MANSFIELD – It’s been the case for the last few years and it appears as if it’s not changing any time soon.
Clear Fork and Ontario will again rule the girls soccer scene in north central Ohio.
The Colts may have graduated 10 and had three others decide not to play this year off a 13-4 squad, but they are primed for another strong run in the Ohio Cardinal Conference and the Division II tournament. The reason for optimism lies on its front line and its goalkeeping.
Senior Deijah Swihart and junior Jordyne Helinski are not only two of the fastest forwards around, they are also first-team All-Ohio selections from a year ago. Couple them with senior Morgan Bailey in the net and coach Brittany Bechtel has some enviable pieces on which to build around.
“We have experience coming back up top,” Bechtel said of her team’s striking ability.
One thing Bechtel wants to see improved is the communication on the field. She wants to see leadership and cohesion that comes with playing as a unit.
She expects to battle with Wooster and Ashland in the OCC, but the goal is “to get better each day and be peaking in October and playing in November.”
Ontario brings back 14 from a team that went 15-3-1 and made a fifth-straight regional tournament.
“(Our) goals are to get better each week,” Ontario coach Larry Atkinson said. “We lost eight seniors to graduation. It will take us time to gel together.”
His daughter Allie Atkinson is a second-team All-Ohioan at midfield and senior Abbey Brokaw is a senior forward with all-district honors. However, they must fill the spots of five starters so developing depth is a priority.
The Warriors will combat it with experience, a strong defense and its winning tradition.
In the OCC, Ashland and Lexington will push Clear Fork and Wooster for the league championship.
“We play in a conference loaded with talent and there is no team you can overlook and chalk-up as a win before the final whistle blows,” Ashland coach Trent Heckman said as his team is coming off a 9-7-2 season. “Every time you step on the pitch teams will bring everything they have.”
The Arrows will move the ball and play unselfishly, and their midfield will be a strength led by four-year varsity performers Cassie Schuster and Macy Carr.
Lexington will try to reload after losing seven starters from a 6-9-3 squad. Lady Lex coach Roxanne Drueschler likes her team’s speed and work rate, but admits there will be growing pains with a relatively young roster.
“(Our) goals are to compete with 100 percent effort every game and challenge for the OCC title and return to the district finals,” Drueschler said.
Hillsdale brings back 11 from last year’s 8-3-1 team and should be a player in the Wayne County Athletic League.
With Mansfield Christian losing 12 players and Loudonville missing 36-goal scoring sophomore Emily Weber due to a torn ACL in her knee, the United Independent Soccer Conference looks wide open. Crestview, Mapleton and St. Peter’s are especially hopeful for 2014 because of it.