When Todd Berkely says, “I look forward to another fantastic season of Badin girls soccer,” Division III programs all over the state shudder.
That’s because Berkely knows what fantastic seasons look like. Led by his daughter, Malia, the Rams have won back-to-back state championships and seem poised to make it three in a row.
Malia Berkely, who’s committed to Florida State University, is complemented by classmates Gabby Geigle, Shelby Lamping and Taylor Smith, a four-year starter at midfield.
Also returning is the entire goalkeeping group of senior Riley Cooper and juniors Abby Lampe and Nicole Visse.
“We are a young team with experience at the top and a hungry bunch of up-and-comers,” said Todd Berkely, who hopes to prepare his team for the tournament grind by playing a tough regular-season scheduled that includes several Division I teams. “It will be tough, but that’s why we play.”
Badin probably could be tournament-toughened just by playing its Greater Catholic League Coed Division schedule, which includes a Sept. 23 match at McNicholas, the defending Division II state champion. The Rockets were the only team to beat Badin last season, a match that led to McNicholas winning the GGLC Central Division championship.
Junior Sophie Gorman is one of seven returning players who started the championship game, coach Ben Kirkpatrick said. Also back are senior forward Emma Heise, who scored two goals in the 3-0 championship-game win over Akron Archbishop Hoban, and senior defender Haleigh Haugh.
“I think we will be very competitive this season and will hopefully be able to make another long tournament run,” Kirkpatrick said.
The Rams also are likely to meet Summit Country Day somewhere along the Division III tournament trail. The Silver Knights have nine starters back from the team that lost to Badin in the state semifinals, including junior goalkeeper Carline Walton and senior midfielder Morgan Evans, who has several school career records in sight.
“It is always difficult to replace graduating seniors, but the 2015 version of the Summit Lady Knights has one of the largest number of returning letterwinners in program history – 16, as well as four junior varsity players who played in at least one varsity match during the 2014 season,” said coach Michael Fee, who’s back for his 21st season.
SCD could be challenged just in the Miami Valley Conference by Cincinnati Country Day, which has seven starters back from the team that lost to the Silver Knights in the regional finals. Junior goalkeeper Olivia Robinson logged nine shutouts for the Indians.
Wyoming has eight starters returning from the team that lost to McNicholas in the regional semifinals. Junior forward Kayla Hampton already has racked up 36 career goals, including 22 while tying for the Cincinnati Hills League scoring title last season.
Four seniors – goalkeeper Toni Bizzarro, central midfielders Haley Moses and Julianne Berry and central defender Emma Thacker – hope to lead Mason to a fourth consecutive Division I final four appearance.
“After losing 14 seniors and being one step away from the state finals, the girls are hungry to keep the tradition rolling on,” coach Andy Schur said.
Schur described the Division I scene to be “very balanced.” He expects Turpin, the team the Comets beat in last year’s regional finals, to be good again. Meanwhile while St. Ursula, Ursuline and Mount Notre Dame all have a shot at unseating defending Girls Greater Catholic League-champion McAuley.
“We have lots of seniors again,” second-year Mohawks coach Kristen Wanstrath said. “Having that maturity will really help with experience on the field.”
Clermont County most likely will be dominated by Amelia, Clermont Northeastern and New Richmond, which combined to go 44-7-2 last season.
Players to watch
Malia Berkely, Badin – The play-anywhere senior is Ohio’s reigning Division III Player of the Year after leading the Rams to their second consecutive state championship.
Ally Brown, Amelia – The junior striker led the area in goals last season while leading the Barons to a fifth consecutive Southern Buckeye Conference championship.
Sydney Goins, Oak Hills – The senior defender and fourth-year starter saw her workload increase with the loss for the season with an injury of classmate Sydney Kilgore, the Greater Miami Conference’s top returning scorer.
Kayla Hampton, Wyoming – The junior forward is a two-time first-team all-city selection who led the Cincinnati Hills League in scoring last season.
Kaylee Saunders, Roger Bacon – Led the Greater Catholic League Coed Division in regular-season scoring as a freshman midfielder.
Sophie Gorman, McNicholas – The Rockets junior helped lead McNicholas to its first state championship, earning her an All-American nod.
Season starts: Saturday.
Sectionals: Oct. 19-24
Districts: Oct. 26-31.
Regional: Semifinals, Nov. 3, Finals, Nov. 7.
State: Semifinals, Nov. 10, 7 p.m. Finals, Nov. 13, Columbus Crew Stadium.