Tigers counting on another successful girls soccer season

by John Benson

Going into the season, Twinsburg High School girls soccer head coach John Garber told his squad not to dwell on last season, which ended in a controversial 1-0 loss to Strongsville in the Division I state semifinal.

Some time after the match, a video of the Nov. 6 game revealed Strongsville had 12 players on the field instead of the regulation 11 for more than six minutes of the second half with the Mustangs leading.

“We all know how it ended, that was regrettable, but I think about everything that was accomplished last year: an undefeated regular season, our first Suburban League championship, our first district championship, our first regional championship,” said Garber, who is the social studies chair at Twinsburg High.

“At one point, we were ranked 22nd nationally by USA Today,’’ he said. “So that success is what breeds excitement and optimism for this season. The state semifinals ended how it ended, but the girls are excited about this year. They’re eager to play.”

Naturally, there were takeaways from last year that should influence this year’s squad. Garber said his message to the 23-player squad was to not take anything for granted.

“Just enjoy the season that they’re in, enjoy the moment and just really appreciate that opportunity to play high school sports,” he said. “To be able to play in front of big crowds, in front of your community, to play for your school, play for your teammates – last year really just epitomized how much fun that can really be and how important that can really be for a community and for a team.”

Twinsburg varsity soccer players celebrate after a goal during a Sept. 14 game against Olmsted Falls. The lady Tigers shut out the Bulldogs with five goals and an eye toward returning to the final four again this year. Photo by T.J. Powell

The record-setting 2018 girls soccer team was the most successful in school history and included its first undefeated regular season (with no ties). The squad set records for most consecutive wins, most shutouts, most goals scored and most championships won.

“I probably just took away how much hard work there is that goes on behind the scenes that doesn’t get noticed,” Garber said. “The amount of hours the girls put in … what they do in terms of their preseason preparation all the way through the winter and spring and then into the summer. To see that actually materialize, that’s rewarding as a coach. I think I learned that personally last year.”

While the lady Tigers graduated a baker’s dozen last spring, there are nine returning letter winners along with a crop of young girls who are already contributing at the varsity level. Senior captains Allison King, Amy Hawersaat and Gillian Voltz have set a winning tone that should help the Tigers this season, Garber said.

“Alisson King is back as a fourth-year starter,” Garber said. “She’s a first team all-state player, she’s a first team all-region player. Her game experience and personality alone kind of exude hard work and leadership. Our second captain is Amy Hawersaat, who is a four-year starter. Much like Ally, she has a ton of accolades and a ton of experience. Those two combined, their work ethic is just off the charts.

“Our third captain, Gillian Voltz is a three-year letter winner coming back from a devastating injury. She’s made a wonderful recovery and now she’s back. She’s starting, and she’s a leader. They’re a very influential group. They set a wonderful example for the younger girls. They work extremely hard at training.”

Among the younger players, freshmen Alexis Cellura (goalkeeper), Brenna Utrup (center back), Jadyn Harris (striker) and Klaire Weinroth (midfielder) are contributing this season, which has started with a 4-0 record.

Garber said the team has the right mix of leadership and youth.

“When you look at losing a class of 13 players, you’re trying to reload instead of rebuild,” Garber said. “So you have these girls who have the experience in the work ethic and leadership departments. They build culture, and the younger girls are just learning from that day after day.

“Also, our team speed, top to bottom – this is one of the fastest teams we’ve had in my four years with them.” 

The team’s goals remain the same as last year: compete and try to win a Suburban League championship, try to get back to the district championship and get into the state tournament and see what happens.  

“That’s always difficult considering the teams in the Suburban League,” Garber said. “Ultimately, we’d like to try to get into the regional and state tournament. When you get into playoff soccer, especially at the high school level, anything can happen on any night. If we’re playing well and in form, we can hopefully have a good run.”

Featured image photo caption: Backed up by senior defender Amy Hawersaat, freshmen striker Jadyn Harris takes ball possession for the Tigers girls squad during the Sept. 14 varsity match-up with Olmsted Falls, which Twinsburg won 5-0. Photo by T.J. Powell