Pickerington Central girls feature balance
Lizzie Awuah of the Pickerington High School Central girls soccer team started the 2011 season as a goalkeeper then transitioned into the field and scored 16 goals as a forward.
She had five goals through six games this season, but she still comes to practice every day less than 100 percent sure she will start the Tigers' next game.
"You basically fight for your starting position every practice," Awuah said. "It's not 'Let's go, let's do some set plays, we're done.' It's a matter of getting out on the practice field and fighting for your chance to start every day."
If the Tigers weren't so balanced, the situation might be different. But with 11 returning letterwinners and 11 players having scored goals through six games, first-year coach Jillian Walters figures she can't go wrong letting her players make the call for her.
"Coming up with a starting lineup is really difficult sometimes because it's based on how you train and how you warm up," Walters said. "If you look like you're on that day, you have that chance. When you have 18 players where a lot of them might be having the day of their life, it's really tough who you'll decide to put in one spot. But that's not a problem I'm complaining about."
Freshman Aisha Suhaiba had three goals, junior forward Samantha Oberdorf two and eight more players, including junior goalkeeper Lisa Slattery, had one apiece as the Tigers took records of 3-2-1 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division into a Sept. 11 home game against Pickerington North.
"Lizzie obviously always has that strong left foot and she fights for it. But all of our forwards in general are working hard," Walters said. "We don't really have one person on the field who scores a ton of goals consistently above others. They're all taking their shots."
The Tigers' other freshman on varsity, goalkeeper Jaelyn Cunningham, also has surprised. Splitting time with Slattery, Cunningham recorded a 3-0 shutout against Canal Winchester on Aug. 23 and made seven saves in a 3-2 win over Reynoldsburg on Sept. 4.
They have combined for two shutouts, the other being 8-0 against Lancaster on Aug. 28.
After consecutive road games at Watkins Memorial on Thursday, Sept. 13, and Grove City on Tuesday, Sept. 18, the Tigers play six of their final seven regular-season games at home.
Included in that stretch is an Oct. 9 home game against defending OCC-Ohio and district champion Gahanna, which ended Central's season last year with a 6-0 Division I district semifinal win.
Not that that memory fazes the Tigers much now.
"If I could describe (the season) in one word, (it) is we're 'optimistic,' "senior midfielder Amy Hawley said. "There's so much positive energy. Everyone is fighting for each other. We all rely on each other. I think that's going to make a big difference."