior goalkeeper in Arianna Garcia. The defense should be able to keep Troy in games and give the offense chances to win them — it’s just a matter of how quickly that begins to happen.
And with division’s restructuring — the American North Division now includes area powerhouse Tippecanoe instead of Trotwood — the road to a winning record got a lot tougher. Still, Troy is no stranger to the Red Devils, as the teams are 1-1-1 against each other over the past three seasons.
2) How will Tippecanoe react to postseason upset?
Tippecanoe only lost one game all last season.
And it couldn’t have been a bigger surprise.
The Red Devils rolled through the regular season and to an outright Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division championship, going 13-0-3 and only allowing five regular season goals. They also defeated the team that eventually knocked them out of the sectional tournament — Carroll — 2-1 in the second game of the season. The Patriots, though, got payback in the Devils’ second tournament game, upsetting them 2-0 and cutting Tippecanoe’s season short.
The last time the Devils had been eliminated before the district final was in 2011. Now, though, Tippecanoe will face tougher competition throughout the regular season as a member of the GWOC — and it’s looking to win an American North title in its first season there. Will the Devils be able to recover from last year’s disappointment? Or will they use that as fuel heading into the new season?
3) Can Milton-Union get back the SWBL title?
Two years ago, Milton-Union went 9-1 in Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye play, holding off Preble Shawnee for a 1-0 victory that clinched the division title.
Last season didn’t go as well. The Bulldogs were swept by eventual division champion Waynesville and split with Preble Shawnee, going 6-3-1 in the SWBL Buckeye to finish third behind those two teams. Still, the Bulldogs recovered from back-to-back losses to division rivals to end the regular season, winning a sectional championship and only losing to eventual Division III state champion Summit Country Day in the district final.
The Bulldogs have experienced players back all over the field, though — and Waynesville and Preble Shawnee both return quality teams, as well. the SWBL Buckeye will likely be a battle between the three again. And with the Bulldogs final two regular season games being at Waynesville on Oct. 6 and at Preble Shawnee Oct. 13, there probably won’t be an answer to this question until the final buzzer in that final game.
4) Can Miami East retain the CCC crown?
When Miami East and Bethel met late last season, they were the only two CCC teams that didn’t have a league loss. The Vikings won and went on to clinch the league title outright in the season finale.
The Vikings return a lot of firepower this season, but they’ll already be missing one key player, senior Sage Hunley, for the foreseeable future due to a preseason injury. While they hope to have her back before season’s end, they do have a lot of returners back, both on defense and offense.
Bethel, meanwhile, also has a lot of talented returning players — and a former coach is also returning as Dru Bescoe rejoins the team. Newton should also continue climbing back up the ladder, and the CCC has any number of teams that could prove to be dark horse contenders.
5) How will Troy Christian cope with another big graduation?
Two years ago, the Troy Christian Eagles graduated the top scorer in the Metro Buckeye Conference, Lauren Peters, who had led the team to four straight league and sectional championships and into the regional tournament.
Now, the Eagles will return to the field after graduating another big part of those teams, Meredith Haddad. Haddad missed most of her senior year with an injury, and the Eagles finished with a 2-2-1 MBC record, tied for fourth place with Miami Valley.
But this could also be the year Troy Christian begins to bounce back. A lot of last year’s team was young, and those players are all back this season. Included in that group is goaltender Cara Salazar, who was an All-MBC first teamer, and second team selections Hailey Peters and Lauren Moritz. And though defending champion Dayton Christian also returns a solid team, should that young Eagle talent develop, Troy Christian could begin the climb back to the top of the league.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.