It’s been another dominant run through the Sandusky Bay Conference for the Oak Harbor girls’ soccer team.
As they're accustomed to doing, the Rockets stormed through the conference on their way to an 11-1 league mark and a fifth consecutive conference title. And a 9-2 win over Clyde last week, Oak Harbor won a Division II sectional title and improved to 13-2-1 on the season.
But coaches say their work is far from done. The Rockets are seeking to advance to the regional tournament for the first time in school history.
|Genoa junior forward Mary Rutkowski (5) chases Oak
Harbor freshman Paige Velliquette (4) during a non-
league game this season. (Press photo by Russ Lytle)
In four of the last nine seasons, including last year, the Rockets advanced to the district finals but have yet to get over the hump. Should Oak Harbor defeat Norwalk in a 6 p.m. district semifinal at Clyde Tuesday, they'll likely face state-ranked Bellville Clear Fork, who defeated them last year.
The district final for a chance to advance to regionals is October 27 at noon on Clyde’s field. Getting to the regional could mean an eventual match-up with Northern Buckeye Conference champion Lake, St. Ursula Academy, or another state-ranked team, Maumee.
It hasn't come easy for the Rockets. They lost five key contributors from last season, among them forward Morgan Turnow, one of their leading scorers, Chelsea Kamann, their goalkeeper, and Amber Moomey, Taylor St. Clair and Kelly Zurvalec. On top of that, the team lost junior Nikki Weis during the summer when she tore her ACL, and senior Kelsey Lacer, who was expected to split time between midfielder and defender.
“Unfortunately, Kelsey broke her ankle early in the year,” Goldstein said. “We were going to move Kelsey into Taylor's spot (at midfielder), and freshman Tessa Tyburski has filled in well.”
Along with Lacer, fellow captains Makayla Carpenter, Amber Burnette and Jordan Giesler and seniors Erin Bryant, Sydney Street and Sidney Allen have helped to keep the group close and tight-knit in an effort to build unity and chemistry, two of the team's strengths. Burnette Giesler and Lacer have accomplished a remarkable feat by having played four years at the varsity level.
“The last few years have been exceptional and that speaks a lot to the captains,” Goldstein said. “They have a tendency to keep the girls close together. Most of the seniors go to events together, the football games, out to dinner. They're together not just on the soccer field but are friends outside of it. I'm going to desperately miss them. They started a new dynamic for Oak Harbor soccer. Not that we weren't good before. There's never been a season that the team hasn't won. These girls have stepped it up another notch because they were willing to play in the other league during the offseason.
“Last year was one of the closest teams we coach. We took a trip together last year, the varsity and junior varsity, and bonded, and I think that carried over to this year.”
Midway through the season, the Rockets faced some adversity when they suffered their first conference loss in five years to Huron, 2-0, falling to 8-2-1 overall and 6-1 in the SBC.
“(The girls) were devastated because of the Huron loss,” Goldstein said. “I thought, 'How do I get them to re-focus?' I wrote something out to the girls, 'Do you believe in yourself? In the team? In your skills and abilities?' They said, 'Yes,' and it worked.”
Oak Harbor responded by defeating Wauseon, 2-1, behind goals from Carpenter and Burnette, who leads the team with 34 goals. Carpenter, meanwhile, has paced the team with 22 goals and freshman Paige Velliquette, the other starting forward, has chipped in with 10.
In the five years that the SBC has sanctioned girls soccer, the Rockets have dominated, going 53-1 in the conference to establish itself as the league's premier program.
Goldstein, now in her 10th year at the helm, has helped to provide stability — plus, she was instrumental in getting girls soccer established as a varsity sport. She says a special bond has developed between the players and their coach, a sign that the program is in good shape.
“(The girls) were willing to do what it took to get better,” she said. “These girls have just really worked hard and their legacy speaks for itself. These girls, they work so hard. I love 'em.”