SIDNEY — The Lehman Catholic girls soccer team enters this season confident they can reach the Division III district tournament for the fifth time in seven seasons. The Cavaliers just have to dig a little deeper.
Lehman’s starting core can once again compete with the top teams in the Southwest District. But the graduation of 11 seniors leaves Lehman’s bench short on experience.
In past seasons Lehman coach Jeremy Lorenzo had the luxury of resting key players to prevent the risk of injury and to give substitutes valuable varsity experience. That’s not an option this season. Lehman played 22 girls in its rotation in 2018 and Lorenzo said six girls who came off the bench had the talent to start for other teams. This season the top 13 players will see significant minutes.
“It’s definitely going to change how we sub and it’ll change playing time for some players,” said Lorenzo, who announced this will be his seventh and final season with the Cavaliers to spend more time with his family. “This team is going to have to be in really good shape.
“I’m excited, but I’m also concerned. We graduated a huge class. We lost some physicality but we are extremely fast and we are very much a finesse team. Once we get into the bench there’s a lot of inexperience. … I think the girls believe we can get back in the mix and give it a run. I think we feel good about it.”
Lorenzo said the Cavs faced the same situation about four seasons ago. He said the team got into a rhythm with more playing time. The gamble, though, is the potential for injuries.
Six seniors highlight the list of returning letterwinners: midfielders Ava Behr and Lyndsey Jones, forward Rylie McIver and defenders Olivia Monnin, Maegan Titterington and Hope Anthony.
“When Ava leaves Lehman she’ll probably go down as one of the best center-midfielder’s we’ve ever had,” Lorenzo said of the Fairmont State University commit.
Jones — who Lorenzo described as extremely talented — has played quality minutes but has been overshadowed by starters, until this season. The Cavs needed to fill a hole at midfield and Titterington, who played outside back last season, “is the person to do that,” Lorenzo said.
McIver provides state track meet caliber speed at forward. “She’s extremely dangerous and creates things for us,” Lorenzo said. “She’s a great little player.”
Anthony and Monnin bring physical play on defense. “They’re not going to get rattled back there,” Lorenzo said. “Anthony is going to be hard to get around and that’s good for us. … This is a really good group of seniors. They’re very talented.”
Forward Lindsey Magoteaux and defenders Evie Olding and Anna Cianciolo lead the junior class. Sophomore defender Ella Monnin and sophomore goalkeeper Heidi Toner are among the top returning underclassmen.
Lehman finished 14-5-1 overall and 5-1 in the Western Ohio Soccer League, finishing second behind Anna. The Cavs and Rockets are again expected to battle for the WOSL title. Lehman won the first three titles and Anna the last two in the league’s brief history. Lehman is scheduled to play at Anna on Sept. 12.
“It’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be fun,” Lorenzo said. “That’s a tough game to lose just because we’re so close. There’s a lot of history there. They want to win. We want to win. It’s going to come down to who’s going to make the mistake and who’s going to jump on it. That’s the way it’s been.
“Anna returns most of their players so they’re going to be good. It’s a smaller field that we’re accustomed to and it’s a tough place to play. Anna is a good team. I can’t say anything derogatory about them. They play extremely hard. Coach (Mike) Noll and I don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things as far as soccer goes, but his players play extremely hard for him.”
Lehman starts the season Aug. 17 at Springfield Catholic Central High School. The challenging schedule is again designed to get the Cavaliers ready for the postseason gauntlet that includes the always-tough Cincinnati opponents. Lehman reached the Division III regional final in 2018 before falling to eventual state champion Cincinnati Country Day 3-0.
“The schedule is insane and we’re glad it’s that way,” Lorenzo said. “It’s going to be a battle every game but it also prepares us for the tournament. Playing in big games is no stranger to us. … We want to be challenged. But the schedule is concerning because we don’t have the depth we’ve had in the past.”