Despite coaching change, ‘Cats loaded with depth

J. Patrick Eaken

Last year, Woodmore girls soccer coach Lauren Colangelo had her only season at the helm, and she made the best of it.

She led the team to a 13-4-2 season and 8-2 in the Northern Buckeye Conference. Colangelo wanted to stay with the team this year, but had to leave for family reasons.

Bring in her assistant, Jeff Helmke, who knows Woodmore well as a coach in various youth sports at nearly all age levels.

“I got into coaching just like a lot of people, with their kids growing up. We started doing travel teams out of Woodmore. At 8-years-old, we took the kids out of rec and we did fairly well and we were building — we didn’t realize how much we were building,” Helmke said. 

“I’ve coached about everybody from sixth grade through twelfth grade in one way or another, most of them in soccer, some in basketball, some softball — you know how little towns are. I just kept moving up and I was fortunate enough. 

“Obviously, we had the Division III coach of the year last year in Lauren Colangelo. She was very torn, and she said ‘I’m not going to be able to do this.’ Luckily, I asked her last year about becoming the assistant coach and helping her, and it worked out in a good way for me. So I get to see it through — everything we’ve been building since the girls were 8-years-old.”

Helmke inherits a team that is loaded, with 14 returning letter winners, including eight starters. Last year, Colangelo said she wanted her team to “put on the gas,” and they did, until losing in the district final to fifth-ranked Eastwood, 3-2, in a shootout.

“This team is loaded with talent across the field. The caliber of talent coming off the bench is going to be a big part of how we play the game. We have girls from seniors to freshmen who are going to play and be a big part of what our team accomplishes this season,” Helmke said. “We have a very talented team taking the field.”

Leading the way are junior forwards Alayna Hahn and Macey Bauder, senior midfielder Autumn Bowen and sophomore defenders Caydie Buchanan and Izzy Cook.  Hahn had 19 goals and nine assists last year, Bauder had 15 goals and 10 assists and Bowen had six goals and four assists.

“Alayna Hahn has been one of our best players since she was a freshman — even before I was part of the coaching staff,” Helmke said.

Returning in goal this season will be sophomore Layla McGinnis, who had eight shutouts and 79 saves a year ago. 

“She had a great freshman season earning second team All-NBC honors. I would expect her game to grow even more this season,” Helmke said. “She’s athletic and she is getting a lot more comfortable back there. Coming out and challenging things has become a little more natural for her right now.”

On the back end of the pitch, there are still a few holes to fill.

“One of our biggest areas to fill will be in the defense where we lost all-state second team player Sidney Gillig from the center back position. We have some very talented girls playing back there that we believe are going to do a great job,” Helmke said.

However, Helmke says he could have mentioned nearly every player — the roster has 22 players and he says up to 19 players will see the field on a regular basis. That helps during practices, too.

“Even our internal scrimmages have been high quality and smart and moving soccer,” Helmke said. “All of our midfielders — honestly, I have a rotation of about six players in the midfield, and they are all good players and they play fast. Overall our team speed is awesome. We are going to be fast, we are going to be intense and we are going to be cycling girls in and out.”

The issue will be that the Northern Buckeye Conference is talented all the way through. Last year, when Woodmore reached the Division III district, they found three other NBC teams there.

“Eastwood, Genoa, and Lake — they are all going to be good,” Helmke said. “This league is one of the toughest soccer leagues around. We expect to be in the running for the top of the league this season due to our talent and depth. We have a great group of girls and we expect big things for the next few seasons.”

Helmke says the Woodmore players are learning on the job through youth travel soccer, which makes his job easier. 

“That’s the good thing is almost all of our kids are coming out of travel, whether it was for Woodmore, the (East Suburban Soccer League) Arsenal, the GTFC (Greater Toledo Futbol Club), and out of the 22 kids, 21 of them came from travel,” Helmke said. 

“There are only about two kids on the team that I didn’t coach in soccer. At one point or another, I did coach them. It’s a lot of fun. Our other coach and I, we are extremely excited and blessed about the chance we have right now.”










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