Depth wins championships, and Medina girls soccer coach Doug Coreno knows first hand. A host of standouts — many of which are still playing collegiately — helped the Bees capture the 2009 Division I state championship.
With 17 letterwinners, including 10 starters, returning this fall, optimism is high. The Bees are loaded with talent that has pushed the level of competition on the practice field and created a great situation for Coreno’s coaching staff.
“This definitely is the deepest and most talented squad we’ve had at Medina since 2009,” he said. “We have 19 players on the varsity roster right now, and I feel I could trust any of them with significant minutes.
“There is going to be a lot of competition for playing time this year, and that will hopefully motivate us to work hard and get better every single day.”
Three All-Gazette selections are back from a team that came within one game of the state semifinals. Forward Hannah Ludwig and midfielder/forwards Nicole Bennett and Brianna Shingary headline a roster with all-conference talent at every position.
Five other All-Gazette picks are back for their respective teams.
Bowling Green State recruit Leah Runkle is out to get Wadsworth back in the hunt for the Suburban League title and continue re-writing the school’s record books, while Macey Juguilon and Sam Malleo are looking to lead Brunswick to the top of the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division.
Midfielders Anna Rose Wiencek and Lauren Gokey return to Highland and Cloverleaf, respectively, and are poised for big seasons.
Here’s a look at the county’s seven teams:
|Coach: Andrew Bertram (1st season)
Assistant coach: None.
Last season: 5-10 overall, 3-7 in Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division.
Key letterwinner lost: Sydney Wagner (All-Gazette).
Returning letterwinners: Courtney Massie (sr., D/M), Erin Heilman (jr., GK), Elizabeth Rowe (jr., D), Emily Massie (jr., F), Morgan Leach (sr., M), Sam Heilman (jr., D/M).
Top newcomers: Lizzie Beard (so., D), Brianna Brookshire (fr., M/F), Mikayla Peters (fr., M), Shannon Denny (fr., D), Sierra Sturgill (fr., D), Valerie Lampshire (fr., M), Autumn Lampshire (fr., F).
Outlook: The Pirates are still learning in their fifth year as a program. Bertram, however, has been impressed with the potential of his backline.
With Courtney Massie and Rowe back after strong seasons, along with goalie Heilman, Black River will be tough to score on.
“This is going to be a learning experience for our team,” Bertram said. “The team has looked good so far in the preseason and they seem to be picking up on things faster than I expected.”
Emily Massie and Leach will be looked upon for scoring. Massie had four goals and two assists last fall.
|Coach: Scott Ward (1st season, 3rd overall)
Assistant coaches: Gina Pinzone, Abbey Dotson.
Last season: 8-8-2 overall, 1-3-1 in Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division.
Key letterwinners lost: None.
Returning letterwinners: Macey Juguilon (jr., M, All-Gazette), Sam Malleo (jr., F, All-Gazette), Brooke Kenney (jr., D), Marissa Jenkins (sr., M), Marissa Fabrizi (jr., D/M), Casey Aguinaga (jr., M), Miranda Alzarraq (jr., D/M), Erin Calhoun (jr., GK), Olivia Gailey (jr., M), Geena Gamble (jr., M), Gabby Maslowski (jr., M), Nikki Shotzbarger (jr., F), Olivia Young (jr., D), Hayley Anderson (so., D).
Top newcomers: Heather Craska (fr., D), Lauren Scherette (fr., F).
Outlook: “Potential” is a word that has been thrown around in describing the Blue Devils. On paper, they have all the makings for a breakout season with 11 returning starters. They also are moving to the NOC’s River Division.
Ward, who led the team to its last River crown in 2008, is ready to take the field and prove it.
“With so many returning letterwinners and capable additions to the roster, it’s time this team stops talking and hearing about things like talent and potential and commit and focus on achieving,” he said. “We have looked good (this preseason), like many other teams, in that we have shown a bit of good play, a bit of inconsistent play and much that needs to be worked on.”
All-Gazette picks Juguilon and Malleo headline a junior-laden roster that also features forward Young, defenders Kenney and Maslowski and goalkeeper Calhoun.
|Coach: Bud Roberts (5th season)
Assistant coaches: Sy Ketkeo, Amanda Patrick.
Last season: 14-4 overall, 10-0 in Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division.
Key letterwinners lost: Courtney Thomas (All-Gazette), Hannah Hartley (All-Gazette), Jessica Banas (All-Gazette).
Returning letterwinners: Norah Barnes (jr., M), Heather Thomas (sr., D), Shannon Peicu (jr., D), Mi Nguygen (sr., D), Hannah Stacy (jr., D/GK), Sarah Turner (jr., M), Jessica Conley (sr., M), Abbie Clark (sr., D).
Top newcomers: Sophia Barnes (fr., F), Olivia Hartley (fr., M), Lexie Thomas (fr., D), Corrinne Phillips (fr., M), McKenzie Erne (fr., M).
Outlook: Any team that graduated six four-year letterwinners can use it as an excuse. The Bucks use it as motivation.
While those players were key in Buckeye regaining the PAC Stars Division championship, this year’s team still has a lot of firepower in the midfield and on the backline. Led by midfielder Barnes, who had 12 goals and two assists last fall, the Bucks also will look to defenders Thomas and Peicu to keep the tradition alive.
“Losing eight seniors, and six of them being four-year letterwinners and two all-district players, leaves any team with a major rebuilding season ahead,” Roberts said. “We are fortunate to have three great captains (Barnes, Thomas and Peicu) who have worked extremely hard this offseason to get the team prepared. We are also fortunate to have a good group of freshmen coming into the program.”
Buckeye also returns midfielders Turner and Conley, along with defenders Nguygen, Stacey and Clark. Stacey will also see time at goalie.
|Coach: Guillermo Porras (1st season)
Assistant coach: Judd Peroli.
Last season: 2-14-1 overall, 1-6 in Suburban League.
Key letterwinners lost: None.
Returning letterwinners: Lauren Gokey (jr., M, All-Gazette), Brianna Drogell (sr., D), Sarah Fairbairn (sr., M), Lindsey Ferguson (sr., D), Shannon Mohney (sr., D), Kelley Williams (sr., D), Rachel Stallard (jr., D), Nicole Cooke (jr., F/M), Savannah Borcuch (jr., F), Anna Winnicki (so., D), Grace Turner (so., D), Caryn Scandlon (so., D), Lexie Hall (so., F).
Top newcomers: None submitted.
Outlook: After a school-record second straight losing season, the Colts are ready to get back to their winning ways. The good news is there are eight returning starters — mainly in the midfield and on defense — who improved to the point of winning two of their last three games.
It’s momentum Porras has carried into the preseason as he puts in his system.
“We have many girls returning from last year who got a lot of playing experience,” he said. “We also have a talented group of freshmen who should make an immediate impact this year.”
Gokey was an All-Gazette selection and will be the Colts go-to scorer after posting a team-high eight goals last year.
On the backline is Winnicki, who will anchor from sweeper.
|Coach: Gina Fox (4th season)
Assistant coach: Samantha Sandmann.
Last season: 11-6-1 overall, 3-4 in Suburban League.
Key letterwinners lost: Courtney Kohmann (All-Gazette).
Returning letterwinners: Anna Rose Wiencek (sr., M, All-Gazette), Elle Cain (jr., D/M), Madison Less (so., GK), Mckenzie Koch (sr., M), Amanda Schniegenberg (sr., F), Maggie Mae Everett (jr., D/M), Mari Ley (so., F/M), Jillian Savage (jr., D), Lauren Tecco (so., D/M).
Top newcomers: Kaitlyn Lafayette (so., M), Elayna Yuschak (fr., D), Abbey Dragich (so., D), Jasmine Prezenkowski (jr., GK), Audrey Koehler (jr., D/M), Julianne Zeleznik (jr., D), Bailey Sauer (so., M), Rebecca Smith (jr., D), Samantha Sube (jr., D), Hannah Wingate (sr., M).
Outlook: With their four top scorers back, the Hornets should be one of the better attacking squads around.
Wiencek, who recently committed to Miami of Ohio, leads the highly skilled group that should have opposing defenses on their heels. Wiencek had a team-best 11 goals last fall, while Amanda Schniegenberg (10 goals, 5 assists), Mari Ley (8, 4) and McKezie Koch (3, 10) also had strong seasons.
What Fox likes most of all is the versatility.
“Despite the loss of some talented seniors, we return six starters most of which play in the attack,” she said. “I think out biggest strength is knowing our weaknesses and having a group of players committed and passionate about the game. They will put the time and determination in to making adjustments when needed, as well as helping the team by playing in various positions.”
Cain will be one of the leaders in the defensive midfield, while Less looks to build upon a freshman season in which she had 60 saves.
|Coach: Doug Coreno (6th season)
Assistant coaches: Brad Wojnarowski, Bob Armentrout, Ed Gambaccini.
Last season: 13-6-2 overall, 3-1-1 in Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division.
Key letterwinners lost: Marissa Scullin (Gazette MVP), Emily Felton, Jessika Turner.
Returning letterwinners: Nicole Bennett (sr., M/F, All-Gazette), Hannah Ludwig (jr., F, All-Gazette), Brianna Shingary (jr., M/F, All-Gazette), Amy Bobonik (sr., M), Holly Rhodes (sr., D), Alina Mille (sr., GK), Gabby Field (jr., M), Haley Knox (jr., D), Leanne Prandi (jr., D), Lauren Rafie (jr., M), Jordan Reynolds (jr., GK), Alex Root (jr., M/F), Elizabeth Ash (so., M/F), Bri Caccavale (so., D), Lilly Jackson (so., D), Sydney Leckie (so., M), Olivia Sency (so., M/F).
Top newcomers: Emma Cureton (jr., M), Cassie Field (so., D).
Outlook: One question mark is how the Bees were going to replace Gazette MVP Marisa Scullin on the backline. With Rhodes, Prandi, Knox, Caccavale and Jackson all back, along with goalkeeper Jordan Reynolds, the defense is in good shape.
“Marisa’s graduation is a big loss to overcome, but I am very, very pleased with how our current group of defenders have come together,” said Coreno, who noted Field will also see time. “I think our backline, along with Reynolds in goal, will continue to be a strength of our team.”
Ludwig will be out to make up for lost time after missing the final month of last season with a concussion, while Bennett is looking to regain the magic she had in scoring eight goals in run to the regional finals. Shingary also has emerged a scoring option and has been named co-captain — the first junior to earn the honor during Coreno’s tenure — with Rhodes.
|Coach: Paul Williford (3rd season)
Assistant coaches: Tanya Williford, Stacey Love, Jess Durinsky, Emily Pignato.
Last season: 12-4-2 overall, 5-1-1 in Suburban League.
Key letterwinner lost: Brittany Fullbright (All-Gazette).
Returning letterwinners: Leah Runkle (sr., F, All-Gazette), Sarah Berger (sr., D), Brooke Braman (sr., M), Hannah Centea (sr., GK), Allison Hagans (sr., D), Megan Drown (jr., F/M), Julie Horton (so., D).
Top newcomers: Hannah Studenic (so., F), Erin Kilbride (so., F), Helena Carlson (jr., M).
Outlook: Runkle has been a force to be reckoned with, and this year should be no different. The Bowling Green State recruit is the county’s two-time reigning scoring champion and holds the school records in goals for a season (33) and career (66).
A resume like that has helped the Grizzlies emerge as one of the top teams in the SL. The talented striker will anchor the attack once again, while Braman and Berger will lead the midfield and backlines, respectively, with impressive resumes.
After being moved to goalie late last season, Centea will assume the role once again.
“I expect another strong season,” Williford said. “I have strengthened our out of league schedule to better prepare us for a tournament run. Depth will be our biggest issue, having 15 on varsity.”
Williford expects Studenic to play big minutes as she looks to fill Runkle’s position in 2014.
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.