Anthony Wayne leads the NLL race, paced by captains, from left, Natalie Ducharme, Kate Allen and Taylor Leach. The Generals are 8-3-1.
Chemistry with equal elements of preparation and trust has bonded the Anthony Wayne girls soccer team into a formidable force this fall.
The Generals have taken command of the race for the Northern Lakes League title that had been ruled by Northview over the last decade. Anthony Wayne blanked the Wildcats 3-0 on Sept. 23 to take control.
Northview has captured 10 straight titles. The last time the Wildcats did not win it outright was in 1999 when they tied with the Generals.
Anthony Wayne (8-3-1 overall) is 5-0 in the NLL with two games to go.
“We put a lot of time into building team chemistry. It's a very important part of the game,” Anthony Wayne coach Lori Williams said. “The message this year was to win the NLL title. The kids have been phenomenal.”
Williams said that element was on display in a 7-0 victory over Southview. During one play, AW connected on six consecutive one-touch passes.
“There is no possible way they could have known where the other person was going to be without having that other sense,” Williams said. “That chemistry comes with all of the things we do in the off season. They didn't have time to look. They just believed in their teammates that if they played the ball to a certain spot, their teammate would be there.”
Senior defender Taylor Leach, atri-captain, also lauded the team's chemistry.
“We knew we would play as one team,” she said. “We knew we could go a long way. We've proved it so far and we hope to keep it going.”
Fellow senior captain Kate Allen, a forward, said the team has high expectations and that every practice is intense.
Goalkeeper Emily Wolfe has made 77 saves and recorded five shutouts this season for the Generals, who are 5-0 in the Northern Lakes League.
“It helps when you all get along. You know each other's strengths and weaknesses,” said Allen, who leads the team in overall scoring with 38 points.
Senior goalie Emily Wolfe agreed the team is clicking. “The possibilities are exciting,” she said.
Wolfe has five shutouts and has made 77 saves. Allen has knocked in 16 goals. She also has a team-high six assists. Leach has scored three goals and has four assists.
Junior Michelle Perry has 11 points (4 goals, 3 assists), including the game-winner against Northview. Junior Anna Coffman is ranked fourth with three goals and two assists.
Tri-captain Natalie Ducharme, ajunior, has scored one goal and has five assists. Sophomore Makayla Clement has three goals.
Williams, who is in her sixth season, was the program's fifth coach in six years.
“I was committed to building consistency,” she said.
The Generals went 9-7-2 that season and have not had a lower winning total since then.
“We've built on it every year,” Williams said. Attention to detail is paramount in her philosophy.
“I advocate preparation. That will dictate how you will play,” Williams said.
She counts on her seniors to determine how best to motivate the players and said this team's mantra has been “refuse to lose through hard work.”
“We talked at length about team-building and the psychological aspects of the game,” Williams said. “They agreed that our ultimate goal should be state champions.”
One physical impediment the past decade has been Northview. Leach, who earned a scholarship to play at theUniversity of South Carolina, said in past years the team seemed to get too pumped up.
“We would get so worked up. It was almost chaotic,” Leach said. “This year we were calm. We knew if we played our game of soccer, it would be good enough to beat them.”
Leach said the historic win bonded the team even more.
“We went into it like it was any other game,” Allen said. “Practice was normal. We were having a good time. It was a great feeling to know we stepped up.”
Williams said her team played its most complete game of the season. But all cautioned that the Generals still must beat Bowling Green for the outright title.
“We can't overlook anyone,” Leach insisted. “But we're in good position.”
Allen said the offense, defense and goaltending have all come together. Although the Generals are not in the top 10 in the Division I state coaches poll, they are among teams receiving votes. AW is ranked No. 1 in the northwest Ohio poll.
Allen said the six seniors want to extend their final seasons.Aimee Allison, Jordan Morehouse and Jensen Rees round out the class.
“We want to leave a good example for the underclassmen,” Leach agreed.
The team called on one key senior, Wolfe, to play in goal when freshman Hattie Strong suffered a concussion early in the season. Wolfe played goal for the first time in her life last season.
“I was scared,” she said. “But now I feel a little more comfortable.”
Wolfe credited the Generals defense, especially Leach, for preventing quality shots.
“I don't have to make many stops,” she said. “The defense clears out a lot.”
Leach, who has played extensively on travel club teams, received interest from Dayton, Long Island and South Alabama. Williams said Leach is essentially the coach of the defense.
“I've just always loved playing defense,” she said. “I love preventing goals. It's not showy. You do all the dirty work. But without good defense you don't have the opportunity to score.”
Leach said beating Northview put a target on the Generals' backs.
“We want to go as far as possible. A state title is always on our minds,” Leach said. “We just want to keep getting better everyday.”
Contact Mark Monroe at:email@example.com 419-724-6354.