That was the situation facing sixth-year Oak Harbor girls soccer coach Renee Goldstein heading into the 2008 season.
All Goldstein did was guide the Rockets to the Sandusky Bay Conference title in their first year in the SBC (going 10-0 in the process) and nab North Central District Coach of the Year honors in Division II. She also won the award in 2006.
Oak Harbor improved to 16-3 following Wednesday's 2-0 district semifinal victory over Genoa. Sara Lipstraw and Kelly Bryant both scored for the Rockets, who advanced to Saturday's district championship against Lake at Central Catholic.
"I've learneed so much this season," Goldstein said. "We lost so much talent in Erica Lipstraw (40 goals last season). These seniors were strong and we had amazing defenders and midfielders. These girls have played for three and four years. Watching them play and finding out where they're most comfortable was probably the most difficult thing.
"That's what makes me feel good about this year. At the beginning of the year, I didn't feel I had the girls in the right spots."
The Rockets' losses this season are to Genoa, in the second match of the year, as well as to Wauseon and Riverdale.
They were able to overcome those losses and go unbeaten in the SBC as well as win a sectional title last Saturday with a 1-0 win over Woodmore. Courtney Atwater had the lone goal for Oak Harbor, which crushed Clyde 13-0 in the sectional opener.
"Losing to Genoa was discouraging," Goldstein said. "It was almost like we expected to lose. We bounced back and won four in a row, which helped gain our confidence."
The Rockets returned seven starters from a squad that won 14 matches last season. They allowed just one goal in 10 SBC matches and recorded shutouts in the other nine conference matches.
Oak Harbor has outscored the opposition 121-15 this season.
"Our keeper never had a whole lot of saves and it looked like nobody was getting shots on us," Goldstein said. "I tracked our defense with their stops so it didn't get back to our keeper. Katie Lemon, our left outside defender, had 233 touches/stops, meaning she did not allow it to get back to where our keeper didn't need to make saves. We had an extremely tough defense."
The Rockets started girls soccer in the 2003-04 season and year have won 11, 14, 14, 12, 14 and 15 matches.
"The commitment from the seniors is always there," Goldstein said.
The team's leading scorer is Sara Lipstraw, a junior forward and Erica's sister, who has 34 goals with nine assists. Lipstraw was named the SBC's outstanding performer for 2008.
"Sara can play anywhere for us," Goldstein said. "She's very determined. She's one of those kids who doesn't like to lose. She has a good eye for the net and she's quick. But her knowledge of the game, her awareness of what's going on around her, is her better benefit."
The Rockets' second-leading scorer is Bryant, a forward/defenseman who has 16 goals. Forward Sam Scott has a team-high 14 assists, including five in the tournament win over Clyde.
Junior keeper Katie Perry had 85 saves in the regular season and added 12 saves in the win over Woodmore and 21 on Wednesday against Genoa.
"She played the best game of her life against Woodmore," Goldstein said. "Had she not played as well as she did, Woodmore would have beaten us."
Goldstein praised the play of defenders Lemon, senior captain Libby Gruber, Courtney Atwater, Erica Nordlund and Jordan Glass.
"Every coach would love to have that group," the coach said. "Katie and Libby are fast."
Lemon, senior midfielder Alyssa Diefenthaler and Sara Lipstraw were all named first-team All-SBC, while Gruber and Scott were second-team picks and Atwater and Nordlund were honorable mention.