Team: Warren girls soccer
Coach: Jeremy Bickling, 5th year
Assistant coach: Eric Fadale
2019 record: 14-5-1
2019 Region 6 record: 13-3
Postseason results: District 10 Class 3A champions. Lost in first round of PIAA state playoffs to eventual state champion Mars.
Roster: Seniors: Paige Johnson-13, Kyleigh Wilson-27, Kyra Wotorson-25, Kaelah Knupp-15. Juniors: Alyssa Andersen-72, Lennon Dailey-1, Sydney Rex-7, Jaylene Swanson-2. Sophomores: Lauren Andersen-18, Lydia Balas-4, Georgie Bickling-37, Alyssa Fuchs-10, Ella Ordiway-23, Audrey Smith-31. Freshmen: Eliza Brook-11, Lily Brooker-12, Aurora Feaster-8, Hailey Peterson-5, Marielle Stanz-3.
The 2019 season was a magical one for the Warren girls soccer team. Despite a rash of injuries, the Dragons rolled to a 14-5-1 overall record and a spot in the District 10 Class 3A title game.
Warren battled rival Meadville, their third match of the season and fourth consecutive postseason match up, with the title on the line. Sawyer Mohney’s free kick goal in overtime clinched the program’s first D-10 title.
The Dragons will have to lean on new leadership in 2020 if they want to keep the momentum going.
“We lost a ton of experienced players,” Dragons coach Jeremy Bickling said. “Eight seniors with over 50 wins, two region titles and a D-10 title.”
Despite those losses, Warren has a solid core returning. Getting senior, and leading goal scorer, Kyleigh Wilson back after missing the second half of last season with an injury will be a big boost. Fellow senior Kyra Wotorson provides a lethal compliment along the wing and both players’ speed causes havoc on opposing defenses. The Dragons will also get a boost from the returning Paige Johnson for her senior season.
“Paige is a very welcome addition to the starting line up,” Bickling said.
After a solid freshmen campaign, sophomore Georgie Bickling is back to quarterback the offense. Fully capable of finding the back of the net herself, Bickling’s ability to distribute to Wilson and Wotorson on the edges should keep Warren’s offense potent.
Defensively is likely where the Dragons will most feel the loss of last year’s seniors. Gone are stalwarts Aubriana Navaroli, Emily Egger, Brooklynn Neureiter and Jess Susz. Junior Lennon Dailey, a two year starter, will be counted on to lead the new-look defense.
When the ball gets past the defense, Warren will have a familiar face in net as junior Alyssa Andersen will be between the pipes for the third year.
Bickling points to a pair of new players who could provide an immediate impact. Sophomore Alyssa Fuchs, a transfer from Eisenhower, is new to the Warren program, but not her teammates.
“Fuchs played her youth and travel soccer with the current roster of players,” Bickling said. “She’s new to the Lady Dragons, but very familiar with the players and coaches.”
Freshman Eliza Brook is also pushing for a starting role with the Dragons.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to carrying the district title momentum into this season is the time lost due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Typically, the Dragons play together through the spring travel season, and for a team needing to replace eight seniors, that’s valuable time lost.
“The time lost playing travel soccer in the spring and off season conditioning can’t be replaced,” Bickling said.
Still, Bickling sees the time off as a blessing in disguise.
“We had been running at full speed for about three years,” he said. “It’s become a nine month out of the year commitment for these athletes. The break has given players time to heal and get some of the hunger and focus back.”
The lost time, combined with the delayed start to fall camp, forced Bickling and his staff to change the way they approached camp conditioning.
“The biggest change is recognizing that this group of players isn’t coming in to camp have spent the past six months playing and training,” Bickling said. “You can’t put the same level of stress on them. With that in mind, we are practicing less hours than we have in the past to try and make sure we are reducing the risk of injury or grinding them up mentally.”
District 10’s region realignment and scheduling change provides some interesting match ups for the Dragons. While they will still see familiar foes in Franklin, Oil City and heated rival, Meadville, Warren also gets Conneaut, Titusville, Maplewood, Cambridge Springs and Eisenhower as part of the Region 3 schedule.
The two cross-county contests, in particular, should prove intriguing.
“Personally, I’m looking forward to see the girls play Eisenhower a couple times this season,” Bickling said. “We had a scrimmage set up with them last year that, unfortunately, fell apart at the last minute.”
While Warren’s ultimate goal is to contend for the D-10 title, the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season changes the definition of success somewhat.
“We’re taking each game and training session like there’s no tomorrow,” Bickling said. “This is a really good team with a great group of seniors. Success is seeing them play a full season and letting them determine the outcome on the pitch.”
The Dragons open the season against Oil City at War Memorial Field, Wednesday, Sept. 16. The full schedule can be found here.