STRONGSVILLE — After the best finish in Suburban League play in seven years and one of the best overall records in over a decade last fall, Highland’s girls soccer team is on the rise.
Despite having to fill some spots due to graduation, the Hornets return eight fulltime starters from a year ago and will look to build on last season’s success today as they open the preseason at the Adidas National Showcase.
“We definitely lost a handful of great players, but we return a lot of starters, said Highland coach Gina Fox, whose team will be making its first trip to the Adidas Showcase since 2009. “Now we’re working on finding that cohesiveness and making things happen, but we got the pieces and I expect those returning players to be leaders.”
While mandatory practice for teams across the state doesn’t start for two weeks, the Hornets have been working hard during the last month via workouts and a trip to the Kent State team camp to prepare for this weekend’s event.
Highland will be joined by Brunswick, Buckeye and Medina at the event played at various Strongsville sites and the Buckeye campus. Each school will take multiple teams to the Showcase.
But for Fox and the Hornets, it is all about getting more on-the-field training in preparation for the upcoming season.
“This event is great, because you get to play against teams you never get to see and work on all of the phases of the game,” Fox said. “It gives us a chance to move kids around into different roles and see how they do and maybe there will be some surprises.”
Highland does have three big gaps to fill with the graduation of leading goal scorers Anna Rose Wiencek and Amanda Schniegenberg, along with McKenzie Koch, the team’s leader in assists the last three seasons.
But Fox isn’t panicking as seniors Elle Cain and Maggie Mae Everett are both back, along with standout goalkeeper Madison Less from a team that went 11-4-3 and finished third in the SL. Cain and Everett are part of a versatile group of returnees that also includes Jillian Savage and Mari Ley two players that Fox said could see time at a host of spots on the pitch. Less had nine shutouts last season including a clean sheet against SL champ Copley. She recorded 0.944 goals against average.
Juniors Bailey Sauer, Kaitlyn Lafayette and Lauren Tecco also started for the Hornets last fall, as did sophomore Elayna Yuschak.
“There’s a lot of technical talent with this returning group,” Fox said. “Most are upperclassmen, so they’ve played together a long time and know how to play off of each other.
“They’ve been a part of what we’ve done the last couple of years.”
When it comes to returning talent, Medina’s cupboard is far from bare.
After advancing to a second straight regional last fall, the Bees are poised for another deep tournament run and will have three high school teams participating in the showcase as well as two middle school squads.
All-Ohio midfielder Bri Shingary leads the group of returnees. Shingary scored seven goals and had five assists last season. Junior Sydney Leckie (6 goals, 9 assists) and defenders Bri Caccavalle and Haley Knox also were key members last year and will playing this weekend.
Brunswick won its first league championship since 2008 a year ago and returns its entire starting lineup.
The Blue Devils are led by the All-Gazette midfield tandem of Macey Juguilon and Miranda Al-Zarraq who helped the Blue Devils to a 13-2-3 season, along with goalkeeper Erin Calhoun. Juguilon dished out a county-best 13 assists and scored 11 times as a junior and Calhoun who posted 10 shutouts and a 0.66 goals against average.
Senior Norah Barnes became Buckeye’s first All-Ohioan in school history last spring after scoring 12 goals and recording 12 assists, while her younger sister Sophie netted ta team-high 15 goals.
Along with team play, the showcase features a Junior/Senior Spotlight event on Saturday night at the Ehrnfelt Soccer Complex, while a sophomore clinic and freshman top flight event will be held tonight.
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.