PREBLE COUNTY — Girls soccer teams around the county are set to take the field this week, and expectations are high for a good season.
Twin Valley South expected to contend for WOAC title
In the first year of the WOAC, expectation are high for Twin Valley South girls soccer and new coach Chad Newport coming off the Panthers’ 11-6 season.
Going into this year, Newport said a focus is making sure players can specialize their positions.
“We ended up moving a lot of people around, it seemed like, and no consistency,” he said. “Not that 11-6 is awful by any means.”
Senior Makiah Newport is expected to be one of South’s top players.
“Has school record in season goals, going to be chasing some of them other goal scoring records for South,” coach Newport said. “One of our forwards – arguably could be one of the best forwards South’s ever had.”
Senior and four-year captain Madison Hundley is the only person to ever be a four-year captain, according to coach Newport.
“Really great team player,” coach Newport said. “Controls the middle really well for us, and then once again, arguably could be one of the best mids to ever come from Twin Valley South.”
Coach Newport commended four-year starter Sydney Aldrich.
“She’s kind of played every defensive position for us the last three years, so she’s one of the ones that’s been moved around quite a bit,” he said.
South’s roster also includes seniors Pearle Rollyson, juniors Lillian Marker, Skyelur Weber and Danielle Denlinger, sophomores Brooklyn Letner, Riley Ray, Ava Clark, Brylee Simpson and Lani Howard, and freshmen Lexie Thompson, Jordan Ritchie, Maci Arndts, Valen Burkett, Lucy Zimmer, Lilly Wharton, Grace Robinson and Meredith Pieratt.
“I ended up carrying 20 kids on the roster, which I usually never do that, and the reason is that there’s no glaring deficiency,” he said. “I could roll any kid out there and they’re gonna serve a purpose and do a job for me.”
Newport said the staff and seniors went back and forth on expectations for this year.
“There’s the obvious ones that I’m sure everybody’s going to say, but ultimately it’s win as many games as possible, let the rest of the stuff hash itself out,” he said. “Let’s get a good seed in the tournament and see if we can make a little run.”
South will begin its season hosting National Trail on Thursday, Aug. 26 beginning at 7 p.m.
Expanded roster to benefit National Trail
Low numbers and COVID-19 issues led to a challenging season in 2020 for the Blazers, finishing the year with a 1-5-1 record.
Now, coach Kenneth Stewart said National Trail’s numbers are better, and the team is looking forward to “reducing injuries, keeping players fresh, and building on the strong talent which has emerged from the active SAY Soccer program in our community.”
Stewart said juniors Hailey and Harley Henderson will team with senior Brienne Kosier to form a solid, front-line attack. Hailey and Kosier received All-Conference recognition, while Harley was the recipient of the Blazer Award which recognizes the teammate who exhibits preeminent character, leadership, and work ethic, according to Stewart.
For the defense, Stewart said senior midfielders Alaina Wallace and Julia Riesenbeck will add valuable experience alongside fellow senior Leah Norton, who will look to anchor the defense.
Returning juniors include Kaydin Casteel, Ellie Lawson, and Breeana Daum, who Stewart said will all work to keep their opponents out of the scoring column, along with returning sophomore Kaylie Carrell.
Newcomers include senior Paige Lee, sophomore Mikayla Henning and freshmen Megan Irvin, Isabelle Anderson, Hannah Henderson, Josie Stiner, Brooklyn Buckley, Taryn Rucci, and Macyn Patton.
“The National Trail program is as lush with youth as ever,” Stewart said.
The Blazers had the opportunity over the summer to participate in a tournament as well as partner with Richmond City Schools for workouts, so Stewart said Trail has much more experience heading into the season compared to last year.
“With the advent of the Western Ohio Athletic Conference, we look forward to facing conference opponents twice over the course of the season,” he said. “With the 2020 campaign providing glimpses of tremendous growth, we have a solid foundation to build upon moving forward. We expect to raise the level of competitiveness in both conference and non-conference matches.”
Trail’s season will begin at home against Centerville on Saturday, Aug. 21 at 7 p.m.
Preble Shawnee competing with young team
On top of losing Preble Shawnee’s top defender and leading scorer to graduation, the Arrows are dealing with low numbers this season – just 21 total players for coach Jeff Stiver, of which just eight are juniors or seniors.
The Arrows also open with what Stiver said are Shawnee’s three toughest opponents this season – Madison, Brookville and at Newton.
“You would think that it would be easy to figure out [our starters] with just 15 or 16 kids, but you know, you have some kids that can play two or three positions, so you’re trying to figure out the best place for them,” Stiver said. “We’ll figure it out before we play our first game.”
Among those players expected to be important factors are senior Gracie Lovely, sophomores Ashleigh Mondello-Garrett and Jaelynn Whisman, and junior Casey Lyon.
Lovely is a four-year varsity player and a team captain who Stiver described as a “real solid player.”
Stiver said Mondello-Garrett surprised the team as a freshman, and they expect her to be “pretty good.”
The Arrows are also expecting big things from Whisman, who scored six goals in six games last season before missing 11 games with a broken collarbone.
With a question mark at goalkeeper coming into the season, Stiver said Lyon stepped into the goal and has put in a lot of work.
“That’s a position that a field player is taking over,” he said. “We’ve got all the confidence in her in the world, but it’s still a big transition.”
Stiver said he’s still learning about the team and how they may gel in the early going this season, but he believes they can be competitive in the WOAC.
“I think the girls are looking forward to it,” he said. “We’re looking forward to it, and hopefully we’ll hopefully we’ll come together and gel sooner than later.”
The Arrows will take the field for the first time on Saturday, Aug. 21 against Madison beginning at 7 p.m.
Eaton looking to build chemistry
After a 4-12-1 season in 2020, coach Michael Bacher said the Eagles will look to be “tough” this year.
Eaton’s offensive attack will be focused around seniors Amyah Thacker and Rylee Ruebush, who coach Michael Bacher said have played together for three years now, entering their fourth.
“That should give us a solid offensive attack, they know where each other are – very dynamic and fast,” he said.
Bacher views the midfield as where the Eagles need to develop chemistry, win 50/50 battles and get possession.
“Junior Morgan Imhoff and sophomore Emma Gephart will look to do just that in the center,” he said. “Morgan [is] coming off an injury and Emma Gephart is very versatile, and [you] can put her anywhere and she excels.
Newcomer Lilly Garcia and senior Emilee Jones will be outside, while defensively, newcomer Addison Campbell and sophomore Addison Satterfield are expected to provide speed and athleticism.
In the middle of the field, seniors Juli Couch and Camryn Bates are expected to clog things up, according to Bacher.
“I really don’t know what to expect this year,” he said. “If our midfield can get possession and win balls out of the air, and our defense can keep things congested, get in the way, and can get forward at times, I think we will be tough this year. If not, bad things happen. I strongly feel if we can do those things, we will contend. Need to play a full 80 minutes, and be consistent.”
The Eagles will begin their season at home against Bethel on Saturday, Aug. 21 beginning at 7 p.m.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles