By Michael Beaven
Special to the Beacon Journal
The high school girls soccer season has begun with several area teams feeling that they are legitimate state contenders.
Archbishop Hoban and Walsh Jesuit return several key players from last season's teams, which advanced to state semifinal matches. Jackson and Medina annually field strong teams. Brunswick Cloverleaf, Copley, Green, Hudson, Kent Roosevelt, Ravenna, Revere and Stow are all capable of making deep runs in the state tournament.
‘‘It just seems like that type of year,’’ said Frank Gagliardi, now in his 12th year coaching Jackson. ‘‘It doesn't seem like there is any team where you say, ‘That team will win state.’ There definitely is a lot of teams that will be in the fight for a state title.’’
Veteran Walsh Jesuit coach Dino McIntyre said the Cleveland and Akron areas boast ‘‘a lot of teams that can go all the way,’’ mentioning Akron-area teams plus Strongsville, Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown, North Royalton and Brecksville.
Kent Roosevelt outlook
One team off to a flying start is Kent Roosevelt, which is 3-0 and has outscored Stow, Tallmadge and Coventry 16-4.
The Rough Riders, 7-8-2 last season, have eight returning starters. Senior tri-captains Katie Mitchell, Jessica Giulitto and Brianna Serafin are the foundation of the team along with senior forward Jennifer DeLuke.
‘‘We have four seniors who are contributing very well and showing good leadership,’’ coach Steve Mitchell said.
Katie Mitchell, the coach's daughter, scored 10 goals in 2007. She and Giulitto, a defender, are entering their fourth years as starters. Serafin, a midfielder, sophomore midfielder Michaela Kline and junior goal keeper Abby Bradford are other key players.
‘‘Our depth is impressive,’’ Steve Mitchell said. ‘‘I can make any number of substitutions and not weaken the lineup, which is a great luxury.’’
Stow returns 10 starters and 15 letterwinners from last season's team, which went 8-5-4 and was second to Brunswick in the NOC River Division.
‘‘I tell my players to take it game by game and hopefully toward the end of the season we are in the running for the league championship, and from there anything can happen,’’ Stow coach Chris Tipton said. ‘‘I have high hopes for the team.’’
Sophomore forward Vickie Havas led the Bulldogs with nine goals last year. Senior sweeper Leah Poiner and junior stopper Ellie Swanger will pace the defense along with senior goalkeeper Sarah Conkle. Junior midfielder Kyrsten Kamlowsky also returns.
The Stow boys team won the Division I state title in 2006, an accomplishment that many of the girls witnessed.
‘‘We talk about that in a sense of that's what we want to do,’’ Tipton said. ‘‘A lot of the
girls were there and saw it. I was there, I felt it and I saw it. I think it will take a lot of grunt work. Realistically, it will be tough, but this is the best team I have had here.’’
Championship caliber – Walsh Jesuit & Archbishop Hoban
McIntyre, entering his 16th season as Walsh’s coach, knows what it feels like to win championships. He led Walsh to state titles in 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2006. The 2000 and 2006 teams were recognized as national champions.
The Warriors, a 2007 Division I state semifinalist with a 13-4-5 record, will be led by
senior defenders Jaime Townsend and Jordan Finch, senior midfielders Alexis Garcia
and Kendra Simmons, sophomore forward Kelsey Smigel and sophomore midfielder/forward Elizabeth Bollinger.
Smigel paced Walsh with 15 goals last season. “She's a pure goal scorer,‘‘ McIntyre said. ‘‘She knows the game technically and has all the tools.”
Townsend (Lehigh), Garcia (Dayton) and Finch (Miami, Ohio) are Division I recruits. McIntyre said Garica is training to overcome her third torn ACL in the past four years.
Juniors Juliana Libertin and Jessacca Gironda are among seven returning starters for
Hoban. The Knights compiled a 15-4-1 record and made their second consecutive appearance in the Division II state semifinals last season.
‘‘We want to win one more game and get in that final,’’ said Benny Pietrangelo, entering his third season as Hoban's coach. ‘‘On paper, we look pretty strong, but the games have to be played. People are impressed with our talent, but you have to play the games on the field and win.’’
Libertin, a forward, received Beacon Journal Player of the Year honor last fall. She scored four goals Saturday in a 6-0 win at Chippewa. As a sophomore, Libertin scored 35 goals and had 20 assists, and she totaled 15 goals and 11 assists as a freshman.
‘‘When Jules is on, opponents can't stop her,’’ said Pietrangelo, who also coached the Hoban boys soccer team for 17 years. ‘‘She never gets tired because she runs track and is a swimmer, too. She is a very special athlete. Her endurance is amazing.’’
Gironda, a midfielder/goal keeper, scored 16 goals last season. Senior defender Alex
Niehaus, sophomore defender Gabby Corwin, sophomore forward Margaret Woods and
senior goal keeper Francesca Gironda also return for Hoban.
Jackson & Medina outlook
Jackson returns 11 letterwinners from last year's team, which posted a 17-2-1 record ` 7-0 in winning the Federal League.
The Polar Bears will be led by senior midfielders Rachel Dennis, a Kent State recruit, and
Melissa Hagan, a Northern Iowa recruit. Junior midfielders Maggie Rusnak and Lauren
Jokovich also return with junior sweeper Emily Sanders.
‘‘With the tradition of the past and the stage the previous girls have set, hopefully the
winning habits will still be strong within the program,’’ Gagliardi said.
Jackson is hoping to get some revenge against Walsh this season; the Warriors ousted the
Polar Bears the past three years in the state tournament.
‘‘We have never beaten Walsh in my 12 years as coach,’’ Gagliardi said. ‘‘That is a mental and a physical goal that we have as a team.’’
Medina will be paced by junior forward Becca Candler, an Indiana University recruit,
Sarah Flanders and Jillian Graff. The Bees should still be a strong team despite the absence of current Ohio State player Paige Maxwell, who was a four-year starter at Medina.
Suburban League balanced
Tina Salem is excited about what her Copley team can do in her 11th season. Senior
midfielders Kristen Mattei (Toledo recruit) and Kirsten Schulte (Case Western Reserve) lead the team.
The Indians also will rely on senior sweeper Liz Moyer, senior defender Julie Berk,
junior midfielder/forward Nikki Matttei and junior midfielder Maddi Buckham.
‘‘I think girls soccer has finally caught up with the boys,’’ Salem said. ‘‘You have a
lot more girls playing the sport. Northeast Ohio is just incredible for girls soccer. We
have a reputation for having strong soccer.’’
Copley and Revere are expected to be the top Suburban League teams, but Cloverleaf and Green should be in the mix for the league crown.
Junior forward Emily White will guide Revere after leading the Minutemen in scoring the previous two seasons. She enters 2008 with 22 career goals.
Revere coach Jeff Stoerkel said sophomores Tara Littman and Katie Kimberly will be key midfielders with freshman Amy Feher and sophomore Kristen Popa is the goalkeeper.
Cloverleaf compiled a 11-4-2 overall record and a 5-1-1 league mark last season to place second to Copley in the Suburban League. Colts coach Val Baughman said eight starters and 11 total letterwinners return from last season.
Sophomore forward Katie Roberts and junior midfielders Rachel Gokey, Hanna Cavalier and Megan Jackson lead Cloverleaf’s offense.
Juniors Melissa Zeigler and Shannon Kilkenny and sophomore Katie Koloka form the nucleus off Cloverleaf’s defense in front of junior goal keeper Karly Beuck.
“We have a really strong junior class,” Baughman said.
Green is led by seniors Desiree Aber and Kelsey Ahbe.
Cloverleaf defeated Green 4-0 Wednesday to improve to 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the Suburban League this season.
Other promising teams and players
North Canton Hoover went 14-4-2 last season and Sarah Maj and Kathleen Ray are among eight returning letter winners.
Perry has seven starters and 10 total lettermen back from 2007. Junior goal keeper Megan
McMaster, sophomore forward Michelle Genetin and junior forward Ally Smith all return.
The Vikings and Panthers will try to dethrone the Jackson Polar Bears from the top spot in the Federal League.
Firestone senior forward Christine Black and Western Reserve Academy senior midfielder Anne Song are two other players that are entering their fourth varsity seasons.
Black netted the lone goal in Firestone's 1-0 victory over St. Vincent-St. Mary earlier this
Song, who also has a four-goal game this season, netted 18 goals at WRA as a forward last season enters 2008 with 37 career goals.