According to Upper Arlington High School girls soccer coach Mark Wise, the members of his team are in the stage of their development as players where they're beginning to understand all the intricacies of the sport.
"Some of them have a hard time seeing those spatial relationships," Wise said. "When you're younger, everything is right on the ball. What we're trying to do is say they have the ball, but what can I do off the ball to help them create two or three steps down the road? That's complex thinking. High school girls are just on the edge of being able to understand all of that. I'm asking them to do some things because they already have the skills I need."
Wise believes that since adding tougher schemes during the past month the Golden Bears are making the game look easier. A 5-1-3 stretch since Sept. 6 entering this week improved UA to 5-4-4 overall and 2-3-1 in the OCC-Central Division, but the team laments not finishing more scoring chances.
"We need to work on progressing up the field on the ground because our team isn't that big and we can't win balls in the air most of the time," junior defender Gabi MacNaughton said. "We just have to attack with speed and (stop) pulling back. Go at the ball (and) take shots. We can get around defenders, but then we shoot it right at the keeper."
The Bears opened the season with a 1-all tie against Grove City on Aug. 25 and then lost consecutive 1-0 games to Thomas Worthington on Aug, 28 and Olentangy Liberty on Sept. 4. UA also had ties against Olentangy Orange (at 0 on Sept. 13), Marysville (at 2 on Sept. 25) and Olentangy (at 0 on Sept. 29).
On Oct. 2 at Westland, the Bears outshot the Cougars 30-3 but squeaked out a 2-1 win.
"We now know we can't just stand there up top," junior forward Anna Eversole said. "We have to check to the midfield in order to transfer (the ball) to us and switch a lot and make movements so things aren't easy on (opposing) defenders. We have to communicate with each other and always be switching and moving."
One thing that has been consistently switching is the identity of UA's offensive star. Nine players had at least one goal through 14 games, with Eversole and sophomore midfielder Madeleine Miller each having four and sophomore midfielder Jessie Greve and junior forward Callie Zimmerman each having three.
Wise hopes his team's progression continues into the Division I district tournament. UA plays host to Westerville North in the first round Tuesday, Oct. 16, with the winner playing at Olentangy in the second round Oct. 18.
The Bears defeated North 1-0 on Sept. 8 behind a goal by sophomore defender Alex Beery and six saves by senior goalkeeper Katie Kapusta and played Olentangy to a scoreless tie on Sept. 29.
Last season, UA advanced to a district semifinal before losing 10-0 to top-seeded Dublin Jerome.
"I feel good that the team has come a long way from the beginning," Wise said. "We've solidified and, at times, played beautiful soccer. Sometimes we're not rewarded for that, because that's the way soccer is. You have possession 90 percent of the game, then suddenly somebody gets the ball over your head and you're behind. It happens. This is a tough team."