EATON — Anna’s girls soccer team plays almost exclusive on grass fields each regular season, and coach Mike Noll says it’s always an adjustment when the team starts postseason play and begins playing on artificial surfaces.
The Rockets’ adjustment period this season may have hurt in trying to win a fourth consecutive Western Ohio Soccer League title, but Noll is hopeful that acclimation experience helps as tournament play progresses.
Anna (15-3) will play in its fourth consecutive district final on Saturday afternoon when it faces Cincinnati Madeira at Cincinnati Princeton.
The Rockets lost in a Division III district final in 2017, won the program’s first district championship in 2018 and lost in a Div. II district final last year. They’re back down to D-III this year and have rolled so far.
Anna lost its regular-season finale to WOSL rival Lehman Catholic on Oct. 17 at Sidney Memorial Stadium but opened tournament play with a 9-0 win over Springfield Catholic Central a week later on its home field.
The squad, which was voted the No. 2 seed in the Dayton D-III sectional, followed with a 10-0 win over No. 22 New Lebanon Dixie on Tuesday in Eaton.
“We got used to playing on turf,” Noll said. “That’s what it comes down to, getting used to playing on turf for tournament.”
The Rockets built a 3-0 lead by halftime on Tuesday and then scored six goals in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Ella Doseck led the Rockets with three goals while Abbie McEldowney and London Reiss each scored two. Megan Diekmann, Tanner Spangler and Carissa Edwards each scored one. Spangler led the team with two assists.
“We’ve changed our formation up a little bit going into tournament,” Noll said. “That’s definitely increased our scoring. We went to that formation change tonight at halftime and came out hot in the second half because of it.”
Spangler was named the WOSL’s player of the year this season and has been the team’s go-to scorer. Spangler, a senior forward, has scored 44 goals and also has eight assists to her credit, three of which have come in tournament play.
“She’s been even better this year,” Noll said of Spangler, who was the team’s second-leading scorer last season. “She’s really increased her goals, and that’s made other teams watch for her and not pay attention to the rest of the offense, and our offense has come alive.”
Diekmann ranks second on the team with 11 goals. Noll is hoping the team’s schematic change will help keep balanced performances like Tuesday coming.
“We’re moving players around, changing players up front, being very offensively loaded,” Noll said. “We have had some girls really step up since the new formation. You can’t just stop one girl now. You have to watch every weapon when we come down the field.”
The team has been strong defensively this season and has posted nine shutouts. Senior goalkeeper Brielle Collier, who is in her first year as a starter, had 98 saves in regular season.
“She played JV for two years and we had a senior (Savanna Hostetler) at goalie last year, so (Collier) requested to play somewhere else and was a wing and a striker,” Noll said. “She has good foot skills as a goalie. I have a lot of confidence in her. She’s a very technical goalie and can stop a lot. She can anticipate well.”
Madeira (10-5-3) was ranked No. 11 in D-III in the final state coaches association poll while Anna was No. 12.
“They just play on turf and are at home on turf, and that makes it just that much harder for us,” Noll said. “We’re going to stay with our new formation, because the second half of both our tournament games, we came out in it and have done well. A lot of girls have been stepping up, and it’s really helped. Confidence wise, the girls are getting a lot of confidence.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.