By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
TROY — Michael Rasey has been here before.
Two years ago, the Troy girls soccer team went 16-3, captured a Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division title and advanced to the Division I district finals — but lost a core group of seniors that included five All-GWOC North selections. Despite those graduation losses, however, Troy again captured a GWOC North title and advanced to the sectional finals.
Which is why the Troy coach isn’t exactly in panic mode going into the 2014 season, despite having eight holes to fill on his varsity roster.
“We graduated six players and then had a couple of players decide not to return, so we had eight openings on our varsity roster,” said Rasey, the GWOC North Coach of the Year the past two seasons. “But we’ve still got the talent to do some pretty special things if some of our younger players step into those roles.”
For the last half-decade, the Troy girls soccer team hasn’t had to rebuild — it’s just reloaded. Not only have the Trojans captured GWOC North titles each of the past two seasons, they have won or shared four of past six division crowns.
Troy returns plenty of talent on defense. Leading the way is senior defender Courtney Mazzulla, a four-year varsity starter, First Team All-Dayton North selection, Troy’s only All-GWOC All-Conference selection and a team captain.
“Courtney will definitely be one of our team leaders this year,” Rasey said. “She had a great season last year and picked up a number of awards.”
Joining Mazzulla on defense will be senior Maggie Caughell, junior Victoria Miller and a trio of sophomores — Bailey Hess, Meghan Fissienger and Katie Minesinger.
Troy will carry three goalkeepers on the roster: sophomore Arianna Garcia, junior Maddy Innes and freshman Molly Miller. Garcia was an All-GWOC North second team selection as a freshman last year.
Troy’s midfield will be anchored by senior captain Kina Sekito. Sekito — who will be playing her fourth year on varsity — was the Trojans’ leading scorer last year, finishing the season with eight goals and 12 assists. She also recorded the lone goal in Troy’s 1-0 win over Piqua, which secured Troy an outright division title.
“We expect her to be one of our leading scorers again this year,” Rasey said of Sekito.
Joining Sekito in the midfield will be junior captain Bailey Dornbusch. At the outside midfield positions will be juniors Allie Soutar and Kailyn Hatfield and freshmen Jenna Stone and Hannah Widener.
Troy’s offensive attack will be led by junior Whitney Webb. Despite suffering an injury that cost her the second half of the season, Webb was Troy’s second-leading scorer last season with eight goals and four assits.
“She was one of our leading scorers last year until she suffered a midseason injury,” Rasey said. “We are really looking forward to her coming back from injury.”
Junior Sierra Besecker also returns at forward this season. She was Troy’s third-leading scorer last year with seven goals and three assists. Webb and Besecker will be joined at forward by junior Kelsey Walters and sophomore Maddie Peltier.
“If we can stay healthy and some people step up, we should be able to compete again this year,” Rasey said.
TIPP CITY — Tippecanoe returns seven players from a team that went 16-1-3 (9-0-2 in the Central Buckeye Conference) and reached the Division II regional semifinals last season. The Red Devils will add nine new players to the varsity roster.
“We are young,” coach Brandon Baker said. “Learning to work together will be the first step. I feel, with that said, that we will make a good run in the postseason.”
Junior Lexi Blair — who scored 11 goals and had three assists last season — is lone forward back from last year’s team. She’ll be joined by sophomore Amanda Sauls and freshman Lauren Weimer.
In the midfield, Tippecanoe returns a pair of players in senior Megan Rittenhouse (three goals and five assists last season) and junior Holly Bernhold (four goals and six assists last season).
Defensively, Tippecanoe returns senior Meredith Brumfield and juniors Cassidy Wasson and Alysha Harmer. Tippecanoe’s goalie will be freshman Claire Hinklie.
• Miami East
CASSTOWN — Graduation hit hard for Miami East, which went 13-3-2 (5-0-1 in the Cross County Conference) and reached the sectional finals last season.
Still, though, the Vikings have high expectations heading into the 2014 season.
“Even though we have nine seniors this year, we have a fairly young team,” East coach Lil Carson said. “We graduated a lot of experience and leadership, losing 11 seniors. But on the flip side of that, we have a lot of energy and enthusiasm. It’s a group that is eager to please and extremely coachable.
“From our first pre-season tournament in June to our last scrimmage, they have shown vast improvement. We’re still going to have a pretty good team this year, it’s just a different look that what we’ve had the past few years. That has taken some getting used to for the seniors. But we are optimistic and looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish.”
Offensively, junior Emily Holicki returns. She has 25 goals and seven assists so far for her career. Jessica Barlage enters her senior season with 11 goals and eight assists. Senior Madeline Davis scored two goals and dished out five assists last season. Freshman Macy Fellers also could see playing time for the Vikings.
In the midfield, seniors Cheyenne Smith and Riann Kingrey both return for their third year on varsity. Senior Renee DeFord will be fighting for playing time at outside midfield as well. Stephanie Hammond — a transfer from Graham — seniors Amy and Ashley Hahn and freshman Haley Demmitt all could see playing time.
Sophomore Sage Hunley is Miami East’s lone returning defender. Freshman Haliey Weaver will be taking over at sweeper. Sophomore Brynne Snodgrass will be stepping up as the other marking back. Senior Olivia Edgell will be resuming her role as stopper, a role she filled in at last year during injuries.
East’s goalies will be sophomore Katie Bodenmiller and senior Blayne Mitchell.
• Troy Christian
TROY — Troy Christian returns the core of a team that reached the Division III district championship game a year ago.
“We are a little young on the offensive side of the game, but have improved in each of our preseason matches,” Troy Christian coach Brian Peters said. “Also, we are excited about our transfer Katelyn Krieger, who will assist us in the midfield this season. We are working toward the cohesiveness of our team, as we are rebuilding from losing four seniors last season. I am very proud of how hard all of the girls have prepared for this season.”
At forward for the Eagles will be Lauren and Hailey Peters. Lauren, a four-year starter, has been one of the top scorers in the area throughout her career and has verbally committed to play college soccer at Lee University.
“We are looking for her to be an impact this season,” Peters said. “We are looking for sophomore Hailey Peters to make combination plays and create opportunities for us.”
In the midfield, two-year starter Olivia Glaser returns.
“She is very quick to the ball and has a never-quit attitude,” Peters said. “Lieh Biller and Hannah Benjamin, both juniors, are very dedicated and hard-working players and should be players to watch this year. I am looking forward to all our midfielders being impact players this season.”
Defensively, Troy Christian returns a wealth of talent and experience. Maddie Rench will be a four-year starters for the Eagles, while Meredith Haddad is a three-year starter. In goal, Troy Christian returns four-year starter Karli Riviello, who has verbally committed to Belmont Abbey College.
“Maddie Rench has been an integral part of our defense since day one of her freshman year,” Peters said. “Meredith Haddad will be our holding midfielder this season — I’m looking forward to seeing how she can impact both our offense and defense this season. Karli Riviello has had a fantastic three years and I’m looking forward to seeing what she has in store for us this season.”
WEST MILTON — With eight starters returning from a team that went 8-8-1 (7-3) and finished second in the Southwest Buckeye League, Milton-Union is hoping to make a run at an SWBL title this season.
“We return eight starters from last year’s team and expect to contend for the league title,” Milton coach Andy Grudich said. “Waynesville, Preble Shawnee and Middletown Madison should be strong in the league this year.”
The Bulldogs return three forwards from last season. Sophomore Danielle McFarland, the SWBL Newcomer of the Year, led the team with 17 goals and six assists last season. Junior Madison Brandon had five goals and four assists. Sophomore Taylor Jacobs had two goals.
Milton-Union is loaded with experience in the midfield. Seniors Matison Jackson (four goals, four assists), Josie Berberich (four goals, three assists) and Brianna Wiltshire (one goal, two assists) all will be four-year letterwinners for the Bulldogs. Freshman Karissa Baird also will see playing time in the midfield.
Defensively, seniors Jessy Bowman (three goals, two assists) and Logan Combs (one assist) both return for their third year on varsity. Sophomores Alayna Bennett (one goal, one assist) and Sierra Gostomsky both return for their second year on varsity. Sophomore Maddie Brown will add to the mix on defense. Senior Shelbi Grisso returns for her third year as Milton’s starting goalie. Last season she recorded a 1.46 goals against average and recorded five shutouts.
PLEASANT HILL — Experience won’t be a problem at Newton this season.
“We should be very good this year, having 10 seniors,” Newton coach Jon White said. “Seven of the teams we face this year were ranked in the top 10 in the Miami Valley polls last year.”
At forward, the Indians return senior Trelissa Lavy and junior Erin Sweitzer. Lavy had 13 goals and seven assists last season, while Sweitzer had five goals and seven assists.
In the midfield, senior Madison Tebics returns after scoring five goals and recording three assists last season.
Defensively, Newton returns senior goalie Brittany Ross and senior defender Erica Cavender.
SIDNEY — Lehman lost nine seniors — along with head coach Tony Schroeder — off a team that went 17-2-1, captured a Division III district title and advanced to the regional championship game last year.
In the regional finals, Lehman lost 1-0 to a Hamilton Badin team that went on to win a state title.
“Our mindset is that we have unfinished business,” said new coach Jeremy Lorenzo, an assistant coach at Lehman last season. He was named All-Ohio Division III Assistant Coach of the Year last season. “We had a great senior class last year and a phenomenal season, but we have to look forward and continue to build off of the foundation that has been laid.”
The Cavaliers will be led by senior captains Ashley Keller, McKenna Guillozet and Elizabeth Edwards.
Keller, a striker, scored 26 goals last season. She’ll be joined up top by junior forward Sarah Fuller, a three-year starter. Sophomores Katie Edwards, Kaitrin O’Leary and Madison Cline — all letterwinners last season — also return.
Guillozet and Edwards will anchor the midfield for Lehman. Sophomore Elizabeth Pax and junior Emily Reinhart also will see time in the midfield for the Cavaliers.
On defense, sophomore Hannah Fogt saw plenty of playing time last year. She’ll be joined by sophomores Moriah Pauley and Lexi Caulfield and freshman Molly Safreed. Freshman Kelsey Weber will be replacing four-year starter Grace Frantz in goal.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong