SIDNEY — Compared to some other Division I teams in the area, the Sidney High School girls soccer program is on the smaller side. Their goals, though, are sizable.
Last season Sidney tied a record for wins (14-3-2) and reached its first district final in program history. The Yellow Jackets return nine of 11 starters so expectations for this season are just as big as last season’s success.
To go further this season, Sidney will have to contend with larger schools. The Yellow Jackets are ready to take their shot. Or, more accurately, less of them. Coach Kevin Veroneau’s philosophy of working for close-range attempts — instead of settling for 25-yarders and hoping for the best — has paid off in recent seasons, including last year.
“It’s not a matter of what team shoots the most. It matters who scores the most or has a higher shooting percentage,” said Veroneau, who enters his third season. “We cut down on the number of shots and strive to find the best quality shot. When the players buy into that goal production goes up.”
Sidney scored 74 goals last season and allowed 16. Thirty-six of those goals came from senior forward Elaine Wiesenmayer, who led the Greater Western Ohio Conference. Sophomore forward Khia McMillen added 15 goals and 11 other players scored six or less.
Wiesenmayer enters this season with 63 career goals. That’s five shy of tying Tara Martin’s career record of 68 set in 2003. Wiesenmayer also led the GWOC in assists with 23 and McMillen was second with 21.
Senior midfielders Emma Wiford and Baily Sherman, junior midfielder Megan Heckler, sophomore midfielders MaKayla Dillinger and Lauren Barker and freshman midfielder Jadah McMillen are also counted on to keep the offense going.
“Offensively we shouldn’t skip a beat,” Veroneau said. “Hopefully we can score even more goals and have even greater success.”
Defensively, the Yellow Jackets expected to have junior keeper Carly Dean and her 137 saves and eight shutouts back. But Dean, a two-year varsity starter, received a scholarship to play at the prestigious IMG Academy in Florida. It’s possible Dean could return to Sidney for her senior season.
Sophomore Makayla Hurey steps into goal after starting as the junior varsity keeper last season.
“She’s going to step up into the role,” Veroneau said. “Hopefully with her getting this opportunity she’s going to make the most of it. We’re hoping she steps up, fulfills that role and has a lot of success.”
She’ll receive help from a veteran group of defenders including senior Macie Ivey – who led the team in headers, intercepts and steals – juniors Katelyn Burden and Kyah Vondenhuevel and sophomore Katie Atwood.
“We’re hoping with an extra year of experience we can reduce the number of shots on our new keeper,” Veroneau said. “We’re hoping we’ll still be very strong defensively.
“We’re definitely going to focusing more on being an entire team defending. Last year I thought we defended with our backs and our midfielders. This year we want our forwards also defending, so we’re looking at defending as a team. We need our offense to jump start us and the entire team to come through on the defensive side.”
Sidney reached the D-I district final before running into eventual state champion Loveland with a 4-0 loss. The Ohio High School Athletic Association lists Loveland with 540 girls in its enrollment figures. Sidney has 379. That’s part of the numbers game Sidney must solve to help with a deeper postseason run.
“We’ve already started looking at ways to improve our attacking in order to deal with teams that are just as fast, maybe bigger and are technically better,” Veroneau said. “That’s been the thing we’ve been working on during the preseason. We’ve had success with one way of attacking, but we need other ways to have success.”
The Yellow Jackets, who have about 30 players on the roster, finished 8-1-1 in the GWOC American North Division. That tied Sidney with Tippecanoe for second place. Troy won the division at 9-1-1. Expect those three to battle it out again.
“We’re setting high goals and looking to match or exceed what the team accomplished last season,” Veroneau said.
Sidney opens the season on Monday at home against Wayne.