A year ago at this time, Cloverleaf’s girls soccer team was still more than a month away from its first victory of the season.
This fall, the Colts have won three of their four games with a mix of returning veterans and a loaded freshman class.
While the area was well-aware of what All-Gazette forward Lauren Gokey (8 goals) brings to the table, little was known of how Cloverleaf’s freshmen would respond to their first time under the varsity lights.
First-year coach Guillermo Porras and assistant Judd Peroli are not shocked with how the youngsters have answered the call.
“When coach Peroli and I first got a glimpse of them playing indoor, we we’re very excited for that group,” Porras said. “In our first two games (this season), we have 10 freshmen. Six of them started and they seized the moment and took some spots.
“Going forward there can only be positives because they’re only going to learn and get better.”
The Colts have already surpassed last year’s win total thanks to a veteran backline of Shannon Mohney, Sara Fairbairn, Briana Drogell and Anna Winnicki. Gokey and Cooke have provided scoring up top.
Toss in a huge freshmen class highlighted by Heidi Cartwright, Katelyn Young, Madison Horner, Zana Ross and Jill Miglich and Cloverleaf is on a mission to turn around a program that just three years ago won its third straight Suburban League championship.
Even the best goalkeeper is nothing without a strong backline. Medina’s Dean McNeil is well aware of that. The senior stopped six shots in the Bees’ 2-0 win over Copley in a potential preview of next month’s Brunswick D-I District title game, but Ben Case, Connor Dease, Eric Vinborg and Adam Hocevar made the win possible and has Medina unbeaten through five games.
“The guys put in an amazing effort. I couldn’t ask for anything more from them,” McNeil said. “They were supporting for each other. When one guy steps, the other guy drops, and they were pressuring at the right times, but effort was the No. 1 thing. We put in an amazing amount of effort and it paid off.”
Success on and off the pitch
Wadsworth boys coach John Johnson is always proud of his program’s accomplishments, but he’s even more satisfied his 2012 squad was recently awarded a national academic award, which was recently announced by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. The award is based on the entire academic year and a squad must have an overall grade-point average of 3.25 or higher.
The Grizzlies had a 3.36 GPA in 2012-13.
“This is our eighth national academic team award since I have been here,” Johnson said. “We are proud that we are able to maintain high academic standards while trying to maintain high playing standards as well.”
Courtney Palange made a name for herself last spring after helping two relay teams to the state meet. Now, the Wadsworth senior is turning heads with her ability at the outside midfield position. The same speed and endurance that allowed her to aid the Grizzlies 4×800-meter team to fourth place and the 4×4 to seventh in D-I has been well on display. Her quickness helps her keep up with All-Gazette forward Leah Runkle.
“She gives us pace and her crosses are rock solid,” Wadsworth coach Paul Williford said. “She can hit a 50-yard ball with no effort, so it’s just a matter of keeping her under control with it. She definitely gives us more of a weapon on the outside, and we don’t have to be straight through the middle like we’ve have in the last few years.”
Through three games, Palange has four goals and a pair of assists.
Medina forward Aaron Liezert is doubtful for Saturday’s showdown with county rival Brunswick. The All-Gazette selection separated his shoulder against Copley and will follow up with doctors this week. Teammate Jared Vidika was cleared last week to return from his ankle injury, but is questionable, while Noah Hastings is sidelined for three games for a team rules violation.
• It’s questionable when Highland midfielder/defender Elle Cain will be able to return after being sidelined with a concession, while teammate Hannah Wingate is still out with a foot and ankle injury.
• Midfielder Micahel Zorij of Brunswick has been cleared to practice after being out with a broken collarbone. According to coach Ben Dotson, the senior is expected to return Sept. 24 when the Blue Devils take on Stow in NOC River Division play.
What to watch
Beginning with 1-1 draws against Gilmour Academy and Westlake, Medina’s girls are in the midst of a five-game homestand that continues Wednesday against nationally ranked Holy Name. The Bees will then welcome county foe Brunswick on Saturday before opening NOC Valley Division play against Solon the following Wednesday.
• The doubleheader between Brunswick and Medina at Medina Memorial Stadium will start at 5 p.m. with the varsity girls contest, followed by the boys at 7.
• Buckeye’s boys will look to bounce back from their first loss of the season Wednesday in a key Patriot Athletic Conference match against Firelands. The Bucks, winners of the last two PAC Stars Divsion championships, will host upstart Falcons, who are 5-0 and have outscored opponents 27-3.
Brunswick’s boys are 4-0 at Judy Kirsch Stadium and have outscored opponents 26-0. The Blue Devils girls are also perfect at home.
• Cloverleaf freshmen Cameron Markeson and Zana Ross netted their first career goals last week, while Buckeye rookie striker Sophia Barnes scored the first two goals of her career in a win over Columbia.
• The Bucks’ 2-0 loss to Orange on Saturday was their first at home since 2010. Coming into the game, the boys were 15-0-3 since the start of 2011.
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.