2022 girls soccer area watch list

·8 min read

Aug. 17—PLAYERS TO WATCH

(in alphabetical order)

Kate Bartlett, Chagrin Falls: Probably The News-Herald coverage area's best center back, with her anticipation, ballwinning, composure and set-piece danger, this senior is coming off a nine-goal, four-assist campaign, one of those nine goals being her late penalty kick conversion for the reigning Division II state champion Tigers in a state semi win over Rocky River that will long be remembered in Chagrin lore.

Ashlyn Drayer, West Geauga: Speaking of conversations about the "best" locally, this senior goalkeeper may be the best at her craft with her athleticism and big-save prowess, coming off a junior season in which she recorded 174 saves for the D-II regional finalist Wolverines.

Frankee Flesher, West Geauga: As far as complete strikers go, they don't come much better than this senior and program staple, who had 22 goals and eight assists a year ago and was a second-team D-II All-Ohioan. With her scintillating pace, workrate and on-ball skill, a more prolific season may be in order, and she is deep in the candidate chat for 2022 News-Herald girls soccer player of the year.

Corinne Greenlee, Kirtland: This fall, this longtime defensive-third staple will slot into midfield, where her high match IQ will fit well, as a senior in Coach Ed Bradac's new-look side, coming off first-team D-III all-Cleveland and second-team News-Herald honors a year ago.

Evania McCandless, Berkshire: This junior midfielder and returning first-team D-III all-Cleveland honoree has an expansive skill set, adept with both feet and a tactical issue for anyone on the opposite touchline, having recorded 14 goals and four assists for a 14-win Badgers side that appears as if it could be as impressive in 2022.

Elana McGinnis, Chagrin Falls: One of this area's premier attackers of recent memory — with 1v1 ability on the counter that is off the charts — this dynamic senior striker and 2021 first-team News-Herald all-star had 30 goals and five assists for the D-II state champion Tigers and could threaten for similar numbers this fall.

Megan McGinnis, West Geauga: This standout senior midfielder had a breakout campaign in 2021 as a junior, recording 17 goals and six assists and earning third-team News-Herald honors in a highly competitive year for spots.

Shelby Nagy, Lake Catholic: Like Greenlee for the Hornets, out of necessity in 2022, this senior will move into midfield from the defensive third for the Cougars after three goals and eight assists and third-team News-Herald plaudits last fall.

Jordan Rowan, Perry: Already one of this area's premier attackers as a sophomore with her workrate and finishing, this Pirates' present and future program staple had 26 goals and five assists as a ninth-grader and was first-team D-II all-Cleveland.

Ramsey Smith, Kenston: This senior can thrive as an outside striker with her superior size and skill, coming off 16 goals and five assists for a Bombers' side hopeful to make a similar impression as 2021 despite notable roster turnover.

Paige Spicuzza, Kenston: A match dictator with a great left foot and among The News-Herald coverage area's best on set pieces, this senior midfielder recorded 15 goals and seven assists a year ago and could be in line for better fortune this fall.

Brooklyn Steiner, Gilmour: Quality in the attack is in good hands going forward thanks to budding young performers such as this junior midfielder, who was a first-team D-II all-Cleveland honoree as a sophomore, standing out with her technical class and service sense.

MATCHES TO WATCH

Madison at Lake Catholic (Aug. 18), Riverside at Perry (Aug. 23), West Geauga at Lake Catholic (Aug. 24), Wickliffe at Berkshire (Aug. 25), Chagrin Falls at Gilmour (Aug. 27), NDCL at Chagrin Falls (Aug. 29), Kenston at Riverside (Aug. 30), Lake Catholic at Hawken (Sept. 1), Kenston at West Geauga (Sept. 1), Mayfield at NDCL (Sept. 1), Wickliffe at Kirtland (Sept. 6), Mentor at Lake Catholic (Sept. 6), Mayfield at Kenston (Sept. 6), Hawken at Kirtland (Sept. 8), Chagrin Falls at West Geauga (Sept. 8), Mayfield at Mentor (Sept. 10), Berkshire at Lake Catholic (Sept. 12), Chagrin Falls at Rocky River (Sept. 12), Kirtland at Chagrin Falls (Sept. 15), Hawken at Mayfield (Sept. 17), Madison at Riverside (Sept. 20), Hawken at Chagrin Falls (Sept. 22), Berkshire at Kirtland (Sept. 24), Wickliffe at Chardon (Sept. 24), Chagrin Falls at Kenston (Sept. 24), Mayfield at Riverside (Sept. 27), West Geauga at Kirtland (Sept. 29), Madison at NDCL (Sept. 29), Gilmour at Lake Catholic (Oct. 1), Berkshire at NDCL (Oct. 3), Madison at Kenston (Oct. 3), Perry at Kirtland (Oct. 4), Kirtland at Madison (Oct. 6), NDCL at Gilmour (Oct. 8), Mentor at West Geauga (Oct. 10), Madison at Perry (Oct. 12), Lake Catholic at NDCL (Oct. 12)

PENALTY KICKS

—First, we should address the proverbial elephant in the room: the "club effect." Kenston's Lilah Cornell and Madison's Amelia Swinarski, who were 2021 first-team News-Herald all-stars and who would have likely been All-Ohio candidates in 2022, each decided to forgo high school soccer for year-round club soccer. Those two stalwarts and others making similar choices is officially a trend. Without getting into the same debates — particularly here as the spotlight should go to the high school game — it is fair to say the "club effect" is more noticeable and increasingly concerning.

—It feels like this is "the year" for West Geauga to make a serious run at the Division II state championship. The Wolverines' 11-4-6 D-II elite-eight charge last season, while not starting ideally with so many ties or ending ideally in a lopsided loss to eventual state champion and fellow News-Herald coverage area powerhouse Chagrin Falls, showed what this side can do when it's on form. They'll probably duke it out all year with the Tigers as far as deciding this area's best starting 11. But as noted above, they have anchors in every third, and this is a side that can adapt to different looks tactically under Coach Kori Jesenovec.

—That said, Chagrin will reckoned with, too, of course, as it seeks to defend its D-II state crown. The way the underclassmen came along in this side last year, including Alex Chinnici in midfield, was a lot to fun to watch. There's no replacing Peyton Gellin in goal, whose state final performance and 2021 senior campaign won't soon be forgotten, but the defensive-third play should still be steady. As intriguing to watch as that, if not more however, is life in midfield without Sarah Burgess. Yes, her goals and assists were a big deal, but the way Burgess could impact a match beyond the stat sheet with her workrate, leadership and match vision was an invaluable intangible.

—Then there's Kenston, which won 17 matches and didn't lose until regional competition to Chagrin. How will the attack fare without arguably the best senior class in program history, including midfielder Skylar Cornell, and with Lilah Cornell going club? Spicuzza and Smith are a great starting point, so this side will adapt to its new normal. With the Bombers, it's probably more about a new-look defensive third. Aidan Myles was such a linchpin for this side at center back, and Kenston needs someone to step into that role.

—Berkshire has come into its own as a side that can be a standard-bearer trusted on the big-match stage. With experience in the back, the aforementioned McCandless and a deep attack also featuring Jordyn Wichert and Brooke Ruchalski, the Badgers should be challenging for regional competition again — although now it'll be up in D-II. Also, finally getting that program on turf for home matches will make a difference.

—If you want a couple News-Herald coverage area breakout candidates, try Wickliffe and Riverside. The Blue Devils were 9-8 last year with an especially young group in the offensive third that is still young and growing. If the defensive third can stabilize a bit more for Coach Steve Gribovicz's side, it should vie for 10-plus wins and being dangerous in the postseason. The Beavers, with pacey striker Jayda White and an intriguing midfield, also has the potential to take the next step in 2022.

—Long-term, Beaumont is feeling good about its prospects. Numbers are up under first-year coach Taylor Savarino and director of soccer Dennis Weyn, and the Blue Streaks will have a new on-campus turf pitch by early September. This is another side that could be improved vs. 2021 as well.

—Mentor has a young side loaded with sophomores and juniors who should be a well-oiled machine by late September/early October. Seniors Katie O'Brien and Emily Sterio provide stability, Jill Medvecky is one of this area's better goalkeepers and multi-sport standout Makenzie Stuckert should be a handful at striker.

—Mayfield is under new leadership, as Ivica Miljak takes over for Matt Lubin. Lubin did laudable work in his nearly 20 years with the program, always one of this area's toughest sides and a perennial D-I regional threat. Miljak did great work in his own right subbing as Kirtland's interim coach for Bradac for much of 2021. The Wildcats will continue to be in good hands.