By DAVE HANNEMAN
David LaRocco doesn’t see scoring goals as a problem for his Findlay High girls soccer team this season.
What he’s looking for the Trojans to do this fall is prioritize.
“Last year, for the first time, we were able to go toe to toe with the (Toledo) St. Ursula’s, the (Toledo) Notre Dame’s when it came to scoring goals,” LaRocco said. “What we lacked in the past, though, was that key goal at that key moment.”
Findlay scored 48 goals and allowed just 17 in going 12-6 last fall. Five of those six losses, though, were by a single goal, including a 1-0 loss to Notre Dame in a game that could have earned the Trojans a share of their first-ever Three Rivers Athletic Conference title, and a 2-1 shootout loss to Sylvania Southview in the Division I district semifinals.
“We definitely have a lot of motivation from last year. I think that will help push us,” said Jaclyn Bendt, a senior outside defender.
“We’re pretty strong all over the field. We know what we’re capable of. As long as we keep our mental focus, I think we can push past teams like St. Ursula and Notre Dame and Sylvania Southview.”
LaRocco did lose nine players from last year’s team. But seven all-league selections return, including first-teamers Morgan Kirk, Margot Simeon and Madison Mlsna and second-team picks Bendt and Chase Ebanks.
“St. Ursula, Notre Dame, those teams are good every year,” said Simeon, a senior center mid for the Trojans. ”
“But we feel we have a pretty good chance this year. We have some young talent and it’s going to take some team chemistry. But I feel we can make it pretty far if we come together on and off the field.”
A good deal of Findlay’s returning talent is on offense.
Kirk, a junior forward, led the Trojans with 21 goals and 48 total points. Mlsna, also a junior forward, scored 14 goals, led the team with 11 assists and was second overall with 39 points. Simeon had four goals, six assists and 14 points.
“I believe something like 90 percent of our offense returns,” said LaRocco, whose 141-46-18 career record includes a 59-34-14 slate the past seven seasons at Findlay High.
“Those returning players all contributed to our offense last season. They helped us win 12 games and have a successful year. So, assuming everybody stays healthy and we can fit the new pieces in where the seniors graduated, the sky’s the limit.”
LaRocco says he’s been more of a defensive-minded coach in the past. But he’s changing his ways.
“From my playing experience and my coaching experience, I just always felt more comfortable coaching the defensive players and the midfielders,” LaRocco said. “But I learned real quick that you’re always going to face tough opponents at the Division I level so you have to be well-rounded at all levels of the field and all positions of the field.”
LaRocco saw some things last season that he knew he could expand on this season.
“It was a confidence more than anything,” LaRocco said. “If were down 1-0, we didn’t feel the game was over. We felt we could score a goal and get right back in it. One game we were down 2-0 and came back to tie it.
“This year we feel like we should be able to play from in front. We definitely want to get more offensive players to the point of attack and the way we are going to do that is with a formation that should allow us to have four attacking players, plus a couple of defenders able to push forward at all times.
“Last year we were sort of limited to a two-forward attack. This year we want to have an attacking forward and three attacking midfielders as well. With four players on the attack, we hope to really put some pressure on the defense.”
Returning letter winners Libby Fetterman, Julia Hardesty, Caitlin Fraley, Emma Heidelbaugh, Emily Misamore, Taylor Scalfaro and Cassie Wood also figured in Findlay’s scoring last season.
Misamore, Hardesty, Wood and Scalfaro are seniors. Fetterman, Fraley and Heidelbaugh, along with Kirk, Mlsna and returning goal keeper Kendra Wurm, a returning honorable mention all-TRAC selection who posted nine shutouts and made 109 total saves last season, are juniors.
“When you look at our lineup, we’re still kind of young,” said Wood, who will be moving from defender to a midfield position this season.
“Definitely St. Ursula and Notre Dame are usually the top teams (in the TRAC). (But) We didn’t graduate a lot of starters. We’ve been pretty close, and this year we’re hoping we can win it.”
Bendt, Ebanks and Fraley are returning starters on defense.
“We lost one our key pieces back there when Hannah Clinger graduated. But we do have two or three people looking to fill that spot,” LaRocco said.
“Assuming we stay healthy we feel our defense will be as solid as any unit on the field.”
Before Findlay gets into the competition of its regular season schedule, LaRocco said internal competition is bringing out the best in his players.
“From top to bottom, the program has never been stronger in my years here,” LaRocco said.
“We have 50 girls in the (high school) program. All of them are talented, all of them are competitive and all of them are trying to make the varsity team.
“Last year’s JV team won the league, and those girls are hungry to come in and prove they can play at the next level. Then you go to the freshman class and there’s not much drop off when it comes to the JV A and JV B teams.
“Everybody if pushing each other. And when they do that everybody gets better.”
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