Perrysburg’s Kristina Demarco, with ball, is the defending Northern Lakes League girls soccer player of the year. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Playing into November has become the expectation for a Perrysburg girls soccer program that regularly represents northwest Ohio in the regional tournament.
The Yellow Jackets have claimed a Division I district championship in five of the past six seasons, and have reached the regional title game in two of the last three years. Perrysburg, which is the only team from northwest Ohio to win a state title, once again appears poised for a deep tournament run.
Perrysburg, which won it all in 2012, heads up a list of perennial district powers. Notre Dame, which reached a state semifinal last season for the first time in school history, also has the weapons to reach the regional again,
According to area coaches, Anthony Wayne, St. Ursula, and Findlay should give the top two the biggest tests. Northview, Southview, and Clay also remain contenders.
Perrysburg (3-0-1) has wins against Clay (6-1) and Northview (4-0). The Yellow Jackets were guided by co-coaches Margaret Bernard and Jorge Diaz during the past six seasons. But Diaz takes over the top job with a team that has claimed six consecutive Northern Lakes League titles.
“We are fortunate to have a deep and talented team,” Diaz said.
The Yellow Jackets have captured four NLL titles outright and shared two (2013, ’15) with a 40-0-2 league record in that six-season span.
Diaz has six starters back, led by senior striker Kristina DeMarco, the 2016 NLL player of the year. DeMarco earned All-Ohio second-team honors. Junior striker Addie Graham earned all-league first-team honors.
“We have two of the best finishers in northwest Ohio,” Diaz said.
The other returning starters are seniors Jess Bragg (center back), Meghan Lund (midfielder), Paige Thompson (outside back), and sophomore Sarah Pantenburg (center back). The team also has depth with little drop off during substitutions.
The Yellow Jackets already have scored 17 goals in four games (4.3 per game).
“We can score lots of goals,” Diaz said. “We have great chemistry. The girls get along very well and play for each other. It's similar to the 2012 state championship team.”
Notre Dame (4-2-0) earned a share of the Three Rivers Athletic Conference title last season, and made its first trip to the state semifinals last season before falling to eventual state champion Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit. Coach Chip Smith, who has eight starters back, said his team is versatile.
“We can play multiple styles and multiple positions,” said Smith, whose team has won two district titles in the past four years. “We are very physical, we work hard, are intense, and have a good mindset. We can really play an attacking possession style.”
Junior forward Ashley Barron earned All-Ohio first-team honors. Senior defenders Abby Snyder and Lexa Bauer each made the All-TRAC first team with Barron. The other top returning players are seniors Ally Bennett (F), Sarah Sabol (M), and Ellie Buchholtz (D) and sophomores Lauryn Mick (F/M), Hannah Miller (M/F), and Rachel Spencer (F).
“Every year it's the same goal: Be the best version of ourselves,” Smith said. “We've always had a forward thinking mentality. We dedicate ourselves to improving daily. If we stay hungry, bring the right attitude, effort and intensity, we can be a good team.”
Anthony Wayne (5-0-0), which claimed back-to-back district titles in 2012 and ’13, has good team speed, according to coach Lori Williams.
“Our goal is to work really hard to compete with every team during our tough schedule to gain valuable experience as the year progresses,” Williams said.
Just four starters return from last year's team who went 9-7-1.
Senior midfielder Jen Fortner is bck after earning All-NLL first-team honors, along with senior forwards Emilie Reese and Areanna Fuller. Junior midfielders Taylor Gadus and Izzy Merkel also are back with sophomores Keaton Grabarczyk (G), Emilie Gardner (D), and Hannah Rybicki (D).
Williams said her team has a great work rate with a deep bench.
“When putting together our schedule, the goal was to put ourselves in a situation to compete against the top teams in northwest Ohio and to play good teams from the other metropolitan areas so that we would be ready for the playoffs when they come,” Williams said.
St. Ursula (1-1-1) shared the TRAC title with Notre Dame last season with matching 6-1-0 records. The conference crown once again could be on the line when the team's meet in the regular-season finale Oct. 14.
The Arrows, who reached a regional semifinal in 2015, have eight starters back for coach Chris Black.
Junior forward Payton Sullivan, who earned first-team All-Ohio honors, has committed to play at Toledo. Fellow seniors Katie Karban (M), Lexi Taylor (M), and goalkeeper Caelen Warnecke also return, along with sophomores Grace Turski (F) and Lily Turski (D).
Black said his team's strengths include possession, speed, depth. “We can attack in waves,” he said.
Among the goals are carrying a team grade-point average of 4.0, winning the TRAC outright, and making it back to the state final four.
“We believe we have the talent and mentality to take a long view to the season and be patient,” Black said.
Findlay (1-3-1) will be strong on defense led by a trio of players that earned All-TRAC first-team honors. Junior forwards Morgan Kirk and Madison Mlsna are back, along with senior midfielder Morgan Simeon.
Coach David LaRocco has eight starters returning overall, including juniors Chase Ebanks (D) and senior Jaclyn Bendt (D).
“Defense is our strength,” he said. “Our goals are to win TRAC and district championships. The key will be scoring goals.”
Southview (1-3-0) has eight starters returning and the Cougars experience is a strength. But some players are playing different positions, according to third-year coach Majd Ali.
The top returning players are seniors Maddie Crandall (CB), and Melissa Jacoby (MF) juniors McKenzie Ortman (MF), and Abbigail Mann (MF). Sophomore Ellie Pool, a striker, earned All-NLL and all-district first team honors. Ortman also earned All-NLL first team honors.
“Our strength will be our transition from offense to defense,” Ali said. “But we're still waiting to gel. We hope to score more goals than in the past. We're hopeful that we can challenge the best teams in the NLL.”
Northview (0-5-0) will be relying on six returning starters, all seniors.
Lucy Creech (M), Madison Keller (F), Lizzy Due (D), Jenna Kill (G), Bailee Thompson (M), and Emily Jamieson (D/M) return for longtime Wildcats coach Rick Burgin.
“This team has some speed and athleticism, positive attitudes with the mindset to take on challenges against a tough schedule this year, which we will use to help us grow,” said Burgin, whose 2011 team reached a state semifinal.
Expectations remain high with the goal of getting better every day with no regrets, he said.
“The key is staying focused and putting the team first and being able to adjust and adapt to every situation with the mindset and awareness to get better,” Burgin said.
Clay (2-4-0) will be good technically in the midfield with a possession-type team that should score score plenty of goals. The overall goals are to win TRAC and district titles, according to coach Duck Hess.
The returning starters are seniors Hailey Clere (M), Reagan Clark (M), Kim Nagel (F), and Marissa Brezvai (D) along with sophomores Rylee Clark (M) and Payton Rigg (F).
“We will need to stay healthy. Our first-year varsity players need to gain experience quickly,” Hess said.