Solid core to lead Woodridge girls soccer this fall

Bulldogs eager to bounce back after sub. 500 season

Woodbridge's Kiley Dugan, left, and Marlington's Laney Hess during action at Marlington last season.

As he enters his 20th season in charge of the Woodridge girls soccer program, coach Jason Allenspach thought he had seen it all. 

Then the pandemic hit. 

“That is the hardest part: the unknown,” Allenspach said “It’s hard keeping them motivated to be prepared. The hardest thing for me thinking how disappointed they would be if we don’t have a season.”

Allenspach noted his team comes in unified and ready to improve on last year’s record of 5-10-2, 2-3-2 in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division. 

“The pressure wasn’t there last year [in terms of winning] because we knew what we had graduated the year before,” Allenspach said. “We just focused on being better. I was just happy they played for each other at the end of last year. We’re trying to create a culture. I think the girls leading this team now are in the right mindset.” 

Due to the fact Allenspach feels his team’s strength is in the midfield — and the tactical guidance of assistant coach Michele Jagodzinski — Woodridge will operate from a 3-5-2 formation this fall.

The Metro Division is now the Metro Athletic Conference, but Allenspach doesn’t see the top contenders changing. Defending champion Streetsboro returns a ton of talent, while Norton and Field are likely to push for the title as well.

“If we can sneak in there, I’ll be very happy,” Allenspach said, noting finishing above .500 for the season “would be a pretty realistic goal for us.”

Woodridge lost only four seniors to graduation, but all four were starters: defender Sydney Kuhlke, midfielders Izzy Dicioato and Elanor Sterling and forward Madison Leightner.

The Bulldogs should be secure at goaltender as junior Emma Stekelenburg returns for her year as a starter.

“She’s improved every year,” Allenspach said. “Some of the shortcoming from last year, I think had to do with confidence.”  

Sophomore Anna Rorrer could see time in goal, but likely will start at forward, while freshman Cameron Hoover will split time between varsity and JV.

Allenspach noted seniors Olivia Woods and Layla Foster each grew into starting center backs last year and the two multi-sport athletes work will with each other.

Junior Riley Ilg started every game at outside back for Woodridge last year, but will split time between defense and the midfield this year. Sophomore Paige Powell also played outside back last year but will switch to center back this season.

Anchoring the Bulldogs at one of the holding midfield spots will be senior four-year starter Maddie Karlo.

“She conducts. She can really tell where everyone needs to be on the field and put them in just the right spot,” Allenspanch

Ilg could hold down the other midfield slot, but if she stays in defense, four-year starter Bella Paratore will get the nod. 

After struggling last year while returns from back surgery, senior four-year letterwinner Katie Austin looks to have nod at left winger.

“We’re going to let her do her thing,” Allenspach said. “She has a high soccer IQ. I think she likes to coach more than she likes play.”

Junior Kiley Dugan also could see time at left wing, as she has the best left foot on the team.

At right wing, senior Abby Bergdorf will get the nod, as he springs speed and experience to the position. 

Senior Rachel Freeman could see time on either wing, while sophomore Taryn Graham and Chelsea Jenkins each will see time in the offensive midfield slots. 

Allenspach said he would love to have Paratore play at the attacking midfield spot, as the four-year starter has been a consistent scoring threat throughout her career.

At forward, Allenspach plans to pair a player with speed and one with technical ability.

Rorrer will provide the athleticism, as Allenspach notes her speed will make her a natural target for direct play. Senior Paige Lyman also will provide some pace up top.

In terms of technical ability, Allenspach is very high on freshman forward Kate Lasker. Lasker has such a lethal shot, Allenspach noted she could be used as a free-kick specialist. 

“I coached her last year during his clubs season,” Allenspach said. “She had 30 goals last year. She will find the net.”

With only 26 players in the program, Allenspach notes Woodridge may struggle at times to field a full junior varsity squad.

“We’re going to do our best,” Allenspach said. “There might be times seniors have to drop down to help us play JV games.” 

Woodridge was set to open 

Was set to open Aug. 22 at Akron Ellet, but the game could be in limbo due to recent decisions by the Akron Board of Education. 

The Bulldogs are scheduled to travel to St. Vincent-St. Mary Aug. 25 at 7:30 p.m. before opening conference play at home vs. Coventry Sept. 1 at 7 p.m.

Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, or @MLeonard_GAN on Twitter