by STEVE BATKO | CORRESPONDENT
Aurora -- If experience is a gauge of potential success, then this year's Aurora High girls soccer team has a wealth of positives.
With 12 seniors back in the mix and six more junior athletes, the Greenmen have plenty of battle-tested players to compete at a high level.
Head coach Jason Bibza, entering his ninth season overall, has a ton of optimism about this season, which is off to a 2-1 start. That experience returns from a club that was 12-5-2 in 2012 and should only get better.
"We are looking forward to this season as only four athletes graduated from the program," said Bibza. "We have nice experience to build with."
Returning seniors include forwards Kendall Trudick, Rilee Armold and Maddy Group, midfielders Amanda Kovalcheck, Liz Domeck, Kelly Kondik, and Megan Crevar, plus defenders Katie Albrecht, Kali Bachman, Adrien Helmuch, Helen Krondorfer and Taylor Banc.
"All of our seniors have played varsity since their sophomore season," said Bibza, who is without Crevar right now because of an injury. In addition, Trudick suffered a broken collarbone.
Juniors back this fall are center midfielder/forward Grace Bollas, goalkeeper Nicole Doyle, defenders Ally Burns and Maddy Allen and midfielders Meghan Stepanek and Merri Maselli.
Aurora opens the Chagrin Valley Conference season Aug. 29 at Chagrin Falls, then host Nordonia on Aug. 31 and play at Hawken on Sept. 7. All games begin at 7 p.m.
First year players expected to contribute are sophomore Hannah Jones (forward), sophomore Maria Mims (keeper), plus freshmen midfielders Lauren Hall, Jenna Geier and Katie Gordon.
As for the Chagrin Valley Conference, play should be brutal again.
"Hawken is the returning league champ and they are the favorites, but West Geauga is strong and experienced, Chagrin Falls is always good, as is Kenston," said the coach. "We should be in the top four."
The Lady Greenmen lost 2-1 at Twinsburg on Aug. 24 as the Tigers outplayed Aurora in a 2-0 first half in which the Greenmen didn't have a single shot on goal. Kovalcheck scored the lone tally on a free kick.
"After a tough first half, we really had them on their heels in the second half," said Bibza.
On Aug. 22, Aurora won its home opener 5-0 over Willoughby South. Domeck scored two goals -- one on a penalty kick -- while Bollas, Geier and Jones each netted a goal.
In the Aug. 20 season opener, Aurora won 4-1 at Shaker Heights. Goals were scored by Domeck, Bollas, Geier and Armold. Kovalcheck dished out three assists.