Wildcats’ wild run ends one step short of regionals

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

In Jeff Helmke’s four years coaching at Woodmore — one of them as an assistant — the girls soccer team has won four sectional titles, one district championship and reached as far as the district finals three times.
This past season, the Wildcats came excruciatingly close to winning another district title but fell, 3-2, in overtime to Eastwood in a Division III district final.
Seeded second in the Genoa District, the Wildcats beat Huron, 7-0, in a sectional final and took care of Genoa, 6-1, in the district semifinals before losing to the Eagles.
Woodmore finished the season 12-5-1 and 7-1-1 in the Sandusky Bay Conference, losing to Norwalk, the league champion, and tying Huron, which the Wildcats got their revenge on in the sectional finals.
“It was a great season. We were young, and I thought we could still win the league and have a shot at getting to regionals if we could mature and mesh well enough – and I thought we did,” said Helmke, who is an Oak Harbor alum. “I do believe that we’re ahead of schedule with our youth, and I’m ecstatic about our future. I think there are good things coming. I think we can maintain it and be good next year.”
The loss to Eastwood wasn’t without its dramatic moments, namely a goal by Izzy Helmke that tied the score at 2-2 with five minutes to play and sent the game into overtime. The shot, which was from about 30 feet away, was placed perfectly above goalie Jordan Jensen and just below the crossbar. Woodmore took an early 1-0 lead on a goal by Kelsey Kaylor, who had five goals in the win over the Comets, before the Eagles scored two goals from Saylor King to take the lead. Eastwood won on Delanie Zura’s goal 8:53 into overtime.
“It was a good game, back and forth with solid defense and was hard to break down. We allowed two goals off free kicks, and that really shouldn’t have happened. They caught us unfocused on those kicks. Those two goals really hurt,” Helmke said. “On the overtime goal, I had to play some subs on defense due to injuries. I think we got out of place and we had a bobble clearing the ball, and they took advantage of it. The girl got it and fed it to Delanie Zura, and she’s going to put it home every time.”
Woodmore had its share of big wins, defeating Oak Harbor (1-0), Port Clinton (8-2), Archbold (2-1) and Ottawa Hills (6-0).
The starting lineup, which operates out of the 4-3-3 alignment, has Sage Perry, Kalee Heins, Megan Vogelpohl and Kira Travis on defense; Caydie Buchanan, Camille Strong and Izzy Helmke at midfield; Kelsey Kaylor, Taylor Hill and Emma Hahn at forward and goalie Layla McGinnis, who broke two school records this season.
The other rotational players are Willow Lewis, Lyndee Wagner, Abbie Schmeltz, Taylor Hill, Ava Lee Cobb, Cassie Nissen, Riley Hesselbart and Addie Pleasnick.
Helmke tinkered with the lineup, which set the team in the right direction.
“We made an adjustment, and then we won nine straight games. It was trial and error on who worked well at midfielder together and which forwards could get up and down the field and work with the midfielders,” Helmke said. “The defense remained the same; it was just about plugging and mixing the midfielders and the defenders.”
The win over the Blue Streaks and a 1-0 loss to Liberty-Benton proved to Helmke that his team could compete with the best northwest Ohio has to offer.
“Archbold is really good, and we realized we could compete with anyone after we beat them. The game where we knew good things were coming was against Liberty-Benton. They were the No. 8 team in Division II, and it was a really good match. We went toe-to-toe with them, they’re usually in the Sweet 16 or better,” said Helmke. “That proved that we could play with almost anybody.
Kaylor set a school record with 40 goals and scored six goals apiece in two games. Buchanan and Hill both scored seven goals, with Buchanan finishing with 12 assists and Hill assisting on 10 goals. Lewis had five goals, Izzy Helmke had four goals and Hahn had three goals and both finished with eight assists. Strong finished with two goals and six assists and Vogelpohl had five assists. Twelve girls scored at least one goal.
The four seniors — Perry, Buchanan, Nissen and McGinnis — will graduate having won 54 games in four seasons. McGinnis rewrote the school’s record books for goalies.
“We have a lot coming back that we’re excited about. We’re losing a good group of seniors — fortunately, it’s a small group — but they will be tough to replace,” said Jeff Helmke. “We’re losing three all-league players. I think Sage and Caydie might play soccer in college.
“I believe we are becoming one of the well-known names around for producing soccer. We have good youth players coming up, and that’s a lot of credit for our youth coaches.”
The program has produced some great talent, and there two alums playing in college. Autumn Beaudoin attends Bethel University in Mishawaka, Indiana, and Alayna Hahn is playing for Heidelberg University.


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