By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — Troy girls soccer coach Michael Rasey knows just how close his Trojans came to winning the final Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division championship.
He also wouldn’t really hate it if opposing teams overlooked his squad at times this year.
The Trojans graduated a host of seniors off of last year’s team — a team that was a one-goal loss to eventual champion Tippecanoe short of a division title. And even though many of those seniors were long-time veterans, the Trojans still bring back a good mix of experienced players and young talent that will look to challenge for the first league title in the new Miami Valley League.
Troy finished 11-6 last season, 9-1 in the GWOC American North behind 10-0 Tippecanoe, with the season ending in a 2-1 overtime loss to Miamisburg in the team’s first postseason game.
“It was a big senior class, and we lost senior Kenzie Evans before the season began,” Rasey said. “We came up just short in the division, but by and large it was still a successful season. We’re pretty young this year. Almost half of the starting lineup will be first-year varsity players. These girls have big shoes to fill.”
Troy’s returners will certainly soften the blow of losing last year’s senior class.
Leading the group of returning players is junior striker Julianna Williams, who led the team in every offensive category last year with 11 goals, nine assists and 31 points. She will be joined up top by sophomore Maddie Brewer (four goals, three assists) and senior Anna Burghardt (one goal, six assists).
Senior goalkeeper Paige Nadolny — who posted 7.8 shutouts and led the GWOC American North Division with 112 saves — also returns, as does defender Laura Borchers (one goal, one assist), with senior Abby Westfall (one goal) and junior Chamber Browning (six goals, three assists) returning in the midfield.
“Other than that, everybody else is pretty new,” Rasey said. “The biggest thing for us is filling the leadership void. So many of those girls that graduated had been three- or four-year starters, so trying to replace that is something we’ve been working on this summer.”
Joining the team will be freshman Leah Harnish at forward, a pair of freshman defenders in Taiah Higbee and Kara Steinke, as well as freshman Madison Manson.
“Leah won the state championship in the 400 in junior high (track), so she’s very fast and athletic,” Rasey said. “Taiah and Kara will be stepping onto the back line, trying to replace (graduates) Lily Clouser and Josalyn Abrams. And Madison will probably split some time between varsity and JV along with sophomore Ava Raskay.”
Sophomore Claire Tibbitts saw time some time on varsity last year due to late-season injuries, scoring two goals, as did junior Ali Davis, who had one assist. Sophomores Jovie Studebaker and Kayleigh McMullen will back up Nadolny in goal, and seniors Briana Soto and Hailey Bell, juniors Madison Burton and Alexis Carroll will also help add depth to the roster.
And even though the Trojans will be competing in the MVL Miami Division this year, the competition itself will be very familiar.
Troy, Tippecanoe, Piqua, Greenville and Butler will make up the Miami Division, while Xenia, Fairborn, West Carrollton, Sidney and former division rival Sidney will compete in the MVL’s Valley Division.
“It’s a new league, but we’ll still be competing with the same teams for the league championship,” Rasey said. “And we fully expect to still be competing primarily with Tipp. They’re always good year in and year out. Butler will also be much improved this year. And Sidney, even though this year they jump to the other division, we’ve gone back and forth with them over the last few years. They always put a good team out on the field.”
Troy’s non-league schedule will remain challenging, as well. By design, according to Rasey.
“Our schedule is exactly the same as it’s been, and we’re excited to pick up Gahanna Lincoln this year instead of Trotwood,” Rasey said. “Our schedule is still one of the toughest. We still have Beavercreek, last year’s D-I state champion, on there, Centerville, Springboro. And Dayton is even stronger in Division I this year, with Carroll and Bellbrook moving up. Those are two teams come tournament time that have been very solid in D-II, and Miamisburg, who knocked us out of the tournament last year, brings back everybody.
“It’s a very difficult area in D-I girls soccer. We fully plan to be competitive, and hopefully we can stay in that top group.”
And if some teams look past the Trojans along the way, so much the better, according to Rasey.
“I expect all the girls to contribute this year, and if we play the way we’re capable, we should remain competitive,” he said. “I hope some teams overlook us, to be honest. They know we graduated a lot. I think the girls have proven they can compete with anybody when they play their best.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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