SIDNEY — Last season’s Lehman Catholic girls soccer team was blessed with speed. The Cavaliers are even faster this year.
Good thing. The Cavs’ schedule starts with Springfield Catholic Central and accelerates from there. By season’s end, Lehman plays seven of the top 10 Division III teams ranked in last season’s final Miami Valley Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association poll. They also play one team ranked among the top 10 in D-II.
That’s daunting enough, even without mentioning D-III defending state champion Cincinnati Summit Country Day.
“That’s what it’s really all about – preparing for that tournament at the end of the year,” Lehman coach Jeremy Lorenzo said. “Unfortunately we’re in the Southwest District so we have to climb through Cincinnati to get out of the region. Trying to match their game speed has always been a problem for us when we get to regional. That’s what we have to try and mimic every time we play.”
Last season’s D-III regional semifinal appearance was Lehman’s third in the past five seasons (2013 and 2014). The Cavaliers are pursuing another appearance with seven returning starters. The roster is loaded with leadership from 11 seniors, including seven who are returning varsity players.
Forward Grace Olding and midfielder Grace Monnin lead the way as four-year starters, while forward Samantha Edwards is a four-year varsity player.
Senior keeper Hannah Giguere, a back up the past three seasons, gets her shot in goal.
“She knows the system. She knows what we expect out of her,” Lorenzo said. “Now this is her chance to come in and showcase her talent. I have confidence in her 100 percent.”
Giguere has a strong defense in front of her that includes returning starers in junior Olivia Monnin and sophomore Anna Cianciolo.
Additional players returning include sophomore Lindsey Magoteaux, who led the Cavaliers in scoring with 17 goals and 39 points. She added five assists.
Sophomore midfielder Ava Behr (10 goals, 7 assists), Monnin (11 goals, 4 assists), Olding (nine goals, 6 assists), junior forward Rylie McIver (5 goals, 8 assists) and Edwards (5 goals, 5 assists) are among the top returning scorers.
“Last year we had speed, and I would say we’re faster than we were last year,” Lorenzo said. “Last year’s team was very technical and their soccer IQ was pretty high. This year we have a lot of speed and this team is very gritty. They’re very tough. They’re a hard-working group of girls.”
Senior midfielder Carly Edwards, who was injured for Lehman’s regional semifinal, and junior midfielder Lyndsey Jones add toughness.
The Cavaliers will need it with their schedule that includes (in order according to the schedule) Catholic Central (ranked No. 5 in last season’s final MVSSCA poll), Troy Christian (No. 8), Preble Shawnee (No. 4), Milton-Union (No. 6), Anna (No. 1), Miami East (No. 10), Wapakoneta (No. 5 in D-II state rankings), West Liberty-Salem (No. 2) and Waynesville (No. 5 in D-II).
Anna won the Western Ohio Soccer League title last season after snapping Lehman’s 26-game WOSL winning streak that dated back to 2014. The Cavaliers had won every WOSL title since the league started in 2014.
Lehman responded by knocking Anna out of the postseason with a 4-0 district championship victory. Lehman’s season ended one game later with a 1-0 loss to Madeira in the regional semis.
“Every year I tell the girls this is our toughest schedule yet. This year I’m saying it again,” Lorenzo said. “I feel like this is a state-caliber team, but I feel that way every season to be honest.
“I think all the teams we’ve had in the past five years were capable of getting to that (state) final four. We were an inch too short or we hit the crossbar or gave up a goal late. This team certainly has the ability to advance. But once you get into the districts it’s really anyone’s game from there on out.”
To get to that point – and hopefully past it for the Cavaliers – they plan to play more aggressive this season, especially with that team speed. A more physical game will help when potentially matching up with Summit Country Day, Madeira or another traditional power from Cincinnati that usually plays on turf.
“Five or six years ago our biggest thing was getting the girls to believe they belonged there in the top five in the state rankings,” Lorenzo said. “Now we kind of expect it. Five or six years ago there was an intimidation factor playing Summit and Madeira. Now we expect to be there every year.
“I feel like this group is a little more relaxed. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves last year and that was probably my fault. We’re trying not to talk about the possibilities. We’re not worrying about what’s next. I feel like this group is having a lot of fun. I’m really excited.”