By Tim Bielik, Northeast Ohio Media Group on August 15, 2014 noon
CLEVELAND, Ohio — The high school girls soccer season is underway with teams all throughout the state of Ohio plotting a course for Columbus Crew Stadium and the state championship games.
Here’s a look at the top storylines, teams and players to watch during the 2014 season.
Walsh Jesuit looks for a three-peat
The Warriors have proven they are the class of the State of Ohio in girls soccer. In 2013, Walsh Jesuit won back-to-back championships for the second time in school history. They have never won three straight, but have a strong chance to do so after graduating just four seniors from last season’s team and returning Halle Stelbasky. She was the team’s leading scorer in 2012, but missed all of 2013 due to an injury.
Rocky River tries to repeat
The Rocky River girls soccer team won the school’s first official OHSAA sanctioned state championship since 1927. Despite graduating several outstanding players including scorers Abby Elinsky and Grace Bennett, the Pirates will try to repeat. Sydney Hamker returns after scoring 12 goals, and Jillian Krebs will be a key playmaker after recording 28 assists as a junior. Eva Schneider is a three-time letter winner.
Strongsville starts a new era
Mustang fans will have to get used to seeing a new coach on the sidelines starting this season. Jon Felton resigned after 17 seasons in charge after leading Strongsville to four state championships. Todd Church takes over after being an assistant coach under Felton since 2005. Several seniors are gone including Kelly Novak, but the Mustangs are as good at reloading as anyone.
Hawken loaded up for redemption
The Hawks fell in the Division III championship game to Hamilton Badin on penalties, spoiling a chance at their first state championship. Hawken has the potential to get back to Columbus after graduating just two seniors, including Katherine Zalar. Anton Trifonovs is the new head coach this season, replacing Stan Shulman.
Will Holy Name take the next step?
New Holy Name coach Emily Balodis has quite a strong group of players returning to the team for their senior seasons. The Green Wave have three players committed to play Division I soccer following their senior seasons, including second team All-State midfielder Caroline Dreher and Cleveland State bound defender Toni Dickson, the team MVP from 2013.
Teams to watch
Archbishop Hoban: The Knights have gone to the regional semfiinals each of the last three years. Despite the graduation of some top seniors including Mykaela Zingale, Archbishop Hoban has a good group of juniors led by Ashley Dobbins that should help the Knights continue that run of success.
Hathaway Brown: The Blazers made it all the way to the final four in Division II last season before Rocky River knocked them off in the state semifinals. Getting back there will be tough because the team does not have any seniors this year.
Hawken: The Hawks fell just short of winning their first state championship in program history. With all but two players back from that team, Hawken has a strong chance to get back to Crew Stadium.
Holy Name: With three Division I bound players entering their senior years, the Green Wave will have a chance to compete for their first state title since 2006. New coach Emily Balodis was a member of that team.
Hudson: The Explorers have been strong in the past few years, and that should continue again this season. Junior Erin Torrence will be counted upon among others to help lead the way.
Magnificat: The Blue Streaks graduated their top two scorers after reaching the Division I state semifinals in 2013. Junior Alyssa Baumbick had 11 goals and 10 assists in 2013 and should be the go-to scorer for Magnificat.
Medina: The Bees have been among the most consistent programs throughout the last few years and should be strong once again, led by senior midfielder Bri Shingary, who was second team All-Ohio selection in Division I.
Rocky River: The Pirates ended their school’s 86-year championship drought. Despite losing a great amount of talent to graduation including 2013 cleveland.com Player of the Year Abby Elinsky, Rocky River should have the talent to challenge for another return trip to Crew Stadium.
Strongsville: New coach Todd Church will have some big shoes to fill after the resignation of Jon Felton. Despite graduating Kelly Novak and several talented seniors, the Mustangs should be in good shape led by Akron recruit Rachel Schirripa.
Walsh Jesuit: The Warriors only lost four seniors from an undefeated state championship team. They also lost Halle Stelbasky, the team’s leading scorer from 2012, before the 2013 season started. She is back and healthy, according to head coach Dino McIntyre.