When a team comes within two games of the state championship berth – especially a team that featured five all-conference selections lost to graduation – a little drop off the following year is to be expected.
That is, unless you’re the Milford girls’ soccer team, led by the 2011-12 Fort Ancient Valley Conference Coach of the Year Pat Winkler and a group of now-seniors hungry to get back to the state tournament.
“First and foremost, after having a successful season last year, the expectations are pretty high,” Winkler said. “The girls are going to have to handle those expectations, but they’ll have to respond to those. The expectations are coming from parents and fans, so after making it to a regional final, we certainly are striving towards that again. We set the bar high and we’re going to work towards that with the 21 members of the team that we have.”
Leading the team towards a repeat performance is a group of seniors who were around to enjoy the successes of the previous season, yet still hungry to make their mark.
The Lady Eagles lost a solid foundation in some key spots in their formation with the graduation of Morgan Wolcott, Maddy Bunnell and Nicki Smith as well as other all-conference picks Caroline Brown and Kelly Yee.
The senior class this year is expected to step up and fill those roles for the Lady Eagles, while they also incorporate some newer talent into their starting lineup.
“I think Kiersten Johnson will (fill one of those roles),” Winkler said. “She’s been a two-year varsity member and she will be similar to what Morgan Wolcott was last year.
“We do return a few seniors in the defense in Stephanie Price and Megan Canter. Our expectation for them is, along with their experience, we want them to anchor our defense and provide that senior leadership, especially in front of such a young goalkeeper.”
The young goalkeeper Winkler referred to is sophomore Erin Beurket, who will be replacing Bunnell, a three-year starter for the Eagles.
“Another senior, Carli Fallon, who has been on varsity for two years, is someone we will definitely be looking to her as someone who has experience and provide a good voice for the team.”
Some other underclassmen Winkler is expecting to play big minutes and expand their roles are Tara Claus and Amanda Dominique. Winkler said they can be looked upon to play some significant time, but as sophomores, he hopes they will be able to play more like juniors or seniors.
All of these adjustments and new roles will be put into action in the new Eastern Cincinnati League as the Eagles move on from the FAVC. However, despite the change in scenery, Winkler doesn’t expect the level of competition to fall off in the ECC.
“We always set one of our team goals to win a league championship,” Winkler said. “Whether it was our old league, the FAVC, or if you take a look at our new league, the ECC, it’s a phenomenal soccer league. It’s a pretty lofty goal in itself. You’re battling against Anderson, you’re battling against Walnut Hills and Loveland. There’s a lot of great soccer teams in the league and automatically, we’re setting the bar high.
“And being in this league will do a good job of preparing us for postseason play. We’ve been fortunate enough to win four league titles in a row, but we’re looking to make it five and win the first one in the ECC.”
The Lady Eagles kick off their season on Saturday, Aug. 18 at Noon at Edgewood and begin their inaugural ECC schedule on Sept. 4 at Anderson.