Bolstered by talented trio, Lakota West girls soccer making strong early-season statement

The Lakota West High School girls soccer team went from a fourth-place finish in the Greater Miami Conference last year to a top five national ranking this preseason.

So far, the Firebirds are living up to the hype with a 6-0-1 start, but coach Brigit Reder reminds them they haven't proven anything yet. USA Today ranked them No. 5 in their preseason Super 25 and they currently are 26th in the Fab50 .

West is aiming for the program’s second state title this season – first since 1999, which also was the last time the Firebirds finished nationally ranked.

“Coming in we had high expectations,” Reder said. “Seeing that preseason jolt to it was surprising, but also reaffirmed we are expected by others to do big things too.

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“They handled it well in terms of having the right mindset that we had a lot of work to put in. It was a boost of confidence, but it also makes the bulls-eye a little bigger and we have to put the work in to back that up.”

The Firebirds finished 10-7-2 last year but likely earned the ranking based on the same things that gave Reder confidence she could put some high expectations on her team this year.

West returned nine seniors and 13 total varsity players, many of whom are committed to play in college, and the squad also was bolstered by the addition of three juniors who hadn’t played for the school team in the past because of commitments to the Cincinnati Development Academy.

Standout forward Kailyn Dudokovich left the D.A. to play for Ohio Elite, which enabled her to go out for her school team, and the academy gave permission to goalie Maddie Prohaska and defender Sydney Jones to play for West this year after previously not allowing it. Dudokovich and Jones committed to Ohio State University as freshmen around the time Prohaska chose Auburn.

“I figured you are only in high school one time, and I wanted to experience playing for the high school,” Dudokovich said. “I felt like I needed a change for my development, so I switched clubs and high school went with that. I trust coach Reder with her knowledge, and it’s been super fun, for sure. The other players were really open with bringing me and the other two girls into the team and it’s been super fun.”

All three seem to have transitioned well with the team, but especially Dudokovich, who leads the GMC with 19 goals and two assists through seven games. She had three goals and one assist in an 8-0 win over Hamilton on Thursday, and the Firebirds have outscored opponents 34-7 this season. Their lone tie came against New Albany.

“It’s refreshing to have some pressure off the other players,” Reder said of Dudokovich. “She obviously carries a large load of pressure on her shoulders, but it’s awesome. She makes the others around her better, fits in seamlessly and elevates others around her. She’s helped our results and the growth of other players.”

Reder said all three new players have enhanced what West already had in place. Jones has four goals and four assists, and Prohaska splits time with senior Regan Meyer, a Marshall commit, in goal. Prohaska plays one game and Meyer the next, but the Firebirds can count on either one to get the job done.

Other top contributors include senior midfielders Tori Kelley and Jenna Sitarski, who are considered the heartbeat of the team making things happen in the middle, as well as senior forward Maya Martir and senior attacker Vanessa Menchofer. West plays a possession-based style with a high tempo and high press.

Dudokovich said she knew she was walking onto an already strong team but didn’t realize just how good the Firebirds could be. A state championship always is a goal, but Reder said it feels more possible this season.

“It’s always a program goal, but in reality, it’s more doable this year,” Reder said. “At the beginning of the year when we set goals, that was the end result, to make everything cumulate to winning a state championship. It’s nothing we talk about every day, because we have a lot to achieve before we can even look toward that, but it’s definitely the end goal.”

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