Former Ohio State head football coach John Cooper would say that his team doesn’t rebuild, they reload.
For the Lake girls’ soccer team, they may be approaching that mentality after their program’s turnaround has them at 14-1 this year with eight freshmen and only two seniors.
From 2006-2008, the team went 10-21-4. They gave up ten goals three times over that span, getting shut out in two of those games, and gave up four or more goals 14 times.
Last season, the team went 12-4-4 overall and won the SLL title under first-year head coach Steve Hoffman. They saw 11 players earn All-SLL honors, including the league player of the year Drew Plummer.
They capped off the year by making a tournament run where they outscored their opponents 8-0 before a 1-0 regional semifinal loss to Liberty Benton, a team they had lost to 7-1 the year before and 5-3 earlier in the season.
Going into this season, however, the team lost seven seniors, including team MVP Kelsey McCloskey and Heather Cox, the school record holder for most goals in a career.
“It’s hard to say (what my expectations were going into this season), said second-year head coach Steve Hoffman. “We lost seven seniors and had eight freshmen. Although the freshmen had some travel experience, I wasn’t sure what kind of impact they would have.”
Thus, prior to this season, Lake was picked to finish fourth in the SLL. They had only the aforementioned two seniors, including exchange student Dani Hug.
Hoffman said the league vote motivated his team.
“We had the SLL player of the year back in Drew Plummer,” he said. “I think they were absolutely motivated.”
So, Lake reloaded, instead of rebuilding. They set their sights on proving the doubters wrong. Their first step would be acclimating a freshman goalkeeper in Ashley Timmons. Hoffman was confident of her ability, as she had been his travel goalie the past three seasons.
“Coming in, I knew she could do a good job replacing Kelsey, our MVP last year,” he said. “She had big shoes to fill, but we knew she had the skill set to be successful.”
So far, Timmons has only allowed seven goals, and she has nine shutouts. On Oct. 13, she set a school record with 20 saves in a 3-1 win over Div. I Notre Dame.
“It’s like we have never changed goalies,” Hoffman said.
The next step was transitioning the other seven freshmen into contributing roles on the team. So far, they have stepped up.
Shelby Antonacci (An-tuh-na-see), an outside midfielder, has become one of the top points leader in the area with 32 points on ten goals and 12 assists.
Hoffman also said that Rebecca Boos is the team’s top defensive sub and Kayla Encalado starts at forward.
“It’s been a fun year so far plugging in all the new girls,” Hoffman said. “It’s been a real pleasure to coach with them.”
Hoffman said the key to the nine shutouts is what he calls a “pretty good defense.” The team’s top four defenders are Hannah Cox, Tarah Preble, Emily Whitmore and Boos.
“We could easily have three defenders be first-team all-league,” he said.
The team’s only loss was 2-0 to Wauseon seven games into the season. Hoffman said that defeat “brought us back to Earth”. He said Lake out shot Wauseon 18-11, but just didn’t finish at the goal.
“That game started to bring us together,” he said. “We are starting to appreciate what we’ve done so far, and we look to build on that.”
Lake opens sectional play at 5 p.m. Oct. 21 vs Cardinal Stritch at Genoa H.S. The district championship will be held at Lake this year.