About the only thing new for an Upper Arlington High School girls soccer team that reached a Division I state semifinal a year ago is a coach who never imagined he'd be taking over one of the top programs in the state.

About the only thing new for an Upper Arlington High School girls soccer team that reached a Division I state semifinal a year ago is a coach who never imagined he'd be taking over one of the top programs in the state.

Eight seasons as the Reynoldsburg girls coach ended a year ago for Mark Wise with a 2-0 loss to UA in a district semifinal.

Bob McGee, who in 11 seasons at UA compiled a 164-31-21 record with eight OCC championships, five district titles and a regional title, left to take the girls position at Fisher Catholic.

"I never thought Bobby McGee would be gone out of there," Wise said. "But when I found out he was leaving, it was a very interesting position. Things in Reynoldsburg had grown uncomfortable with talk of no sports and huge fees for pay-to-play. My wife kind of prodded me."

What Wise has inherited is a team loaded with senior talent and last year's district Player of the Year in forward Michela Paradiso, who also was first-team all-state and captain of the ThisWeek Super 12 team with 25 goals and 12 assists as a freshman.

The Golden Bears expect to return a powerful offensive attack which propelled them to a state semifinal, where they lost to eventual state champion Cincinnati St. Ursula 3-0 to finish 19-2-1 overall.

UA earned a regional championship with a 2-1 victory over Hilliard Davidson, which won the OCC-Central Division at 5-0-2 ahead of UA (5-1-1), Worthington Kilbourne (4-0-3), Dublin Coffman (3-1-3), Hilliard Darby (2-3-2), Thomas Worthington (2-5-0), Central Crossing (1-5-1) and Westland (0-7-0).

In the district final, UA defeated Dublin Coffman 2-1 before getting past Dresden Tri-Valley 4-0 in a regional semifinal.

"We lost a lot from our defense, so I think our team is much more offensive-oriented this year," senior midfielder Lara Ross said. "We know teams are going to mark Michela. We saw that in the scrimmages and that's only going to open up opportunities for others."

Ross was second-team all-league with seven goals and five assists last season.

Also back are juniors Gena Inbusch (6 goals, 11 assists) and Ali Stone and senior Erin Joyce in the midfield.

During preseason workouts, Wise was more focused on defense, as UA lost goalkeeper Clara Kridler, who posted a school-record 81 saves, and experienced defenders Alle Pacetta and Julia Puzutti.

The three led a defense that produced 15 shutouts.

"We've been working on getting those guys cohesive back there," Wise said. "As a new coach, you always try to work from the back to the front. If we never allow a goal, we can't get beat."

Seniors Colleen Fugate and Andrea Hulls and juniors Mary Claire Yerke and Sara Vaughan (second-team all-league) have the most experience in the back, along with senior goalkeeper Shannon Flowers, who returns to the team after playing club soccer last fall.

The Bears realize the importance of a strong defense in a traditionally tough OCC-Central.

"I know everybody is going to be out to get us this year, so we have to be ready," Ross said. "Obviously, it can be tough getting back to where we ended last year, but we want to do it again."


Schedule

Last Tuesday -- Played Big Walnut

Saturday -- vs. Huber Heights Wayne

*Tuesday -- vs. Thomas Worthington

Sept. 5 -- Findlay

*Sept. 8 -- at Worthington Kilbourne

Sept. 10 -- vs. Dublin Jerome

*Sept. 15 -- atHilliard Darby

Sept. 17 -- at Westerville South

Sept. 19 -- at Toledo St. Ursula

Sept. 22 -- vs. Newark

Sept. 26 -- vs. Rocky River Magnificant

Sept. 29 -- at Olentangy Orange

Oct. 3 -- vs. Pickerington Central

*Oct. 6 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson

Oct. 8 -- at Pickerington North

*Oct. 13 -- at Dublin Coffman

*OCC-Central