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JOHNSTON: MHS girls’ booters have a legit squad

DEVOLA — Marietta High’s girls soccer team welcomed back Gretchen Lankford on Senior Day Saturday at Jerry Brock Field.

The starting junior defender had gone four weeks and two days since playing in her last match due to a copperhead snake bite in the Broughton Nature Preserve.

The 16-year-old Lankford’s return to the pitch makes a strong team even stronger.

And, never was that more evident than when the undefeated Tigers, 13th-ranked in the OSSCA Division I State Poll with a 12-0 overall record (5-0 ECOL), dominated Minford, 5-0, Saturday on a hat trick by Courtney Schuck and goals by Jessica Smith and Chloe Chen.

MHS was in control from start to finish. Offensively, the Tigers peppered the Minford goal with 38 shots. And, defensively, the Tigers limited the Falcons to zero shot attempts.

It’s not that Minford was an inferior team. The Falcons were just overwhelmed by the Tigers.

“They’re a good team,” said MHS senior midfielder and co-captain Maria Pfaff of Minford. “I wouldn’t count them out. We could play them again (in the postseason).”

The Marietta girls’ state ranking, incidentally, is a first in the 23-year history of the program.

“It’s nice and it’s great, but you don’t want to get too high on that stuff,” said MHS coach Jeff Price of the ranking.

“And you don’t want to get too low when you don’t do well. You want to kind of be grounded.”

On the subject of firsts, Marietta has also won a program-best 12 straight.

And, with four scheduled matches remaining, an undefeated season is not that farfetched.

“We’re doing really well,” said MHS senior defender and co-captain Sam Zumwalde, “and I’m really proud of us.

“If you had looked at us over the summer, you could see a huge improvement — and it’s really great to see.”

So far this season, Marietta has featured 12 goal scorers and 10 players with at least one assist.

Schuck leads the team with 19 goals and nine assists while sophomore Claire Schenkel has 11 goals and four assists.

The Tigers are averaging nearly five goals per match and limiting the opposition to 0.73 goals per game, thanks to sophomore keeper Jocelyn Rings’ play between the pipes.

This week, the East Central Ohio League champion Tiger booters are expected to be tested with an ECOL home game against second-place River View at 5 p.m. Tuesday and a MOVSL tilt at Warren (10-1-2) at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Then, Marietta is slated to close out regular-season competition on the road, at Williamstown (Oct. 10) and Zane Trace (Oct. 12).

The Tigers’ rivalry showdown with the Andy Pinkerton-coached Warriors is considered “an impromptu championship game” — and could be a real dandy. The royal blue and white’s only setback was to the Parkersburg Big Reds.

Earlier this season, Marietta blanked PHS, 2-0, on two Schuck goals at JBF.

Ron Johnston can be reached at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com

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