BY J. PATRICK EAKEN | MIRROR SPORTS — Eighteen letter winners return from the Anthony Wayne girls soccer team that won a Northern Lakes League title last year.
The 2018 team went 13-1-5 overall and a perfect 7-0 in conference play, and 17th-year coach Lori Williams would like to see her girls do it all over again.
“We have a roster full of girls who on any given night will be key for us,” Williams said, noting that seven all-league selections are returning, providing plenty of depth.
“I believe the depth of our roster and team speed are our strengths,” the AW coach added. “I’m exceptionally happy with how the whole group came back to us this season. Their club teams have done a wonderful job of pushing them to become better.”
In her previous 16 seasons, Williams’ teams have gone 178-71-29 and under her tutelage won league titles in 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2018. She was an assistant for one year at AW before taking the head job in 2004.
The NLL has always been a hotbed of prep soccer talent and, despite returning most of her offense and defense, Williams believes the Generals will have stiff competition in the league.
“I think there are several teams who could win the league this year,” she said. “Northview is young but has some exceptional talent.
“Perrysburg and Southview are always going to have a good side and push you to play your best, and we are working to make a run at it as well.”
Returning for AW is senior forward Hannah Rybicki, who had 15 goals and seven assists last year in earning first-team All-Ohio Division I and first-team all-district honors and was the NLL Player of the Year.
She is joined by senior defenseman Emilie Gardner, a second-team district player last year, who scored one goal and had three assists.
Rybicki and Gardner, who will both play at NCAA Division II University of Findlay next year, were joined on the NLL first team by goalkeeper Keaton Grabarczyk. As a team a year ago, the Generals defense posted 10 shutouts.
Grabarczyk will return for her senior year after getting 48 saves last year, and she has already committed to play at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Williams says there will likely be others committing to play college soccer.
“The rest of the senior class is still working through their choices, but we expect to have many more commits in the coming months,” Williams said.
Returning second-team league selections include sophomore forward Alaina Uncapher (13 goals, seven assists) and senior midfielder Shelby Herrington (10 goals, 12 assists).
Also returning to the pitch are two senior third-team NLL selections – forward Jocelyn Crossley (nine goals, eight assists) and defenseman Maddy Theis (two goals, four assists).
Other seniors returning include forwards Jocelyn Crossley and Brooke Hamblin, midfielder Sam Schofield and defenseman Kaylee Kahl.
Williams says there are plenty of underclassmen coming onto the scene, most with varsity experience, who will contribute.
“(Sophomore defense-man) Amelia Womack and (sophomore forward) Carli Miller have really stepped up their game from the conclusion of last season to the level they are playing at currently,” Williams said.
Despite 18 returnees, there are losses to graduation from last year’s championship team, and Williams says someone will have to fill their shoes.
“We lost some really key players due to graduation, and seeing how we fill those spots will largely determine our success as we bring back most of our roster from a year ago,” she said.
Midfielder Haley Boyer is the only junior on the early season varsity roster.
Other sophomores include midfielders Brynn Gardner, Kate Kemmer and Peyton Miller, goalkeeper Caitlin Mohler and defensemen Jenna Rybicki and Sophia Schneider.
In addition, there is another element to the squad that returns. Last year’s team was not only academic all-state, but it also earned national team Academic All-American honors.
The varsity Generals open their season on Wednesday, August 21, playing at 7:00 p.m. against Three Rivers Athletic Conference member Clay at Clay Memorial Stadium. The Eagles were 12-4-2 last season.