The Dublin Coffman High School girls soccer team had to play its first two games of the season last week without two of its better players in senior defender Haley Lehmkuhl and senior forward Kelly Phipps.

The Dublin Coffman High School girls soccer team had to play its first two games of the season last week without two of its better players in senior defender Haley Lehmkuhl and senior forward Kelly Phipps.

Phipps, a Western Kentucky University recruit who scored in the Florida 6A (large-school) state final a year ago to lead Palm Harbor University to a 1-0 victory over Boca Raton, is recovering from a stress fracture in her back.

Lehmkuhl, a returning starter who was second-team all-OCC-Central Division last year, is attempting to make her way back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Despite playing with a shortened bench, the Shamrocks defeated Westerville North 3-0 in their opener Aug. 21 and beat Gahanna 1-0 four days later.

"It's encouraging that we can win games against good teams and play that well when we aren't even at full strength," coach Marc D'Auteuil said. "We won those games in entirely different ways, too."

Against North, Kaeli Tunistra, Bailey Wilson and Sam Edwards scored and Edwards and Amanda Stratton had assists.

"We didn't play very well in that game, especially in the first half when we were out of sync and disconnected from each other," D'Auteuil said. "But we found a way to score and Westerville North struggled to get the ball out of their end in the second half."

Natalie Ashbrook scored off an assist from Tunistra 10 minutes into the second half against Gahanna, which won a Division I district championship a year ago.

"We played lights-out at Gahanna, even though we only won 1-0," D'Auteuil said. "We had 21 shots and 16 of them were on goal, while Gahanna had three shots and only one was on goal. Gahanna has a small field and they sat in more defensively than we're used to and we had issues finishing, but the girls played real well against a good team."

The Shamrocks play host to Hilliard Bradley on Saturday, Sept. 1, before playing host on Tuesday, Sept. 4 to Marysville in an OCC-Central game. Coffman beat Bradley 2-0 in a Division I district final last year.

D'Auteuil said the Shamrocks need to continue playing well on defense to be successful in both games. Coffman's defense includes defenders Sophia Bingaman, Ellie Hackett, Jesse Schaefer and Stratton and goalkeeper Quynh Vo.

"I've been most pleased with our defense and that's going to be the key to winning games; not just playing well defensively in the back, but all over the field," D'Auteuil said. "We could do a better job of finishing, but I'm confident that we'll improve as the season goes on because we have a lot of skill in the midfield and up top."

Shamrocks boys search for scoring

The Coffman boys team opened Aug 21 with a 1-0 loss at Pickerington North before beating Westerville Central 1-0 two days later.

"We came into the season with a lot of confidence and then we got a little tight and didn't play as freely and dynamically as we did throughout the preseason," coach Steve Watts said.

"We dominated possession against Pickerington North, but we didn't finish our opportunities. We pressed and took shots we shouldn't have taken. It was as if our kids were over-thinking the game and afraid to make a mistake."

Nick Gualtieri tapped in a rebound off a corner kick in the first half against Central, but the Shamrocks' offense was mostly stagnant the rest of the contest.

"We were content possessing the ball instead of creating opportunities," Watts said. "We assumed our offensive end would be a strength because we scored a lot of goals in the preseason. We just need to get back to playing free and loose, the way we did in the preseason. Our guys just need to relax and have some fun."

The Shamrocks will look to get their offense untracked when they play Saturday, Sept. 1, at Bradley and an OCC-Central game Tuesday, Sept. 4, at Marysville.

Coffman's defense, which includes defenders Jason Strine, Todd Turner, Zach Vollmer and Aaron Willis and goalie Trent Rantala, was its strength through two games, according to Watts.

"Our defense is doing really well," Watts said. "We made one defensive mistake against Pickerington North and they scored off it.

"If we continue playing this well on defense and start scoring the way we're capable of scoring, we'll be a tough team to beat."