ANNA — The numbers keep rising for the Anna Rockets girls soccer team. And so do the expectations.
Anna — which has seen a rise in players under coach Mike Noll’s four-year tenure — reached the Division III regional semifinals last season. The Rockets plan on getting back this season, but this time in Division II.
“Do I expect to make the same run in Division II? Yes,” Noll said confidently.
A strong group of 10 seniors highlight the Rockets’ roster that — like the team’s win total — continues to climb. When Noll took over there were 23 girls in the program. This season there are 33.
“It’s like anything else, once you start winning the kids start looking at it,” Noll said.
Anticipate Anna getting more attention this season, too.
Nine players return as four-year varsity participants with Michaela Ambos, Adriana Ashford, Sarah Ham, Savanna Hostetler, Taylor Kauffmann, Mackensie Littlefield, Taylor Noll, Amber Stewart and Breonna Tribbett. Kiplyn Rowland rounds out the senior class.
Noll is the team’s top striker and led the squad with 39 goals and 19 assists last season, while Kauffmann scored 30 goals and had 10 assists. Ambos the top defender. Mix in Hostetler in goal (a starter since her freshman season) and juniors Megan Diekmann and Ella Doseck as forces in the midfield and the Rockets are strong up the middle from one end of the pitch to the other.
Anna outscored its opponents 124-12 last season with 12 shutouts.
“They’re strength (of this team) is these 10 seniors have played together since most of them were nine-years old,” Noll said. “You can’t get any more veteran than that. There’s a lot of respect on the field from freshman all the way up to the seniors.”
In 2017 the Rockets won their first 18 games before falling in the D-III district final. Last season the Rockets went their first 19 games without a loss (17 wins, two ties) before falling to eventual state champion Cincinnati Country Day 3-1 in the regional semifinals.
CCD outscored its seven tournament opponents 42-1. Anna scored the lone goal.
To prep for another run at the postseason Anna scheduled D-I schools for its scrimmages including Hilliard Darby and Worthington Kilbourne.
The regular season won’t be a pushover, either.
Anna won the Western Ohio Soccer League for the second straight season at 6-0. Anna and Lehman Catholic, which won the first three WOSL titles, are the only two teams to claim a championship.
Lehman, Lima Central Catholic, Spencerville and Botkins are among the teams that will try to end Anna’s league run. The Rockets are 14-0 the past two seasons in the WOSL.
To give the program a boost, Noll added two more assistant coaches for a total of three. One of them is Jeff Cooperider, a former semi-pro soccer player.
“That really helps out our goalies,” Noll said. “That’s a definite plus to the team to have a goalie coach and another trainer.”
In addition to that big senior class, the junior varsity team brings in 10 freshmen. Twenty-two players are listed on the varsity roster and Noll plans to get as many as he can quality minutes.
“Even though I have 10 seniors, I have 10 girls that are going be either starting or coming into the games to get them ready for next year,” Noll said. “I’m focused on building for next year, too, so we don’t skip a beat.”