Mason High School boys soccer coach Paul Reedy knows claiming a sixth district title may be a tall order.
The Comets lost nine starters from a 15-1-3 team that won a fifth straight district title in 2016, including all-state selection Max Mitchell and Wright State signee Joseph Grimes.
“We have so many new players since we return only two starters so most of our roster are players with limited varsity experience,” Reedy said. “We hope to compete for the Greater Miami Conference title and win a sixth straight district title.”
Mason does return some quality players.
University of Cincinnati commit Ben Wendell returns at center-mid for his senior campaign alongside classmate Philip Springsteen.
However, after that, the Comets lack experience among the 100 players who tried out.
“We are a work in progress and need to improve throughout the season to achieve our goals,” Reedy said. “We are making some progress but have a lot of room for improvement.”
The Comets will have to improve quickly to knock off defending GMC champ Sycamore. The Aves return almost their entire roster.
While the Mason boys have to reload, the girls look to rebound.
Andy Schurr’s squad went through a 8-7-2 season in which they finished third in the GMC.
The Comets return leading scorer Annie Metzger for his fourth season while first team All-Southwest Ohio and second team All-GMC Jordan Reddington also return.
“Our team is going to have a great mixture of returning players and newcomers,” Schurr said. “All of our newcomers are expected to make an impact this year. We have two sophomore newcomers, six junior newcomers and two senior newcomers who are all expected to help us improve on last year’s results.”
Schurr knows moving up in the GMC will be tough with Fairfield once again entering as the favorite to claim the title. Oak Hills, Lakota East and Lakota West also figure to be in the mix for the title.
“The teams in the middle to bottom of the conference have improved tremendously so there are no easy games anymore,” Schurr said. “Whoever wins the conference this year will have to pass a stern test on all nine conference match days. Our goal is to get back to the top of the conference mountain this year after a few years of not being there.”
Mason’s depth after going through tryouts with 89 players could be a determining factor in getting back on top.
“We expect to play fast and exciting soccer. We will be deep and use our speed and fitness to be a constant defensive presence,” Schurr said. “Our skill level is high this year and we hope to create more quality scoring chances than we did last year. Our girls are excited for the opportunity to compete and get better each day. They are focused and ready to take on our really tough schedule.
“Our goal is to improve each day we are together and if that happens I think the results will take care of themselves. If we can make it through our first four or five games with some good results and positive energy, I like our chances at the end of the season.”
Lebanon: Leading scorer Alex Narog and goalkeeper Zach Yahya graduated from a team that finished 6-6-5 last season, leaving big holes at the front and back of the lineup.
The boys do return All-Greater Western Ohio Conference selection Josh Narog and Zac Gemmer, but after that the roster is a work in progress.
“We have solidified some positions that were unknown before the summer, but we have some spots that are yet to be filled,” coach Stephen Jaynes said. “We are just focused on getting better every day.”
Jaynes looks for Springboro to be the team to beat in the GWOC National West Division, but plans on his squad making a run at the title.
Kings: The girls team returns numerous familiar faces, but one of them is not the one running the show.
New coach Katelyn Newton takes over a program that finished sixth in the Eastern Cincinnati Conference in 2016, but was greeted by a roster featuring 11 seniors.
Add in junior Sydney Rhodes, a second team All-ECC selection, and Newton believes the Knights can make some noise.
“We are really looking forward to competing in such a strong league this season, and making our mark in the ECC,” Newton said. “I am really excited about the progress that I have seen from when I started with the program back in April up until now. The girls invested their time in our program over the summer, and I have been thrilled with their work ethic as a result.”
Little Miami: Coming off a 7-6-5 campaign that included a 1-2-2 mark in the Southwest Ohio Conference, boys coach Kyle Smiddy is looking for the Panthers to be in the mix for the league title.
“Our season expectations are extremely high,” Smiddy said. “We have a very skilled group, so anything less than a SWOC title will be disappointing.”
Little Miami will be led by third-year varsity starters Brody Kiper and Ryan Mills with sophomores Aiden Butler, Andrew Oder and Joseph Chacon adding quality to the depth.
“We have seen great progress and team bonding through our preseason preparation,” Smiddy said. “We had success in both of our preseason outings. With a championship run at the Wilmington College Quaker Cup Tournament and a 3-1 showing at our own Little Miami Soccer Fest tournament, we are primed and ready for kickoff.”
Coach Kim Koterba’s girls team is coming off a breakout 15-2 campaign that included a SWOC title.
SWOC player of the year Eva Kiper returns after finishing second in Cincinnati in goals in 2016. First team All-SWOC selections Alexis Hickey and Peyton Pakozdi also return for the Panthers.
Sophomores Gabbi Gordon, Lydia Vach, Alyssa Weisbrodt and Emma Rackley return after gaining experience on the varsity as freshmen and transfer Kaelin Wieland adds depth.
“Our team goal is win the SWOC and make a good run in the tournament,” Koterba said.