Now, the real test begins for Eastwood girls soccer

J. Patrick Eaken

Now that the Eastwood girls soccer team has won its third straight Northern Buckeye Conference championship, they are looking to get over the hump in the tournament.

They have been regional contenders the past two seasons but are dreaming even bigger. It has not been easy the past two seasons getting to the regional tournament and the Eagles did not end this year’s regular season well.

After a 6-0 pasting of No. 3 seed Huron (12-4-1) in the Division III tournament opener, the Eagles are 15-2 overall, losing their final game to NBC foe Lake, 1-0, which is now 12-4-1. It was Eastwood’s only league loss this season.

But the Flyers lost the first time to Eastwood, 4-1, and to a once-state ranked Woodmore team, 2-0 and 2-1. Woodmore, 12-3-2, fell only to Eastwood, 7-3 and 3-1, in league play.

However, Woodmore and Eastwood have a common opponent, Liberty-Benton, which defeated Eastwood 2-0 and Woodmore 2-1. The L-B Eagles are led by high-scoring Alexis Rickenbacher, who has 55 points on 23 goals and nine assists.

For the record, in the latest poll, Eastwood is ranked seventh in Division III and L-B (12-2-2) is ranked 11th. L-B’s only losses are to Lima Bath, 2-1, and to Northern Lakes League co-champion Perrysburg, 4-3.

Both Eastwood and L-B are seeded No. 1 in their respective districts and once again would not meet until the regional tournament, but Eastwood might still have to get by Woodmore or Lake in the district final. Plus, Eastwood travels to Genoa (8-8-1) to take on the potentially dangerous Comets Tuesday and then could face the Wildcats or Flyers in the district final on Oct. 31 at 1 p.m. at Genoa.

Eastwood has seen this scenario before. Last year’s squad reached the regional semis and saw its season end on a 1-0 double-overtime loss to L-B on Perrysburg’s field turf. Eastwood outshot L-B by a 12-2 margin in the first half and finished with 23 shots on goal. L-B won the game on a fluky goal in the second overtime, say coaches. 

Now, the question is what does L-B’s regular season win over Eastwood mean for the tournament this year? Can the higher ranked Eastwood team pull off a win if they meet again? You have to remember this Eastwood team is still young — out of the top 30 players in the program, including the 22 who dress for the tournament, only two are seniors.

Eastwood coach Megan Rutherford, who began coaching the team at the age of 22 and has already won multiple statewide coaching awards, believes her team is still on top of its game. Plus, the NBC gave her team a good test this year. More than anything, at least they got a season, unlike spring sports.

“This season is going pretty well I would say. The girls have done a good job dealing with all of the new guidelines and restrictions this year. They’ve kept their focus and they are determined to make a deeper run in the tournament,” Rutherford said.

“After we won the NBC title again, I was so happy for them. This one felt different. There was a time back in June or July where I was worried they wouldn’t get the chance to win the title for the third straight season. I really wanted that for them and I’m so happy they were given the chance to play this year.”

The Eagles outscored opponents 113-12 during the regular season, led by two junior attackers, Kenna Souder has 20 goals and nine assists and Aubrey Haas has 20 goals and 11 assists.

Souder was awarded All-American honors last year, along with first team All-Ohio, District Player of the Year, Alan Miler Jewelers All-Press Co-POY and first team All-NBC. She was also named to the All-Region Team in 2018. You can count on many of those same honors this year.

The Eagles are averaging 7.4 goals per game, 6.4 assists (94 total) and have 33.7 shots, with 505 shots taken, including 335 on goal. They have allowed just 0.73 goals per game and opponents have gotten off 76 shots for just 5.1 per game.

“I’m really happy with all of my players. They’ve improved greatly since this summer and we are working more cohesively. We have a lot of players contributing goals. We have a lot of players contributing assists. When we get down in games, they don’t blame others or make excuses,” Rutherford said. 

“We all focus on the task at hand and figure out a way to get the job done. They are great problem solvers, they are intelligent and they read the game well. We aren’t the tallest, fastest, or strongest team by any means. But, we have a lot of talent, a lot of youth, and a whole lot of determination. They are competitors and I love that about them.”

In scoring, junior midfielder Jada Jensen and freshman attacker Delaine Zura have nine goals apiece, followed by sophomore attacker Hannah Montag (8), junior midfielder Sydney Ameling (7), junior midfielder Kaylynn Simon (5), sophomore attacker Claire Carpenter (5) and junior midfielder Kendall Gedert (4).

In assists, Simon leads the team with 13, followed by Montag (10), Ameling (9), junior back Mikayla Hoelter (8), Zura (5), Jensen (4), freshman back Reilly Might (4), Gedert (3) and Carpenter (3).

The defense is led by senior keeper Jaylee Souder, who has 40 saves on 48 shots on goal (83.3 save percentage). Simon leads the defense with 27 steals and 93 intercepts, followed by Ameling (58 steals, 46 intercepts), Jensen (34, 25), sophomore back Kayden Firsdon (38, 93), freshman back Amelia Ward (18, 75), freshman back Kayla Buehler (23, 54), Hoelter (16, 43) and Might (18, 34).

If you have not noticed, there is not a single senior, except the goalkeeper, mentioned among the stat leaders on offense or defense. Plus, the multiple routs gets everyone game time.

“There are many games that I have played 19 to 20 players,” Rutherford said. “Recently, against Oak Harbor, I played all of my field players that were dressed. We have a lot of depth and I like to use it to wear teams down. My philosophy is: if you have a lot of good players, play them.”



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