Demons need to pass two more tough tests
By Zachary Dzurick
Published Oct. 6, 2004
a strong girls soccer program, and it has been that way for several
The Lady Demons
play a difficult schedule against many of the tops teams in Ohio.
They have gone 12-2 the last two years in the Southwestern Conference.
But two years
in a row, one team has stood in their way: Bay.
though, Westlake finds itself in the driver's seat, with a 5-0 conference
mark heading into tonight's matchup against Avon Lake with the conference
finale against Bay to follow next week. Westlake is 5-0 in conference
while Avon Lake is 2-0-3 and Bay is 3-1-1.
A tie tonight
would secure a share of the title.
The Lady Demons,
however, don't feel like sharing.
"The only time
we were SWC champs was our freshman year and we were co-champs with
Bay," Slater said. "We have never straight-out won the conference,
so it is one of our goals to do that and then go far in the tournament."
I had really high expectation for us because we only lost two of
our starters," senior co-captain Hanna Wilde said. "Even though
they were good players, we brought up two players who played their
positions who were equally as good and were only freshmen."
in all returned and freshmen Lauren Acker and Stephanie Szarka have
stepped right in and played some outstanding soccer.
"Most of our
seniors had high expectations and we all have confidence in the
two freshmen that they could hold their own," co-captain Kelsey
The two freshmen
are fullback Lauren Acker and midfielder Brooke Henderson.
started at the beginning of the year playing sweeper," Wilde said.
"I thought she did a real good job. She was really strong back there.
I knew she was good but I was pleasantly surprised by how well she
did. We changed recently and put one of our seniors, Stephanie Szarka,
at sweeper and Acker to outside defense and I think she has been
awesome at there too. Brooke Henderson plays midfield and has done
a good job too. It is hard to play midfield as a freshman. At center-mid
you control so much of the game and she has done a really good job."
recently signed a national letter of intent for Div. I Central Florida,
and Slater, provide the offensive punch and leadership for the Demons.
Coach Scott Jones could not ask for better leaders.
just a pure leader in every aspect of her life," Jones said. "She
leads by example through her words, her actions and what she doesn't
do. She is one of the hardest-working athletes I have ever coached.
She is pretty much everything you could possibly want in a leader.
She has been like that since she was a sophomore, which is as long
as I have known her.
"Hanna is technically
the best soccer player that I have ever coached and one of the best
ones in the state of Ohio. So through her ability to play, our kids
want to emulate her and the younger players want to play like her
and because she is so talented they want to be accepted by her because
she is simply so good.
"So they both
lead in different ways but both are affective. It is just great
on they are on our team and not someone else's."
The two have
developed a special bond on and off the field.
I have always had really good chemistry together," Wilde said. "I
enjoy playing with Kelsey a lot. We can read each other more than
"It helps our
chemistry on and off the field," Slater said. "It helps knowing
where each of us is going to be and it helps that I have a lot of
confidence in Hanna. I trust I know where the ball is going to be.
I know she is thinking what I am thinking."
Jones has capitalized
on Wilde and Slater's intelligence to play an unusual formation.
our formation from 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3," Wilde said. "It helps our
offense a lot but occasionally it makes us weak in the middle, but
we can always bring the center-forward back to help play defense.
It has helped our offense a lot."
it is not for every team, but when you have a player like Wilde
, who has 54 career goals and 58 assists, you find ways to use her
"What it does
is it actually frees Hanna up," Jones said. "She plays as the third
attacking forward. It almost provides her a rover style of play.
She is free to track back into the midfield. Being as intelligent
as she is, she can recognize the need when she needs to be there
and when she doesn't need to be there. The nice thing about it is
there are no two times down the field in a row that we are the same.
One time she is on the inside, one time she is on the outside. One
minute she is at the mid, one minute she is at the sweeper. It provides
us with a lot of goof offensive opportunities.
"They can mark
her or double-team her, but even then she is too good with her feet.
So the next thing is they just knock her down. If she is moving
constantly, they can never get her twice in the same spot. So it
makes it difficult to man mark her because you have to pull someone
out of a spot and it causes confusion. I am not saying it is a style
for everyone, but it is for us it is because we have someone like
Hanna who that can do this. The other girls can play off her and
it makes everyone better."
But every coach
knows that you can't win championships without a strong defense,
so that is what Westlake's program has been built on.
"We have been
built on our defense for the last couple of years," Jones said.
"Last year in 20 games, we gave up 11, 12 goals, which is a good
ratio, especially with the schedule we play."
games this season, Westlake has allowed just 10 goals.
we shut out Hudson, gave up one goal to Mentor and shut out North
Olmsted," Jones said. "We have a saying: 'If they don't score, they
don't win.' With the defense we have, they are outstanding from
the goalie to the stopper. We really try to preach team defense.
It is not fullback responsibility; it counts just as much if the
forwards take the ball away. So they have worked very hard at it."
is solid throughout, but it begins with sophomore Tara McCrone.
is the epitome of the high school stopper," Jones said. "Strong,
physical, very intelligent, very heart-driven. She usually establishes
herself in the first couple minutes of the game with her first touch
of the ball or the first time an opponent touches the ball; after
that most opponents don't want to touch the ball anymore.
"She is very,
very physical. I don't remember the last time I have seen anyone
knock her off her feet. She stands only 5-3. She is just an imposing
force. She wins 99 percent of 50/50 balls. She has it in her mind
that her she will run into you and she will still be standing when
it is done. The more she does it the more people back off from her.
She is just a dominant force.
"As a freshman
she marked Berea first-team All-Ohio forward Courbie Yee and held
her to one shot on goal. She marked Nikki Tizziano of Mentor, who
is an All-American, to two shots on goal. This year she blanketed
Mandi Back and held her scoreless as well. It is nice to have a
shutdown defensive player like that. "
is awesome," Slater said. "I can always count on her. If it is her
and someone else I know she will always come out with the ball.
She has the ability to play defense and offense. She is an all-around
She is not
the only outstanding defensive player for Westlake, either.
"Both of our
outside fullbacks -- freshman Lauren Acker and sophomore Mallory
Sterba -- play with so much heart," Jones said. "One is a freshman
and one is a sophomore. They are more excited over a shutout than
if they scored three goals."
Wilde in particular
"I always watch
Mallory Sterba play defense," Wilde said. "I think she has so much
heart when she plays. I love watching her. It seems different when
a defender goes for the ball; they go all-out."
never played sweeper before, but Jones is thrilled with how she
has adjusted to the new position on the fly.
is our sweeper and she has never played there before," Jones said.
"We decided after a couple of games we needed a senior leader there
to be in charge of the defense. She is learning as she goes. The
impressive thing about her is that you will see her make a mistake
purely because she has never done it before and the next time down
the field she has corrected it already. She is a very intelligent
however, there will be breakdowns no matter how good the defense.
When that happens, you need a goalkeeper who, no matter how many
or how few shots she has faced, is ready to make the big save.
is our goalie," Jones said. "She does a great job. She is one of
the best high school goalkeepers I have ever seen at stopping breakaways.
Probably doesn't get the recognition she deserves because there
are always some big-name players at Westlake in the past and now.
You may not hear much about her. She does whatever her team needs
the SWC schedule with a huge 3-0 win over North Olmsted.
Olmsted game gave us a lot of confidence," Wilde said. "Personally
I think it is easier to win a game after you have already won a
few. It gives you confidence and makes you go out there and makes
you think we can do this. Our team takes it one game at a time.
So when we have a big conference game we will be focused and we
will know it is really important to play our game and do what it
takes to win."
had to wait several weeks before taking on Avon Lake and Bay, but
the Lady Demons had plenty to occupy them in between.
"We play a
very demanding schedule even outside our conference," Jones said.
"In a four-game period, we played Hudson, Mentor and Medina all
top 8 through 16 teams in the state, so you have to be ready every
By taking it
a game at a time, the players believe it prepares them for a big
conference game and for the postseason tournament.
"We know every
game for the conference matters and that every non-conference game
matters for our seed for the tournament," Slater said. "We just
have to go out and do our best. Because if we don't it will hurt
us at the end of the year. I just go out and play hard every game
and know that as long as we keep winning no one can take it away