The community excitement surrounding the Waynesville girls soccer team reminds head coach Kelley Bricker of 2002. She was a sophomore goalkeeper and helped lead the Spartans to the state final four for the first time.
“I remember there was huge support from the community,” she said. “The fans created just an exciting, electric atmosphere when we played.”
The success and the atmosphere are back 19 years later. The Spartans (15-6) play in the Division III semifinals for the second time in program history Tuesday night at Chillicothe High School against Winchester Eastern (15-1-2) from Brown County.
The Spartans (15-6) defeated Mariemont 1-0 Saturday for their second regional title.
“The team had a great turnout at the regional final and a lot of support from students, and community support and fans, so we’re hoping to bring that with us to the next game,” said Bricker, who is in her third season as head coach after nine seasons as junior varsity coach.
The Spartans were 18-0 last year before a tournament loss to Cincinnati Country Day and 14-3-1 in 2019 before a tournament loss to Madeira. This season the Spartans were 10-6 entering postseason play, but Bricker said getting this far is not unexpected.
“A lot of the players were returning from those two teams, so they have familiarity with the tournament process and the pressure that comes from that,” Bricker said.
The second reason that 10-6 is better than it looks and earned the Spartans a No. 2 seed is an increased strength of schedule. The Southwestern Buckeye League reorganized this year into divisions based on geography instead of size. That moved the Spartans into a division with bigger schools Franklin, Bellbrook, Monroe and Oakwood. Plus, they play bigger schools in non-league games.
The Spartans have shut out 13 opponents, including nine straight. They haven’t been scored on since a 3-1 loss to Bellbrook on Sept. 29.
Bricker said the defenders have played well, but her midfield of Emma Whitaker, Caroline Stupp, Allison Freese and Brooke Woody have been key to the team’s success. Eastern will test the midfielders and defenders with three capable goal scorers.
“They’ve done a great job of getting that ball possessed and forward so that we can find the back of the net and also helping with the defense,” Bricker said.
Including Monroe last year, this Waynesville team is only the third in SWBL history to advance to the state semifinals. The other unusual thing for this team is that five players ran in the state cross country meet this past Saturday, leading the team to a sixth-place finish.
Sophomore Samantha Erbach placed 11th at the state meet and is the Spartans top scorer in soccer.
Four other cross country members – sophomore starting center defender Emme Greely and backups Kyla Harvey, Alyza Camp and Rebecca Drew – also play soccer.
“It’s a lot of work for them,” Bricker said. “They’re incredibly hard workers, but they still bring a lot of energy. They love both of them too much to make a decision, and we don’t want to be the ones to have to make them decide.”