VINCENT - Warren returns seven starters from last season's Southeastern Ohio Athletic League girls' soccer championship team.
That's the good news.
The not-so good news is, like last year, the 2013 Lady Warriors' squad lacks depth.
Photo courtesy of Karen Henthorn
Warren striker Raeli Barnes (1) goes on the attack in the 2012 district championship match. Barnes, a freshman then, finished the season with 14 goals.
"We're down a little bit, and our bench is very weak," said veteran Warren soccer coach Ekrem Eksi, who guided the 2012 Lady Warriors to a 12-2-5 overall record (5-0-1 in the SEOAL). "In soccer, you start 11 players, but you need 15 to compete. We really can't afford any injuries this season."
Warren, a district finalist last season for the first time, graduated only four players, and all were very talented. Two-time All-Ohio honoree Melissa Dickerson was the royal blue and white program's leading scorer since she was a freshman. Last year, the University of Rio Grande soccer recruit had team highs in goals and assists with 19 and 17, respectively.
Then there were all-district honorees' Mackenzie Ullman (9 goals, 2 assists), Jordanna Rauch, and Addie Barnes. Ullman is continuing her education and playing on the pitch at West Liberty University in W.Va. Rauch, on the other hand, will be playing basketball at Marietta College.
Offensively, Warren has a couple of bonafide scorers and all-district players back in senior Raelyn Gardner and sophomore Raeli Barnes. Last fall, each scored 14 goals and combined for 11 assists en route to the girls soccer program's first ever league title.
Gardner was also an all-stater in the pole vault last spring.
Some other Lady Warrior returnees to keep an eye on will be seniors' Natalie O'Dell, Kayla Maze, Jordan Smrek, and Marissa O'Callaghan; juniors' Megan Myers and Janelle Barth; and sophomores' Emma Yabs, Halee McPherson, Rachel Grogg, and Lara Eksi.
As it looks now, Katie Rauch may be the only freshman on the varsity roster.
While Warren may not be very deep overall, it does have three goalkeepers in camp in Barth, Grogg, and Maze.
The Lady Warriors are scheduled to scrimmage at Unioto Thursday and host the Parkersburg Big Reds Saturday.
Warren is slated to kick off its season in earnest at home against the Jeff Price-coached Marietta Lady Tiger booters in a non-conference matchup on Aug. 22.
Ekrem Eksi said that Marietta is very good, and Jackson may be the team to beat in the SEOAL this upcoming fall.
"It's going to be tougher than last year, but the girls are working hard, and I believe we'll compete," the Warren coach said.
"They're going to have to step up, though, and be at the top of their game every game."
Eksi will be assisted once again by Cathy Jankauskas and Tyler Barnes.