Irish girls soccer off to best start since 2012

Catholic Central High School senior Caitlin Foley knocks a ball into the net during their game against Mechanicsburg on Sept. 19 at Hallinean Field. Foley scored on the play as the Irish won 6-0. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER

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Catholic Central High School senior Caitlin Foley knocks a ball into the net during their game against Mechanicsburg on Sept. 19 at Hallinean Field. Foley scored on the play as the Irish won 6-0. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER

The Catholic Central High School girls soccer team is off to its best start since 2012 — thanks to a potent offense and a strong backline.

The Irish are 6-1 this season, their lone loss coming at Fairbanks on Sept. 5. Central is seeking its first Ohio Heritage Conference title since 2016.

“I’m really pleased with the way we’ve played,” said Catholic Central coach Mark Derr. “We lost some quality players last year and didn’t know how we’d be coming into the season. The girls really stepped up, the senior leadership has been there and the younger kids are playing really well. Everyone is doing their job.”

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In its first six games, the Irish have four players ranked in the top-10 in scoring in the Ohio Heritage Conference — junior Lizzie Bruce (second, 44 points), senior Caitlin Foley (third, 34), senior Bridget Engel (fourth, 30) and junior Becca Samosky (10th, 18).

“We’re having a lot of fun out there and we’re working really hard,” Foley said. “It’s been a lot of fun. Our chemistry is just so good. We got out there and want to work really hard for each other. When that happens, good things happen.”

Two other offensive players, senior Addie Engel and Emily DeWitt, have also come on strong for the Irish. Bridget Engel has leads the OHC in assists with 12.

“The kids and working together and really enjoying the season,” Derr said. “We’re getting results overall. We’re definitely still in the league race, which is good.”

The Irish attack is led by Foley, who verbally committed to play at the University of Tennessee last year.

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“She just understands the game as well as anyone,” Derr said. “She obviously draws the other team’s attention in any game we play. She works hard in practice. A kid like that who is already getting a lot of accolades, playing at a high level in club and going to college to play, she doesn’t let it affect her mindset. She comes out to play the game and enjoy the time with her friends.”

Foley’s teammates have played a big role in her success, she said.

“I’ve been really working on my game, but my teammates have been dishing me the ball where I need it to help me create chances and help this team succeed,” Foley said.

Defensively, the Irish have four shutouts this season and have only allowed more than one goal twice all season — despite several new starters, including senior Natalie Tropp who moved to defense this season to fill a spot left open due to graduation.

“We’re super close as a team,” Tropp said. “Our bond is not like anything else you see as a high school team. It helps us a lot.”

The biggest issue for the Irish moving forward will be staying healthy, Derr said. With just 14 players in the program, they can’t afford to have any players miss time with injuries.

“So far, we’ve been reasonable healthy,” he said. “With soccer season, you get little dings and stuff. This is a pretty tough bunch. They play through a lot of things. They don’t let it affect them or their game.”

The Irish are hoping to advance to the Division III district final for the fourth time in five years. They advanced for three straight seasons from 2015 through 2017, but fell to Milton-Union 1-0 in a district semifinal match last fall. There are a number of good teams in D-III this season, he said.

“There are probably eight or nine teams who can win districts because of the way they’re playing,” Derr said. “When we play our game and play well, we’re a quality team who can play with anyone.”

They’re facing several key matches in the coming weeks. The Irish host D-III top-ranked Cincinnati Country Day on Saturday at Hallinean Field. They also play Lehman Catholic, Dayton Christian and Miami Valley in non-conference play, as well as key league games against Greeneview and West Liberty-Salem.

“It’ll be good for us,” Derr said. “We’ve built up some confidence at this point and we need to play some of those closer games to keep our focus on the game. When you play games where you’re up 4-5 goals regularly, it’s hard to stay focused for 80 minutes. It will be good for us. Those will be good tests to get us prepared for tournament time.”

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