CAMDEN — Kevin Schaeffer, going into his 18th season as head coach of the Preble Shawnee girls soccer team, looks to lead this team to a Southwestern Buckeye League championship — and more — after finishing second in 2015.
“We had some strong midfielders last season, said Schaeffer. “This year, we have a good group of sophomores and upperclassmen that will fill in the ranks. This could be one of the best we’ve had in a long time. We are very strong. I would put my three midfielders against anyone in the state. They are that good.
“We have fast outsiders, our defenders are smart and two goalies who are very good,” he added. “Then there are about four or five girls on the bench who can fill in anytime. So, we are looking good at competing for the championship and the attitude on the team is very high.”
There are 29 players currently on the roster. With over a dozen returning starters who saw significant playing time, the Lady Arrows look solid from position to position.
“Some will have to drop down to the JV team, but having the numbers is a good problem to have,” said Schaeffer. “Everybody except for the freshmen played last year, so we have the experience.”
Midfielder and second-team All-State player Riane Woodard is a senior with high expectations. “I think we will make a far run in the tournament,” she said. “We’ve worked really hard and we’re ready. Being a senior, I’m looking forward to leading the team just as the seniors before me. I want to win the SWBL, and win state.”
“There’s so much teamwork and desire to win here is amazing. Coach Schaeffer has been great,” Annilou Belvo said.
“I love it here, high school has been a great time for me,” said Brooke Kiracofe. “I’m looking forward to a great year but at the same time, I’m ready to move on. I want a state championship.”
Hope Ballinger, another senior, is eager to play her final season out. “We are expecting to go all the way and win state,” she said. “We are kind of a young team this year, we only have six seniors. But there’s a lot of talent.”
The seniors include Ballinger, Belvo, Kiracofe, Woodard, Sam Hodge, an Mackenzie Howard.
Five juniors on the team include Ashton Collins, Alyssa Davidson, Saylor Jewell, Kylie Mikesell, and Olivia Rader.
Rounding out the returning players are Bailey Downard, Logan Hollon, Abby Bulach, Jenna Lovely, Dakota Mabry, Brittany Pack, Nicole Sims, and Brenna Woodard.
Freshmen newcomers to the program are Kristen Bown, Abby Elam, Cami Hollon, Stephanie Howard, Banessa Mann, Aubry Peak, Destiney Quillen, Harlie Turpin, Sydney Williams, and Kendra Worley.
“We have a few freshmen who will get some playing time, but they have a lot of excellent competition ahead of them,” said Schaeffer.
“Waynesville and Milton-Union will be our strongest challenges, but I am confident that we can beat them. Whomever wins this conference has a very legitimate chance to win the state,” Schaeffer said. “That’s how strong this conference is, and I feel we can match them. Carlisle is not a pushover either — they are coached very well. Out of conference, we play Bishop Fenwick who is a Division II team that could win state in their bracket. We just picked up Cincinnati Country Day, who was fourth in the state last year. I think we have a very competitive schedule, about eight or nine teams who are good enough to win or place high in the state of Ohio.”
“Our goal is to stay focused,” he said. “We do some motivational things to keep our minds on the season and not burn ourselves. We are going to try and stay fresh.
“We have the pieces to win it all, we just have to win the battle between our ears,” he added.
On Thursday, Aug. 25, Preble Shawnee opens the 2016 season with a home match against their northern neighbor and SWBL conference foe, Eaton.
Reach Oliver Sanders at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @osanders_RH.