Coach Kevin Lanning fell just short of saying Lake’s girls soccer team will be rebuilding next year, but like the old saying goes, facts is facts.
Not only will the Flyers graduate their top two scorers in seniors Shelby Antonacci and Kayla Encalado, they also return just four full-time starters in 2013.
“It certainly will be a challenge, but I like a challenge,” Lanning said. “I think the girls we have returning like a challenge. We should have a decent freshman class coming in next year, and we’ll only have three seniors. We certainly will be young. These girls have such a tremendous work ethic and they want to excel.
“The sophomores are part of the first class I had when I got here (in 2010) and they know what to expect from me. I’m going to need a lot of leadership from them, because I don’t have that big senior class next year. That will have to come from all of our upperclassmen. If we get that leadership, I think we’ll be OK.”
Lake, which finished 14-3 this season, will return full-time starters Nicole Jones, a junior midfielder, sophomore defender Allison Perry and sophomore center midfielders Jordyn Taylor and Catie Phalen, who was lost for the season in early September with a knee injury. Freshman midfielder Chloe Huston and junior forward Tabitha Aikman saw some action as starters this season.
The Flyers’ biggest losses will be senior keeper Ashley Timmons, Antonacci and Encalado. Antonacci, a four-year starter, led the team with 53 points (21 goals, 11 assists) and Encalado added 17 goals and six assists.
Timmons had 87 saves in goal and was instrumental in helping Lake post 10 shutouts this season, including five in a row from Sept. 13-25. The Flyers, who won the Northern Buckeye Conference title with a 10-0 record, ended the regular season with a 5-0 rout of Genoa.
“Ashley is an incredible goal keeper,” Lanning said. “She is finally getting the recognition she deserves this year. She came up with some big saves for us this year. Even in games against St. Ursula and Anthony Wayne, which we unfortunately lost, she made great saves in those games.”
Lanning said defenders Perry and seniors Lauren Reed and Rebecca Boos also played key roles in Lake’s defensive dominance.
“Those are girls who hardly ever, if ever, came out of the game,” the coach said. “They were solid. All three girls knew exactly what they were doing and were very tactically sound.”
The Flyers’ season came to an abrupt end on Oct. 17 in the Division II sectional tournament at Lake Community Stadium. Defending state runner-up and top 15 D-II team St. Ursula Academy, which defeated the Flyers 2-1 during the regular season, held on for a 1-0 victory over second-seeded Lake and then defeated top-seeded and seventh-ranked Maumee, 4-1, Wednesday night. The Flyers found itself in arguably the toughest D-II sectional and district in Northwest Ohio.
“Based on the first game, I thought we matched up pretty well with St. Ursula,” Lanning said. “They have three solid midfield players right in the middle of the field. We knew if we could win the midfield we would have a real good chance of winning the game. We were just outplayed in that part of the field. I don’t think it was anything terrible we did, St. Ursula is just that good. They play a very difficult schedule, and playing those tough games prepares them for the tournament.”
Taylor had five goals and 12 assists for Lake this season, while Aikman had six goals and three assists, Jones had five goals and four assists and Alyssa Shaffer had two goals and six assists. They helped the Flyers run their NBC record to 19-0-1 over the past two years.
“That’s always the top goal for us,” Lanning said of winning the NBC. “There’s that tradition at Lake, that we want to win that league every year. The conference is improving; more parity is prevalent. I don’t think the conference is given a lot of credit. Eastwood is a tough opponent, Woodmore always plays us tough and Otsego and Genoa are tough, physical teams. There are challenges there.”