The Mason girls’ soccer team fell two goals short last season of matching the Comet boys and winning their own Division I state championship.
The Comet girls have enough returning talent and experience to entertain realistic thoughts of clearing that final hurdle.
“We return 16 kids from last year’s state runner-up team,” coach Andrew Schur said. “Scoring goals will be one problem we will have to solve, but experience will be a strength and our back line and goalkeeping should be solid from Day One.”
Junior goalkeeper Toni Bizzarro anchors a Mason defense that features seniors Emily Calvani, Dani Meyer and Meghan Grable. Two more seniors, forward Rachel Holloway and midfielder Jill Vetere, will spearhead the Comet offense.
Schur suspects the usually tough Southwest Ohio gantlet will be even more difficult, with several teams being led by new coaches.
Among the new faces are Terrence “Mac” Garrigan, who takes over the St. Ursula team that lost 1-0 to Mason in the regional final, and Tom McEwan, who moved to Lakota East after leading Fenwick to the Division III state semifinals.
McEwan inherits three experienced seniors – defenders Lexi Martell and Rianna Reese and the versatile Tiffany Huber. He’s also expecting much from senior goalkeeper Alex Steigerwald, who takes over as the starter after being named second-team all-Greater Miami Conference as a backup last season.
“Our focus will be changing the culture and raising the expectations for the program,” McEwan said.
Garrigan can expect a challenge in the Girls Greater Catholic League from Ursuline. Coach Colleen Dehring has four seniors with three years of varsity experience: Sara Robertson, Andie Kennard, Jordan Hollmeyer and Emily Halmi.
“We have several juniors who are returning,” Dehring added. “We lost our starting goalkeeper, so we will be looking for someone to step into that position.”
Ross rode a deep corps of 10 seniors to the Division II regional finals last season. Coach Kayla Bush is hoping that seniors Jordan Staggs and Hayley Hudson, junior Ashley Parrett and sophomore Lauryn Haynes can help the younger players develop quickly enough to maintain the momentum.
“It’s still too early to see what strengths and weaknesses we have,” Bush said.
Indian Hill coach Amy Dunlap is counting on the Braves’ traditionally strong defense to help them challenge Ross. “Most of our returning players are on the defensive side,” Dunlap said. They are led by seniors Syd Gloster and Grace McCormick junior Lexi Carrier.
Badin has 16 players returning to defend a Division III state championship. Among them are two midfielders: senior Madi Kah and junior midfielder Malia Berkely, who is committed to Florida State.
“The outlook in 2014 is very promising,” coach Todd Berkely said. “The added pressure of one season of success can blur the focus of a team. I do not believe that will be the case with our talented squad of girls.”
Badin needed double overtime to beat Fenwick in the state semifinals, but McEwan left new coach Richard Harknett eight of 11 starters from that team. Four key Falcons all are underclassmen – junior forward Leandra Hess, junior defender Alisha Himes, junior midfielder Taylor Engle and sophomore defender Erica Hafer.
“The defense is the area of new players stepping up and has the potential to be a very good unit, but they start the season untested,” Harknett said.
Summit Country Day also has eight starters back from a regional semifinalist, including junior midfielder Morgan Evans, who set the single-season school record with 15 assists last year and has played in every match in each of her first two varsity seasons.
• Season starts: Aug. 16
• Seed meeting: Oct. 5
• Sectionals start: Oct. 13
• District championship matches: Oct. 25
• Regionals: Semifinals Oct. 29,
Finals Nov. 2
• State semifinals: Nov. 4
• State finals: Nov. 7,
Columbus Crew Stadium