By David Fong
MIAMI COUNTY — For two years, they were the hunted.
This fall, however, the members of the Troy girls soccer team will again assume the role of hunters as they attempt to recapture the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division title they had taken away from them last season.
Sidney denied Troy a third-consecutive North title, handing the Trojans their only North Division loss of the season. For the past six years, Troy and Sidney both have finished in the top two in the final North standings.
“I think if you ask any coach, they’ll tell you they want to be the defending champ,” Troy girls soccer coach Michael Rasey said. “You always want to be the team on top. But sometimes, with certain groups, it’s OK to be the ones chasing the champion, too.
“I know this group is hungry. They were really disappointed after that Sidney game last year. They want to try to get back to the top. I think we have to talent to do that.”
Offensively, Troy returns senior Whitney Webb, a first-team All-GWOC North selection who finished with 15 goals and five assists last season. She’ll be joined at forward by fellow senior Kelsey Walters, a state-caliber sprinter and thrower for the Troy girls track and field team last spring.
“This will be Webb’s fourth year on varsity — and she’s made huge strides every year,” Rasey said. “She’s not an unknown anymore, obviously. Everyone knows what she can do and what she’s capable of. Then we put her up top with Kelsey, who had a tremendous summer for us. Her athleticism and her speed can really put pressure on opposing defenses.”
Anchoring the midfield for the Trojans will be senior Sierra Besecker, a three-year letterwinner. At the outside midfield spots will be seniors Alie Soutar and Kailyn Hatfield.
Junior Meghan Fiessinger, sophomores Jenne Stone and Hannah Widener and freshman Mackenzie Evans all will see time in the midfield, as will junior Katie Minesinger once she returns from injury.
“Sierra Besecker will kind of be the one who makes things go for us,” Rasey said. “She’s technically gifted and is another player who forces opposing teams to take notice of her. Midfield is a demanding position, so we’ll use all of those kids at that position and rotate them in.”
Troy’s defense returns three starters from last year — seniors Victoria Miller and Bailey Dornbusch, along with junior Bailey Hess. A pair of underclassmen, sophomore Olivia Westfall and Ciena Miller, will see time as well.
“We feel like we are strong defensively,” Rasey said. “We’ve got a lot of experience returning back there.”
The Trojans also have a number of options at goalkeeper. Senior Maddy Innes and junior Arianna Garcia both split time in goal last season, and both returned. They’ll also be joined by sophomore Molly Miller, who was too talented for Rasey not to put on varsity.
“We are blessed to have three varsity-level keepers,” Rasey said. “We have three goalies who could start for almost any other team. It’s a great problem to have. We can also put Maddy and Arianna in the midfield when they aren’t playing goalie — Arianna was our fourth-leading scorer last season while only playing midfield part-time.
“A lot of it will depend on who we are playing and what we need. If we are playing a faster team, we may need Arianna’s speed on the field. It just depends on the match-ups.”
All told, Rasey likes his team’s chances this season.
“We’ve got a good mix of seniors and younger kids,” Rasey said. “We’ve got a good group. We’re excited for the season.”
After advancing all the way to the Division II regional title game last season, the Red Devils will be looking to take the next step this year — and will return many of the pieces needed to do so.
“We have 14 returning from last year’s team that was regional runner-up,” coach Brandon Baker said. “We have added some other girls to the team to make the team stronger. Sophomores Allie Wasson and Lexi Polansky up front should help with the forwards.”
Back at the forward spots for Tippecanoe will be senior Lexi Blair — who scored 17 goals and notched four assists last season — and sophomore Lauren Lester, who finished with nine goals and three assists. Tippecanoe is loaded with experience in the midfield, where seniors Holly Bernhold (13 goals and three assists) and Cami Cahill, along with junior Amanda Sauls all return.
Defensively, seniors Cassidy Wasson and Alysha Harmer both return. Last year as a freshman, Claire Hinkle established herself as one of the top goalies in the region, giving up just 17 goals and recording 12 shutouts in 21 games.
“We have some good games early with Troy, Carroll and Northmont to get us ready,” Baker said. “I feel like we will make a good run in the tournament.”
It was a breakout year last season for Milton-Union as the Bulldogs went 16-3 (9-1 in the Southwestern Buckeye League) and captured an SWBL title.
“We return a solid core of players from last year’s league championship team and gain some talented sophomores and freshmen to the varsity,” Milton coach Andy Grudich said. “The league this year should be very strong, with Preble Shawnee, Middleton Madison and Waynesville battling for the league title. We expect to be right in the mix in the battle for the league title.”
The Bulldogs returns their two leading scorer from last year in senior Madison Brandon (20 goals, four assists, first-team All-SWBL, second-team All-Dayton North) and junior Danielle McFarland (15 goals, 11 assists, first-team All-SWBL, third-team All-Dayton North). Junior Heather Ressler also should up out up front for the Bulldogs.
In the midfield, juniors Taylor Jacobs and Carrigan Schiml both return, as does sophomore Morgan Nemeth. Grudich said freshman Kristen Dickison and Hallie Berberich also will see playing time.
The Bulldogs return three defenders from last season in juniors Sierra Gostomsky, Alayna Bennett and Maddie Brown. Sophomore Mia Mophew will fill the fourth spot. Junior Taylor Friedman gained valuable experience last season in goal and will take over at the starting keeper this season.
“The girls have been training hard and we had a good summer,” Grudich said. “We are hoping to build on last year’s success.”
The Indians will enter uncharted territory this season, as they look to defend the Cross County Conference title for the first time in school history.
Stan Fessler takes over as coach.
Graduating off last year’s team that finished 13-6 overall, set a school record for wins, advanced to the sectional finals and won the schools first CCC title in the sport were: Trelissa Lavy, Brooklyn Koble, Madison Tebics, Erica Cavender, Brittany Ross, Kaitlyn Bucholtz, Liz Deeter, Legacy Hanshaw, Alexis Johns and Autumn Gydosh.
Returning letterwinners include seniors Erin Sweitzer, Rylee Schaurer and Alexis Bryant; juniors Kassidy Alexander, Brittany Koble, Kaylee Kesler, Aliya Stine, Anna Miller, Holly Buchholtz and sophomore Paiton Miller.
“We lost a great group of 10 seniors last year, five of which were starters — so we have some voids to fill,” Kessler said. “However, we have depth and experience with the three current seniors, as well as the junior and sophomore classes. We also have a great group of freshman, who all show much potential.
“I have no doubt that this group of girls will step up and continue where we left off last year with a winning season and continue to go far in the postseason. We would like to capture another CCC title this season.”
* Miami East
Emalie Carson returns for her 12th season as coach at Miami East with a career record of 107-81-14.
Last season the Vikings were 5-11-1 overall and 3-3 in the Cross County Conference.
Graduating off that team were Jessica Barlage, Madeline Davis, Renee DeFord, Olivia Edgell, Amy Hahn, Ashley Hahn, Riann Kingrey and Cheyenne Smith.
Returning letterwinners include seniors Stephanie Hammond and Emily Holicki; juniors Katie Bodenmiller, Sage Hunley, Emma Linn and Brynne Snodgrass; and sophomore Haley Demmitt and Hailey Weaver.
“Our main goal this season is to keep everyone healthy,” Carson said. “We were riddled with injuries last season and it made for a long season. Our numbers are somewhat low after graduating 20 in the past two years, which makes staying healthy even more important. This is an extremely young group, but a very talented group. We’ll potentially have four freshman starting and I look for them to be impact players. We also had a junior move back into the district and she is going to add a lot to our midfield.”
Carson hopes to do well in CCC.
“The goal is always to win the league, but our league has improved immensely over the years,” she said. “No one is a guaranteed winner going in. We’re going to take it one game at a time and work for positive results.”
Jeremy Lorenzo returns for his second season as Lehman girls soccer coach.
Last year, the Lady Cavaliers finished 13-1-2 in the regular season, 16-2-2 overall, won the Western Ohio Soccer League and were district champions.
Returning letterwinners include seniors Claudia Fantone, Sarah Fuller and Emily Reinhart; juniors Madison Cline, Katie Edwards, Hannah Fogt, Kaitrin O’Leary and Moriah Pauley; and sophomores Abby Jones, Molly Safreed, Amanda Titterington, Brogan McIver and Kelsey Weber.
Top newcomers include freshman Grace Monnin, Samantha Edwards and Grace Olding.
“We have high expectations every year for our program — win the league, district, region, and state,” Lorenzo said. “Our goals are simple – give 110 percent today and be better tomorrow. Last year, not many gave us a chance, replacing eight senior starters. However, we repeated as district champions before getting knocked off by division III foe Cincinnati Summit Country Day 1-0 in a rematch of an early season draw. We just came off two very physical games with Newton and Preble Shawnee and were still grieving over our loss of midfield star Katie Edwards who suffered a season ending knee injury in the district finals. We fought hard but we were beat up, not very deep, and out of gas.
“I learned a lot as a head coach last season. I made the mistake of not putting trust in my bench early on. This came back to bite us in the regionals. My girls left it all out there and I take full responsibility for our exit out of the tournament.”
Juniors Madison Cline and Emily OLeary are both two-year varsity winners at the striker position and have played on the big stage two years in a row.
Lorenzo likes his midfield group as well.
“Our midfield was sort of a question mark early, graduating senior captains Elizabeth Edwards and McKenna Guillozet,” he said. “However, junior Katie Edwards is back stronger than ever and freshman standout, Grace Monnin, who has the potential to be one of the Lehman greats, in addition to senior captain Emily Reinhart, all look to excel in the midfield this year. Returning letterman Abby Jones, sophomore, and freshman Carly Edwards are fighting for time over the holding midfielder spot and both bring a different dynamic to the table.”
The defense is an experienced group.
“Last year’s back line anchored by juniors Pauley, Caulfield, Fogt, and sophomores Safreed and Titterington was one of the best of D-III last season,” Lorenzo said. “Seniors Fatone, Lee, Vazquez, and junior Kate Hemm will also challenge for time on the back line.
“Our goal keeper situation is much different from last season. Last year, Kelsey Weber was our lone goal keeper and stepped up to the challenge, playing like a veteran in big games. This year, we have three incoming goal keepers who are all extremely talented and have various strengths to add to the team. Camille Brown is a promising sophomore transfer and freshman Grace Brandt and Hannah Giguere are both very talented.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong