Girls Soccer: Grove City aiming for OCC-Ohio title repeat

FRANK DIRENNA
fdirenna@thisweeknews.com
Alissa Schiff, a junior midfielder, is among a strong group of returnees for the Greyhounds under 11th-year coach Josh Keller.

After earning its first league title since 1983, the Grove City girls soccer team has its sights set on back-to-back OCC-Ohio Division championships.

The Greyhounds, who won the league last year at 4-0-1, were 1-1-1 through three games this season. They open play in the new-look OCC-Ohio on Tuesday, Sept. 15, at home against New Albany.

The other teams in the league include two holdovers in Gahanna and Pickerington North, along with Westerville Central and Westland.

"Our goals don't change," said 11th-year coach Josh Keller, whose team finished 12-5-1 overall last season, losing to Westerville North 4-0 in a Division I district semifinal. "They're the same as last year, same as every year, and that is to compete for an OCC championship and to get as far (as possible) in the tournament, hopefully a district final, and see where we can go from there."

A key returnee is senior defender/midfielder Kendall Jameson, who was named league Player of the Year last season along with first-team all-district and third-team all-state.

"It's definitely going to be harder than last year, but the goal is still the same: win the league title," Jameson said. "We have the talent for it and we just have to finish. ... We've always wanted to go back-to-back and it would be important to all of us, especially when everybody thought we weren't going to play because (of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic)."

Also back are junior defender Morgan Dible (special mention all-league) and junior midfielder Reganne Elliott (honorable mention all-league).

Other returnees are seniors Olivia Carson (defender), Madison Evans (goalie), Skyla Sanborn (forward/midfielder), Jenna Slabaugh (midfielder), Emily Talbott (defender) and Sophia Tristano (defender) and juniors Caitlyn Chittum (midfielder), Ashleigh Mastilak (goalie), Belle Ransburgh (midfielder), Alissa Schiff (midfielder) and Alexis Steinhauser (midfielder).

Senior midfielder Ava Hurd is a transfer from Ready who was first-team all-CCL last season.

Other players are senior Macie Dearth (midfielder/def-ender), junior Sydney Schuler (midfielder), sophomores Shae Grimm (defender) and Kayla Jones (forward/midfielder) and freshman Ava Schiff (forward).

Keller said Evans and Mastilak are vying for playing time in goal.

"They're going to be competing all year for playing time," said Keller, who was named league Coach of the Year last season. "They're both excellent (goalies). I love competition. It makes both of them better."

Upperclassmen to set tone for Comets

Central Crossing expects strong junior and senior classes to help improve on last year's finish of 5-16 overall and 1-4 in the OCC-Central.

The senior class features Teagen Goldsworthy (midfielder), Mariana Lopez-Herrera (defender/midfielder; second-team all-league), Emma Malkowski (midfielder/forward), Sydney McCullough (defender) and Emily Smits (midfielder/forward).

Emily Chatfield (defender), Kate Henry (midfielder), Georgia Lakso (forward; first-team all-league) and Christa Phillips (defender; honorable mention all-league) make up the junior class.

"We have a nice group of girls who work hard and have a great attitude," 10th-year coach Amy Williams said. "They are an enjoyable group to coach. They have had a positive attitude with all the things with COVID going on. I expect us to be competitive, but we're happy to have a season in general."

Malkowski and Smits return after suffering season-ending knee injuries last fall.

"Emma had ACL tears in the eighth grade and as a junior and Smits is finally healthy," Williams said. "It's good to have them healthy and playing again."

Also expected to play in the midfield are sophomores Jackie Mateos and Makenzie Scott.

Lakso is expected to be the top scoring threat up front along with freshmen Addi Rudolph and Haley Triplett.

"Georgia is a strong power forward who has great speed and is a good leader," Williams said. "She's a college-bound player who is our playmaker and go-to scorer."

Sophomore Rachel Jaynes (special mention all-league) returns in goal.

Sophomore Rachel Clifford is expected to be another contributor in the back.

The Comets opened with a 5-0 loss to Licking Heights on Aug. 27 and lost to Marysville 11-0 on Sept. 1.

Central Crossing has moved to the OCC-Buckeye, joining Groveport, Lancaster, Newark, Pickerington Central and Reynoldsburg. The Comets open league play Tuesday, Sept. 15, at Lancaster.

--Scott Hennen

sports@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSports

At a glance

CENTRAL CROSSING

*Coach: Amy Williams, 10th season

*Top players: Rachel Jaynes, Georgia Lakso, Mariana Lopez-Herrera, Emma Malkowski, Christa Phillips and Emily Smits

*Key losses: Marilyn Lopez, Celi Rosado and Faith Steinbrecher

*Last season: 5-16 overall

*2019 OCC-Central standings: Dublin Coffman (5-0), Hilliard Davidson (4-1), Marysville (3-2), Upper Arlington (2-3), Central Crossing (1-4), Westland (0-5)

*2019 postseason: Lost to Hilliard Darby 9-0 in first round of Division I district tournament

GROVE CITY

*Coach: Josh Keller, 11th season

*Top players: Olivia Carson, Madison Evans, Ava Hurd, Kendall Jameson and Sophia Tristano

*Key losses: Anjuli Anderson, Kennedy Fulks, Alexia Jones, Natalie Querry and Maria Rossi

*Last season: 12-5-1 overall

*2019 OCC-Ohio standings: Grove City (4-0-1), Gahanna (3-0-2), Pickerington North (3-1-1), Pickerington Central (2-3), Reynoldsburg (1-4), Lancaster (0-5)

*2019 postseason: Defeated Davidson 2-1; lost to Westerville North

4-0 in Division I district semifinal

Senior midfielder and forward Emily Smits is one of five returning seniors who are expected to lead Central Crossing.