UA girls put focus on offense
It's expected to be a challenging week for the Upper Arlington High School girls soccer team, which has struggled to sustain an offensive attack.
The Golden Bears faced Hilliard Davidson, which was 8-1 overall entering the game, in an OCC-Central Division contest Sept. 18 and will play host to last year's Division II state runner-up, Toledo St. Ursula Academy, on Saturday, Sept. 22.
"St. Ursula is a very physical team and they're very direct in their play, which will test us," said coach Mark Wise, whose team was 3-3-2 overall and 1-2 in the OCC-Central before playing Davidson. "But these games will be good development for us for the postseason."
The biggest concern for Wise has been his team's offensive production. The Bears were averaging 1.6 goals through eight games, but that average was inflated by a 9-0 win over Central Crossing in a league game Sept. 11.
The Bears totaled just four goals in their other seven games and had been shut out four times. Before playing Davidson, the only other game in which they scored more than one goal was a 2-0 win over Hilliard Darby on Sept. 15. Scoring against Darby were midfielder Maddy Miller and defender Rachel Piscopo.
"It's been frustrating because we haven't been getting open for each other," junior forward Anna Eversole said. "I think our biggest struggle is that we're getting cross shots, but we don't have anyone there to finish them."
In an effort to find the right offensive mix, Wise has been shuffling his lineup. He even has tried different formations, ranging from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-2-1.
In addition to Eversole and Miller, forwards Kerry Fry, Gigi Furlong and Annabella Williams and midfielder Jesse Greve have been working to spur the offensive attack, Wise said. Against Central Crossing, Miller and defender Callie Zimmerman both had two goals.
"I see that we're making progress," Wise said. "It's slow, but it's happening. We've been working on some pattern play in attacking the flanks and the middle. (Against Darby), they played a 4-3-3 against us and that opened up the back side all night and the girls were able to key on that."
UA hasn't had a go-to player since Michela Paradiso in 2010. Paradiso had 20 goals and six assists for the Bears in 2010 and was named first-team all-state and all-district in Division I and the OCC-Central Player of the Year. She opted to forego her senior season last fall to play at the club level and is now playing for Ohio State.
"There just has been that one person who can take the ball," Williams said. "But we've been working as a team to keep possession by constantly passing the ball. We're playing together more and more and we're getting to know each other's tendencies. I think we're taking more shots, too."
The Bears' defense has allowed them to remain competitive. They allowed six goals through eight games, and half of that total came in a 3-0 loss to Worthington Kilbourne on Sept. 6.
UA also was shut out in losses to Thomas Worthington (1-0 on Aug. 28) and Olentangy Liberty (1-0 on Sept. 4) in league games and played Olentangy Orange to a scoreless tie on Sept. 13.
"We haven't allowed a goal in the past four games," Williams said before facing Davidson.
*ALUMNI GAME -- The girls team will honor its alumni on Tuesday, Sept. 25, when it plays host to Marysville in a league game.
The Bears, who are celebrating their 30th season, will present an award to Dick Henry during halftime for his contributions to the program. As a volunteer coach, he organized the team in its inaugural season in 1982 and coached the Bears through 1985.
All former players are invited to attend and help honor Henry.