By Ryan Kaczmarski
The FAIRVIEW girls soccer team is coming off a 2011 season in which it was the Patriot Athletic Conference Stripes Division champions and made it to the sectional finals. The Lady Warriors finished with an overall record of 10-4-2 (7-2-1 in PAC play).
The team has all but three of its starters from last year returning to defend the league division title. The returning starters are seniors Kelsey Lorko (G), Taylor McCluskey (D) and Lindsay Harwood (D); junior midfielders Megan Coyne, Mo Klag and Stephanie Miller; and sophomore Katie Kovach.
“Our defensive players have been on the varsity field for several years and have a solid understanding of our system,” Fairview head coach Scott Underwood said. “With three of our four backs being experienced seniors, and a senior goalkeeper, we should pose considerable problems for the opponents’ attacking.
“Megan Coyne spent the bulk of the last season injured, and is back with an unmatched desire to win this season,” he added. “Her leadership in the midfield, with her supporting cast attacking, should result in a very potent offense this season.”
Underwood sees the games against Buckeye and Wellington high schools, both losses in 2011, as the biggest games on the schedule this year.
“The girls are seeking revenge for these losses last season, and are looking to sweep the league this year,” Underwood said. “We are well balanced and play together. We are solid through the midfield and defense and are looking to become more of an attacking team.”
The LUTHERAN WEST squad is coming out of a 2011 rebuilding season in which it lost in overtime in the sectional finals. The Longhorns had eight new players on last year’s team, with five earning starting positions.
There are 16 returning letter winners this season and five new athletes coming over from other sports. The key returning players are seniors Madison Ross (last season’s team MVP and leading scorer), Lindsey Tomola and Jessica Mecklenburg; and juniors Kylie Cash and Molly Szado.
“Offensively, we are looking for big seasons from Ross, Tomola and Cash,” Longhorns head coach Jeff Bancroft said. “Defensively, we are counting on both Mecklenburg and Szado to be the anchors on the back line with help from seniors Johanna Webster and Marissa Spelich; and junior Clara Petkac.”
Other seniors to watch are Bre Corino, Alison Henry, Marissa Nuti and Emily Wilkens.
“We are counting on them for their leadership and some quality minutes on the field,” Bancroft said.
Bancroft sees the strengths of the team as its experience, with seven returning starters, overall numbers, 41 strong between JV and varsity, and athleticism, with 16 of 19 multiple sports athletes on the varsity roster.
MAGNIFICAT graduated six seniors from last year, including the starting goalkeeper and three starting defenders.
“We are fielding a young varsity side this year, with only three seniors,” Blue Streaks head coach John Fenix said. “Fortunately, we have a talented pool of players roughly equally represented by all four grades.
“Returning starters and senior captains Ciara Murray and Lexi Norton must preovide the leadership for players like last year’s leading scorer, forward Natalie Coury, and stalwart midfielders Paige Rombach and Jaycie Brown, all juniors,” Fenix said.
The incoming freshmen to watch this year are midfielder Alyssa Baumbick and goalkeeper Eva Dils.
“The challenge will be for players to settle into positions and find the chemistry to play together,” Fenix said. “We are looking to build on last year’s solid record of 10-4-4, and improve on our performance in the (postseason) tournament.”
NORTH OLMSTED is looking to move on from its first-round, overtime tournament loss to Avon last season.
The Eagles have five returning letter winners, including Grace Kereky, Nicole Dembie, Danielle Yasenchack, Amneh Abed and Ashley Balasko.
Michelle Palange, along with Kereky and Abed, will serve as team captains this season. Other seniors to watch are Angela Loftus, Kara Woodyard and Emily Nagy.
Head coach Erika Kleinholz thinks the biggest games this year will be against Magnificat, Avon, Avon Lake, Westlake and Brecksville.
WESTLAKE returns 13 letter winners from last year’s squad that went 13-2-1 (second in the Southwestern Conference and district runner-up), including seniors Maddie Sandhu and Shannon Kruger; juniors Megan Konrad, Madison Dunlap, Lauren Hurst, Gabby Gravino, Caleigh O’Brien, Jenna Tabbaa, Alexis Carpenter, Annie Hoelscher, Taylor Salamone and Lauren Severa; and sophomore Amanda Finucan.
The newcomers the team are seniors Liea Steffas, Julie Maxey, Alex Pavlo and Alina Balodis; junior Mackenzie Maynard; sophomores Rita Forbush, Katie Dubios, Missy Murthy, Sophie Warner and erin Lagermeier; and freshmen Maya Bauer and Danielle Pelligrino.
“We are young,” Demons head coach Scott Jones said. “We will start two seniors and nine underclassmen. We play a very demanding schedule and will continue to improve as the season goes on.
“We return a strong core of underclassmen that have played multiple district finals games already, so even though we are young, we do have experience.”
OLMSTED FALLS is looking to improve on last year’s overall record of 5-9-3 (1-4-1 in the SWC). The Bulldogs made it to the district finals, going 2-1 in the postseason.
The coaching staff is new this year and the team lost three of last year’s starters, two of which are playing college soccer this season.
The key returning players are Allison Duber, Madison Woods, Christine Neudeck and Nikki Sieg.
“Our key players make contributions on all sides of the field,” first-year head coach John Talley said. “Allie Duber leads by the example of her effort, Madison Woods in pure strength, Christine Neudeck brings skill and guidance and Nikki give the team perspective and focuses on the big picture.”
BAY is expecting to challenge for the West Shore Conference title again this year, which it has won or tied for in the first five of seven seasons of the WSC.
The Rockets return All-Ohio senior captain Alex Brown, who has led the conference in scoring for three years, and four-year varsity goalkeeper and two-year varsity captain Margaret Francati.
“In addition to Alex up-top, Kelly McBride will provide a lethal scoring combination and make it harder for teams to double-team Alex,” Rockets head coach Jack Griffiths said. “Our defense is sound as we return Diana Higgins from and ACL surgery, along with senior captain Marci Walter, Sophie Steyns, Sam Meisenburg and Natalie Rezek.
“Our midfield will have some turnover,” he added. “Eva Rezek, Nicole Pohlkamp, Jordan Holmes, Melanie Kukura and Erin Carter will help control the pitch and keep us in formation.”
ROCKY RIVER returns last year’s leading goal scorers Grace Bennett and Abby Elinsky, and last year’s assist leaders McKenna Klodnick and Hallie McCue. Junior Sara Connelly takes over the goalkeeping duties for the varsity this year.
Other returning letter winners are Liesl Fahrenkopf, Meghan Ittu, Megan Killeen, Maddie Russell, Eva Schneider and Grace Tigue.
Newcomers this year are Sydney Hamker, Jillian Krebs, Katie Kocher, Megan Moore and Amanda Oster.