The Northwood girls’ team's success in the Northwest Ohio Scholastic Soccer League's lower division gave the program a boost for 2009. Literally.
The Rangers went 8-0-2 and won back-to-back titles in the NWOSSL lower division in 2007 and '08, which enabled the program to move to the league's upper division this year.
As a lower division team, Northwood was playing NWOSSL teams Toledo Christian, Otsego, Whitmer, Start, Bowsher and Waite. In the upper division, the Rangers play league rivals Clay, St. Ursula Academy, Notre Dame Academy and Central Catholic.
"We want to win in the conference and we want to play these upper division teams and see if we can't win some of these games," fourth-year coach John Turkal said. "We're looking to having a winning season. Our goal is to be more competitive and successful in the state tournament.
"The girls enjoy being successful and being champions, and that's their goal. They want to see what they can do at this level. They're not afraid to play the bigger teams. They know they're going to have to work at it and they're not afraid, and that's what you want."
Northwood is off to a 5-2-1 overall start to the 2009 season. But losing to a good Woodmore team 2-1 on Wednesday doesn’t help the team’s confidence much.
"This is the youngest team the school's had since it started the program six years ago," Turkal said. "We have two juniors this year and the rest are sophomores and freshmen. It's just a cycle with small schools. We had three seniors last year. We've had two straight years of large numbers."
Jessica Grindle has been moved to center-midfield this season after leading the team with 28 goals and 12 assists as a freshman last year. She has four goals this season.
"We have to have someone who can run the team," Turkal said, "and she's the girl I decided was the best one to run that position."
Junior striker Kayla Kurth already leads the Rangers with nine goals, after scoring 10 goals all of last season.
"The center-midfielder is like the quarterback of the team," Turkal said. "She has outstanding skills. She has good vision of the game and that's what you want."
Junior striker Rebecca Avery, who had 10 goals last year, has five goals this season. Sophomore midfielder Sandy Koch also has five goals, matching last season's total.
"She has also turned out to be a real good long ball player," Turkal said of Koch. "She's given us a new dimension. We have a long ball kicker who can give us a quick counter attack."
Defensively, sophomore sweeper Marissa Ramirez has provided quickness and agility to her position.
"She is quick to the ball and has a lot of stamina," Turkal said. "She is outstanding for her position. She generally plays the middle of the field."
Junior outside defensive back Holly Slater is in her third season with the team, and her experience shows.
"She has experience at that position," Turkal said. "Nichole Davenport is a junior outside defensive back who is very quick and agile, and she has a year's experience on the outside. You want players who are very consistent playing outside for you. They have the speed and the clearing so you don't worry about them."
Sophomore center-defender Alysha Henzler provides Northwood with physical size in the middle of the field.
"She handles the middle well," Turkal said. "All of these players play older than their age, which is why we've been so successful this year. At midfield, we're running an unusual defense. Our real standout this year is Taylor Purtee, a sophomore. We're not a large, physical team. We've had to switch things around to play against these larger teams and she's been a real asset. A very tenacious player."
Searra Lindhurst has made a smooth transition from defensive back to midfielder.
"She's strong and she's learned the offensive game real well," Turkal said. "She interfaces real well with the defensive team. Of the 11 positions on the team, I'm comfortable with her in about nine of those positions. You can play her anywhere."
Northwood also has a strong group of newcomers led by freshman Maddie Vickers, a center-striker who has three goals. The team's other talented newcomers are freshmen Megan Roach, Jill Lanning, Allison Coy, Haley Metcalf, Taylor Cruz and sophomore Shelby Romstadt.
Northwood's goalie is sophomore Megan Hess.
"She's an outstanding goalie," Turkal said. "For one thing, she's tall and that's essential in soccer. She's about 5-9, 5-10 and has the physical reach to get to the top of the net. She covers the net real well and has real nice punt and clearing kicks. That's what you want."