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Aurora -- A mix of veterans, youth and experienced youth floods the Aurora High girls soccer roster as the 2016 season kicks off.
Last season, the Greenmen were a surprise in the Suburban League's debut season, going 5-1 and claiming the co-championship of the American Division.
AHS Aurora posted a 11-4-2 overall mark as third-year head coach Jerry Shutway was named a Suburban League coach of the year. That came after a 3-12-2 learning season in 2014.
"Last year we finished as Suburban League co-champs, and we want to repeat again this year," noted Shutway.
In 2015, Aurora's defense led the way with 10 shutouts and allowed just 10 goals all year.
Shutway and his staff are looking for the defense to carry over and the team to mount more offensive threats this fall.
"Our stingy defense produced an amazing 10 shutouts. On offense, we produced 28 goals and had long periods of possession in controlling the outcome of most games," he said.
The Lady Greenmen lost only four seniors to graduation -- Allison Hickey, Hannah Jones, Julia Petersen and Autumn Struhar.
"Although we're losing only four seniors, they really gave our team the leadership that got us through several tight contests," said Shutway. "We look to this year's seniors to follow that example and keep the legacy going for the younger players to follow."
Key returning starters are seniors Jenna Geier (forward), Courtney Wendel (midfielder) and Gina Zamary (back), junior keeper Olivia Conces and sophomores Sarah Nemeth (midfielder) and Carly Obly (back).
All of those athletes achieved either all-Greater Cleveland or all-conference awards last year, according to the coach.
Other returning starters are sophomores Nicole Doemling (midfielder), Jodi Obly (back) and Taylor Burick, a forward who lead the team in scoring last year.
"This fall we think we have the skills and athleticism to turn loose the offense. One of our biggest objectives will be to get more chances at goal," explained Shutway.
"ALSO HOPING to make an impact will be third-year varsity seniors Emma Frankmann (midfielder), Katie Gordon (back), Meghan Mihalik (back), Natalie Picone (midfielder), and Deanna Sagaris (forward)."
Third-year juniors include Kaleen Girman (midfielder) and Morgan Riedel (back).
"The exciting news is that we're returning a great collection of athletes who really get along well and form a very stable unit together," said Shutway.
"The close friendships between all ages is truly amazing. These girls also bring a great deal of competitiveness and passion to the team."
Rounding out the roster are senior keeper Michaela Haley, sophomores Abbey Byard (forward), Emily Byard (midfielder), Sami Richards (forward) and Sydney Trem (forward), plus freshman Ally Devins (back).
Seniors who will not play because of injuries, according to Shutway, are Alexa Nahra and Kristen Lembo. "We will look to them for leadership throughout the season," said the coach.
Assistant coaches are junior varsity coach Marty Verel, along with Bo Wilson, John Farrell and Paul Frankmann.
"We expect to be more balanced and experienced this year, so we added a couple tougher opponents to our schedule in the likes of Solon and Avon Lake," noted Shutway. "However, once again, we think our biggest games will be with league rivals Revere and Copley."
Aurora hosts Shaker Heights on Aug. 25 (7 p.m.), Chagrin Falls on Aug. 27 (5 p.m.) and opens league play Aug. 30 at home against Kent Roosevelt at 7 p.m.
The Solon match is set for Sept. 17 on the road, and the match at Avon Lake is Oct. 3. Both start at 7.
"The returning starters from last year should give us a solid core, and the rest of the team is full of talented and motivated individuals, so we think this will be another exciting season," said Shutway.