- By Michael Cooper Contributing Writer
The Shawnee High School girls soccer team understands what it’s like to be targeted.
Shawnee has won 29 games in the past two seasons and won back-to-back Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division championships. Last year, the team finished 14-4, earning its third straight berth to a Division II district final game.
“The target has been on our back since Day 1,” senior midfielder Lena Jenssen said.
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Overall, the team graduated a group that scored 50 goals last season. It also lost Kenton Trail Division Player of the Year Hannah Ryan, a two-time Division II All-Ohio selection as a defender.
Shawnee won’t use the graduation losses as an excuse, but will take it as a challenge to step up its game, fourth-year head coach Mike Gannon said. He expects several young players to compete for jobs this fall, he said.
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“We’ll have some strong players coming back, but we also have some youth,” he said. “We’ll be competitive, but there are some good teams in this area and in our conference. We’re going to rise up. We’ve got some people who are taking advantage of some opportunities.”
The team returns six seniors, including midfielders Lena Jenssen, a Wright State University recruit, and Madi Waddle. Junior Andi Meeks is also one of the Braves’ top returning players, he said.
“They’re showing some of the freshman what high school soccer is all about and what the winning tradition at Shawnee is all about,” Gannon said.
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The senior class understands the need to be role models for the younger Braves, Waddle said.
“We have to be there for them,” she said.
The team also spent time volunteering this summer, including helping with a Special Olympics soccer team earlier this month. They’re working hard to keep the tradition that was started by the upperclassmen before them, Jenssen said.
“We’re just a whole bunch of sisters,” Jenssen said. “We’re all there for each other, always building each other up.”
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The Kenton Trail Division will be strong again. Jonathan Alder (15-2-1), Tecumseh (11-4-2) each had winning records last year, while Bellefontaine (8-9-1) was close to .500. Kenton Ridge also has a winning tradition but went 4-13 a year ago. The CBC also welcomes two new schools this season in London (Kenton Trail Division) and North Union (Mad River Division).
“We’re going to have to play to win our side of the conference. We’re going to have to be at our best,” Gannon said.
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The Braves have played deep into the postseason in recent years but have yet to win a district title. The goal will be the same this year, said Gannon who is in his fourth year as head coach.
“The biggest thing I want to establish is that I feel like we’re creating a tradition,” he said.
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5 things to know
1. West Liberty-Salem was the lone team to advance to the regional semifinals last year, falling to eventual state champion Cincinnati Summit Country Day 3-0. The Tigers won the Ohio Heritage Conference championship, finishing 17-2.
2. Catholic Central returns eight starters from last year’s team that also fell to Summit Country Day in a D-III district final match, 7-1. The Irish will compete with West Liberty-Salem, Greeneview and Greenon in the loaded OHC this season.
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3. Northwestern won its eighth CBC Mad River Division title in the last nine years. They’ll battle upstart Urbana for the crown in 2018.
4. Springfield won four games last season, tying the most wins in school history when the Wildcats won four games in 2015. Springfield returns All-Greater Western Ohio Conference National first team player Annmeri Turner.
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5. All three state champions last season came from the Southwest Region, Loveland (D-I), Cincinnati Indian Hill (D-II) and Summit Country Day (D-III).
5 players to watch
1. Shawnee senior midfielder Lena Jenssen: The Wright State commit is the CBC’s top returning scorer with 71 points. She led the CBC in assists (24) and finished second in goals with 23.
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2. West Liberty-Salem senior midfielder Gabby Hollar: The West Virginia University recruit and All-Ohio D-III First Team selection scored 34 goals and added 13 assists last season.
3. Catholic Central junior midfielder Caitlin Foley: The engine of the Irish offense recently verbally committed to play at the University of Tennessee.
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4. Urbana junior midfielder Sam Tracy: The CBC Mad River Division player of the year had 15 goals and six assists for the Hillclimbers last season.
5. Greeneview junior midfielder Faith Rutherford: The Rams’ second-leading scorer tallied 19 goals and 13 assists a year ago and was named to the All-Ohio D-III second team.