Flyers, Comets return lots of depth, playing experience

J. Patrick Eaken

The Lake and Genoa girls soccer teams return a combined 29 letter winners — enough for nearly three teams.
        The Flyers have 15 lettermen returning and the Comets 14 — more than enough quality varsity playing time for both teams to be contenders in the Northern Buckeye Conference.
        Lake went 13-6-1 overall and 6-4 last year, and followed the regular season up by winning four straight Division II tournament games until losing to Wapakoneta, 2-0, at Findlay’s Elmer A. Graham Stadium in a regional semifinal.
        Coach Don Jablonski says he has a “strong senior class” returning, adding that he expects his team to finish in the top half of the league, but stressing that “it is going to be tough.”
        Last year’s team had just two seniors to go along with 22 underclassmen, including eight freshman and five sophomores. As a result, three underclassmen, midfielder Colette Askins, defender Teri Miller and forward Mallory Lowe were among five co-captains.
        The Flyers had second team all-league choices in Askins and Miller, center midfielder Elizabeth Cowell and center midfielder Karissa McCloskey. Honorable mention selections were Lowe, forward Courtney Johnson and goalkeeper Hayley St. John. All were underclassmen last year except Johnson, who was a senior.
        St. John recorded a goals-against average of 1.708, plus she had 116 saves and an 83 percent save percentage. Johnson led the Flyers with 21 goals and 17 assists, Ava Ayers had 16 goals and 13 assists, Lowe had 12 goals and five assists, Cowell had nine goals and four assists and Kendyl Saffran, who was the other senior last year, had seven goals and seven assists.
        The recent success is nothing new for Jablonski’s teams — in 2016 and 2017 his Lake squads finished 16-1-3 and 13-0-3 and won back-to-back league championships.
        This is Jablonski’s seventh year at Lake, where his teams have gone 78-29-13. He also won two league championships while coaching at Central Catholic, where his teams went 62-42-18. At Central, he was a four-time Private School Coach of the Year.
Seeking repeat 10-win season
        Genoa’s program is on its way up, having won 10-plus games each of the last three seasons with last year’s team finishing 10-6-1.
        Five returnees are seniors, including defender Alayna Nyler, defender Kenzie Schmidt, forward Tatum Neumann, midfielder Megan Davis, midfielder Kendal Gerke. Neumann is the returning leading scorer.
        Eight returning letter winners have won all-league or other accolades in Neumann, Davis, Gerke, Schmidt, Emily Dunlap, Taylor Simmons and Ryan Lay. 
        Coach Josiah Hanson, in his fifth season, says there is “tough competition throughout” the Northern Buckeye Conference, adding that “the league has a lot of great players in the area,” which will make his team’s chances of winning a league title that much tougher.
        Before coming to Genoa, Hanson was junior varsity boys coach for three years at Bowling Green.
Lake boys — one way to go
        The Lake boys soccer team finished 0-12-5 last year and 0-6-4 in the NBC, so they have only way to go — up.
        They did have ties against Eastwood (3-3), Wauseon (1-1), Otsego (0-0), Genoa (2-2), and Rossford (2-2), but could not get over the hump and into the win column. In his second year, coach Brian Reed thinks that will happen this year, and more, believing his team can place as high as fourth.
        He says the NBC is a “competitive league always,” but believes his team can “work together.” If the Flyers have anything going for them, Reed says its experience, but he has a lot of first time varsity starters.
        “(Last year) was a tough season after losing so many seniors the year before. We lost some key players to injury early on,” Reed said.
        “We’re a young group of inexperienced varsity players. Now this season, with a year or two of experience and some new players, I’m excited for the season. The players have a good attitude and they’re working hard to compete this season.”
        Reed, who was the district assistant coach of the year prior to taking the head job, has seven lettermen returning, including senior midfielder Emilio Ignat and junior forward Aidan Wamer.
        Ignat, who led the team in scoring, was second team all-league last year and goalkeeper Luke Heebsh was honorable mention. Coach Reed believes Ignat has a real shot at playing collegiate soccer after finishing his prep career.
        Key front line players include Wamer, Caleb Thomas and Jayden Berlin, and returning top midfielders include Ignat and Kaiden Reed. Top defenders include Landon Shafer and Nolan Nowicki, and Heebsh will be helped in goal by Holden Wodrich.
        Coach Reed says players who are showing the most improvement include Will Gurney, Aidan Lighty, Ryan Taylor and Dylan Plummer.


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