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Veteran Woodridge girls soccer ready to challenge for league title

by Michael Leonard Sports Editor Published: August 28, 2016 12:00 AM

In 2015, veteran coach Jason Allenspach changed things up in the Woodridge girls soccer program.

Switching to a 4-3-3 system, the Bulldogs experienced some ups and downs.

Woodridge went 9-6-3, including a 3-3-1 record in its first year in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division.

Now in his 14th season as head coach, Allenspach is looking for a lot more from his team this fall.

"I would say that our mental game is much stronger this year," Allenspach said. "We're going in with the mindset of controlling the ball. We are having more of a mindset playing as a team."

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Woodridge will continue to run a 4-3-3 with a flat back four, defensive midfielder and a triangle up top.

"This being our second year running that system, we have a better understanding," Allenspach said. "We've found our balance. Last year, we spent more time trying to draw teams in. We're playing a bit higher and playing more connected."

Allenspach is very happy with his eight-member senior class, many of whom have started since they were freshmen.

"It's a very cohesive group of young ladies," Allenspach said. "We hope that's going to catapult us further."

Regarding the Metro Division, Allenspach believes the Bulldogs can compete for the title, but expects a wide-open race.

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"You have to still go with Cloverleaf because they won the title last year," Allenspach said. "It could be anybody's title this year. Norton has a good chance of being at the top. Field will be another top contender.

"If we're going to do it, it's going to be this year for us," he added.

Assistant coach Beau Schluep is back this season, while former Woodridge standout Courtney Luebbering will serve as a volunteer assistant.

Woodridge has 26 players in the program this fall after graduating seven seniors. Sophie Freeman, Bella Haas, Aamirah Howard, Tyme Miller, Sarah Padula, Hannah Peterson and Chelsea Williams all graduated.

With Miller graduating, senior Mary Bates will be Woodridge's lone experienced goaltender. The fourth-year starter appears to be injury free for her senior year.

Junior Abby Kozma will serve as JV goaltender, but will mostly see time on the wing at the varsity level.

Starting her fourth year at center back is senior captain Sydney Schumaker.

"She is a the voice of the team," Allenspach said. "You will hear her for 80 minutes."

Sophomore Emily Austin will start at center back, but also could play target forward for the Bulldogs, giving her abilities in the air.

At left back, senior Clarissa Jenkins returns.

"Both our outside backs are going to be going a lot," Allenspach said. "She's smart. She knows when to hold and when to move up."

Junior Julia Mullens will get the nod at right back.

"She's got the stamina to go for 80 minutes," Allenspach said.

Freshmen Eleanor Sterling and Sydney Kulhke will provide depth at outside back.

Anchoring the Bulldogs at defensive midfield will be senior captain Allison Schmeltzer, who has started all four years.

"She has a really good idea of what to do now in the system," Allenspach said. "Her touch and her awareness on the feel has been much more strong this year."

In the attack midfield spots, senior Cassie Whited provides a lot of speed, while sophomore Anna Schmeltzer is a crafty player who can beat defenders off the dribble.

Allenspach said sophomore Hailey Ilg also could see time at attacking midfield.

Senior Mackenzie Mercer is the Bulldogs' utility player, as she will see time possibly at all six of the front spots.

Senior Sam Brodzinski returns to start at the left forward spot and brings a good understanding to the role.

At right forward, senior Gracey Radwany will bring an aggressive, physical presence.

"Between her junior and senior year, her growth has been excellent," Allenspach said. "She can get by any defender with her speed now."

Ilg will get the nod to start at target forward, as she has shown lots of ability with her back to the goal.

"The reason she's up there is her activity level," Allenspach said. "If that ball is anywhere near her, she will get it."

Kozma, senior Lexi Sturmi and junior Jordyn Colby will provide depth at forward for Woodridge.

Allenspach noted this year's schedule is very tough and that strength began Aug. 22 as the Bulldogs dropped a 5-1 loss to Revere at Lahoski Field.

"That score doesn't reflect the effort the girls put into the game," Allenspach said.

Down 1-0 after 12 minutes, Allison Schmeltzer scored the Bulldogs' lone goal off a free kick with about 10 minutes left in the first half.

Woodridge was still in the game, down 2-1 with 11 minutes left, before the Minutemen put in a trio of late goals.

Woodridge was set to host Ravenna Aug. 25 at Lahoski Field, but results were not available at press time.

The Bulldogs will host Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy Aug. 29 at 7 p.m.

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9442

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