BY J. PATRICK EAKEN | MIRROR SPORTS — Last year, the Anthony Wayne girls soccer team celebrated the program’s most successful season in school history.
The Generals went undefeated and untied during the regular season, finishing 16-0 for the first time on record. They went on to finish 22-1 and were Division I state runners-up.
This year, the Generals are 6-3-2 overall and tied for first place in the Northern Lakes League with Perrysburg and Northview at 3-0-1, so AW is on track for another successful year.
The Generals have outscored opponents 39-12, and in four league games AW has scored 22 goals and shut out all four opponents.
AW coach Lori Williams believes the league title is still very much up for grabs.
“To me, those three are very, very good and it’s anybody’s game,” Williams said.
“Southview and some of the others are going to make a case that they could play spoiler very easily because they have very nice teams. I think the league is even deeper than it was last year, to be honest.”
Plus, AW is ranked 15th in the Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches’ Association Division I state poll, but Perrysburg (7-0-3) is ranked 10th. All three of AW’s losses are to state-ranked teams.
Gone are 11 seniors who graduated from last year’s team, and Williams has just two seniors in 2020. She welcomes the challenge.
“It’s neat. We have a whole new team, really,” Williams said. “And that team last year, for all practical purposes, a lot of those kids played two years in a row together, so they had two years of chemistry to build, and you saw that on that team.
“I feel like we’re starting to hit our stride of finding that chemistry on the field because we’ve gotten in 11 games already. I feel like we’re getting that feel because we’re knowing their runs and reading their body language and things like that.
“So, going from 11 to two (seniors), we’ve got to transition. It is part of high school, right? And they are doing a great job. They are working hard at it every day,” Williams continued.
The season has been different in other ways, too, said junior Payton Miller.
“It’s been definitely a different season for us since we lost 11 seniors. It’s definitely a building year, but I think now we are starting to get more intense, starting to play faster and a lot better, and playing together,” Miller said.
“It’s definitely hard since COVID. We can’t team bond as much, but we’re definitely getting a lot better.”
Gardner Top Scorer
The team is led in scoring by junior Brynn Gardner, who had 24 points on seven goals and 10 assists after an 8-0 NLL win over Maumee last Wednesday.
She is one of three returning starters, but there are others who got plenty of playing time last year.
“We have three starters returning from last year, and that is, back to front, Jenna Rybicki, who is center back, Brynn Gardner was a midfielder and Elaina Uncapher (nine goals, five assists) on top,” Williams said.
“I feel like Sophia Schneider (four goals, three assists), in addition to those three, has done an unbelievable job this year. She’s our best pure athlete on our team and she can cover a lot of ground, both offensively and defensively,” Williams continued.
“That was her fourth goal (against Maumee) and she’s doing it all as an outside back. That is kind of a testament to her work.”
Two weeks ago, Miller finally joined the team after an injury, and she helped the team during a 0-0 tie with Perrysburg, AW’s only blemish on the league schedule. Since that game, Miller has scored her first goal.
“Payton Miller had some good minutes last year in the midfield. Her first game for the season was just actually last week. She tweaked her ankle pretty badly in preseason, and so her first game was actually against Perrysburg,” Williams said.
“She’s really just a week into her season, where most of the rest are a month and a half in. Payton Miller is kind of finding her stride and (juniors) Katie Yates and Maison Barrow (two goals, two assists) have been doing a great job of working on their technical game and trying to pass and find those lanes.
“On top, (against Maumee) we started (junior) Carli Miller (three goals, two assists) and (freshman) Sophia Eicher (three goals, two assists) – they are very different players. One is a little bit more tactical and one is a little bit more athletic and uses her pace,” Williams said.
“I feel like we have a lot of kids who have a lot of unique characteristics and we can use those to highlight things based on who we are playing and the system that we can employ based on what they (opponents) are doing.”
Other scorers are junior Mallori Pollock (four goals, one assist), senior Shelby Myers (two goals), sophomore Emmah Brown (two goals) and senior Hailey Boyer (one goal, one assist).
Rounding out scoring are junior Addison Williams, who scored her only goal on a penalty kick against Maumee, and junior Amelia Womack has an assist.
Junior goalkeeper Caitlin Mohler leads the defense with 64 saves, sophomore keeper Hannah Johnson has six saves and the two have combined to shut out five opponents.
Mohler, a co-captain along with Gardner, Rybicki and Miller, says that the two seniors, Myers and Boyer, are the team’s biggest leaders.
“Our two seniors definitely lead on and off the field wherever they are. Even at practice, they are always going to be leaders,” Mohler said.
“Hailey Boyer, especially, she has the best energy I’ve ever seen from anybody. She deserves everything that she gets. Her energy, honestly, leads us to win those games,” Mohler continued.
“Shelby, the way she approaches everything, she is just like so humble and she is so ‘get on the ball.’”
Because she has a young team, Williams believes the Generals could surprise some people in the tournament.
“I love the trajectory that we are at. We finished something along the lines of four state-ranked teams in the last 10 days, so we schedule it so that the kids are battle-tested by the time we get to the playoffs,” Williams said.
“You’ll see that our schedule kind of lightens up now, so now we can get healthy and try to work on some of the things that we exposed during the midseason,” Williams continued.
“We’re very tactical in how we create our schedule so that it’s middle-heavy, and then try to get them recovered and get after it so that we are ready for the playoffs.”
Mohler agreed that this team could surprise in the tournament and she added that next year, everyone else better watch out.
“This season has been a little bit of a learning season at the beginning, but I feel like we really landed on our feet and now we are off and running with it. Hopefully, we do very well in tournaments this year,” Mohler said.
“All of our underclassmen players are high-quality players. They are honestly very good. Since we are an underclassmen team, that could bring us all an advantage when we are all upperclassmen. That will be nice,” Mohler added.
The program remains strong, too, as the AW Junior Varsity A team is 6-0-2 and the JV B team is 5-0-1.