Perrysburg girls soccer team co-head coaches, Jorge Diaz, left, and Margaret Bernard hoist the MaxPreps Tour of Champions trophy during a ceremony at Perrysburg High School in January.
The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
Coming off of a historic, undefeated season that culminated in a Division I state title last fall, the Perrysburg girls soccer team has garnered an impressive preseason honor.
The online publication MaxPreps.com has named Perrysburg one of the top 10 girls teams in the country. The Web site included Perrysburg among its early contenders, teams that are predicted to “battle it out for consideration as the top team in the land.”
The feature will be released on the site soon.
The Yellow Jackets went 22-0-0 and became the first girls program from northwest Ohio to win a state title last November. They finished last season ranked No. 6 in the final MaxPreps poll.
MaxPreps, which is affiliated with CBS Sports, was in Perrysburg last week for a photo shoot and interviews.
“We’re very excited and thankful,” said co-head coach Jorge Diaz. “We’re happy for northwest Ohio to be recognized for what we do. But every year presents a different challenge. We had some wonderful seniors that will be hard to duplicate. But I think we have the talent to make another run at it.”
The loss of three supremely talented players, including leading scorer Maddy Williams and goalkeeper Chloe Buehler, to major college programs has tempered the enthusiasm a bit.
Williams led the Yellow Jackets with 48 goals is now at Purdue University. Williams scored the only goal over Mason in the championship game on Nov. 9 at Columbus Crew Stadium.
“We will miss the leadership and the creative play of Maddy,” Diaz said.
Buehler, who will play at Penn State, fought through a back injury last season and did not allow a goal in the playoffs and had six shutouts. She finished with nine saves in the title game.
Forward Mollie Whitacre, another prolific goal scorer, is now at Ohio University.
The cupboard is far from bare, however, for the Yellow Jackets, who have 13 players back, including three out of four defenders.
“We have a lot of great returners,” Diaz said. “We will be relying on a lot of players to score instead of relying on one. Now different players must step up at different times.”
Senior defenders Abby Sattler and Andrea Wertz, return along with junior Lindy Delong in the back.
“That gives us confidence that we can attack,” Diaz said. “We are confident our defense will take care of business.”
Senior forward Lucy Walton and junior forward Allex Brown are expected to fill the scoring void. They tied for the second-most goals scored with 13 a piece last season.
Sophomore Josie Fowler, an attacking midfielder, has played on Olympic development teams this summer.
Senior Sarah Baer, a standout post player in basketball, will take over in goal. The 6-foot-1 Baer played in six games last year and gave up one goal. Diaz said he expects a class of seven seniors to step up.
A unique co-head coaching combination of Diaz and Margaret Bernard should once again provide a steady, guiding force.
“We both know our strengths,” said Diaz, who enters his third season with Bernard. “We have mutual respect for one another. She is good with the kids and is the voice of reason. My responsibilities are more tactical and getting the kids the tools necessary to perform.”
Perrysburg begins its title defense on Aug. 28 at Springfield.
“We have to have others step up to replace our offensive production," Diaz said. "We might win games that we won 4-1 last year, 2-1, or 1-0 this year.”