Seasoned, Smart Girls Soccer Team Captures TAAC Championship
Ottawa Hills girls soccer coach Jessica Temple doesn't have any problem using a four-letter word to describe her team.
"They have grit," Temple said. "They never give up and they play hard the entire game, no matter the score. I really like that about them. We have a lot of girls who are really smart players. They have a very high soccer IQ. The team GPA is something like 4.1, or something ridiculous."
The Green Bears returned all but three players - they decided to play volleyball this fall - from last year's team, which went 1-5 in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference (TAAC). This year's squad (6-5-1) improved to 4-1-1 in the TAAC with a 1-1 tie with Cardinal Stritch on Oct. 2. The win gave the Bears - who have just one senior, Caelan Carter - the TAAC championship.
The leading scorer (through Oct. 6) is sophomore forward Autumn Richard, who had seven goals and five assists. Richard was a first-team All-TAAC selection last season.
"Autumn has a high soccer IQ and is a great decision maker," Temple said. "She reads the defense well. She's just got a great touch and a knack for being at the right place at the right time. She's played soccer her whole life and she knows where to be. She wants to score. She's probably one of the most driven players we have."
Another sophomore, Erin Kadrovach, is a defender/midfielder who has eight goals and one assist. She did not play for the Bears last season.
"Erin is versatile and she plays anywhere we ask her to," Temple said. "We put her on defense when we play really tough teams. We have a solid defense, but she makes us even better in the back. When we need to score, we rely on her. She has at least two or three goals from 35-40 yards out."
Freshman forward Mallory Carter leads the team with eight assists and has chipped in four goals.
"She's got great speed," Temple said. "She anticipates and she's kind of a smaller girl, but she's not afraid to go up against anyone. She will go right up against another team's best player. She doesn't back down. She plays a lot bigger than she is. She is very strong on the ball."
The Bears' two captains are junior defenders Bella Iorio and Catherine Byrne. Iorio was runner-up for the conference player of the year award as a sophomore.
"Bella is probably our toughest player," Temple said. "If we need someone to shut down a leading scorer on another team, she marks that player. She's very physical, but she's smart. She isn't plowing girls over. She knows the exact right thing to do in every situation and almost never makes a mistake."
Byrne was a first-team All-TAAC selection a year ago. Temple said Byrne is a good team leader and spearheads the defense.
"Everyone listens to her," Temple said. "She's like the quarterback of the football team. She runs the show out there. She's kind of my coach on the field."
Junior Mary Shawaker plays center-midfield, "which is probably one of the hardest positions on the field," according to Temple.
"Mary gives us really solid midfield play," the coach said. "She's got an incredible work ethic. She was outside-mid last year, so it's been an adjustment and she's done a nice job for us."
Sophomore keeper Charlotte Mayer-Heckathorn, who started as a freshman, is fearless in goal, Temple said.
"She not afraid of anything or anyone," Temple said. "She has a unique ability - which is great for goal keepers - she can shake off (allowing) a goal and be right back in it the next play. She does not get frazzled easily. My assistant coach (Kelly Shoemaker) has been working with Charlotte on things like communication, technical skills and punting."
Junior forward Maya Chandar-Kouba had three goals and two assists in five games before suffering a leg injury. She missed the entire month of September, Temple said, but recently returned to the team.
"We had a little bit of rearranging to do," Temple said. "That's when we moved Erin up top, and she's done a great job."
Ottawa Hills competes in the Division III sectional at Genoa on Oct. 16.