by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Steve Davis wants to take the Tallmadge girls soccer team where no Lady Blue Devil soccer program went before.
"We have our eyes set on the district championship," the second-year head coach said.
If Tallmadge accomplishes its goal, it will be the school's first district championship in history for girls soccer.
The Lady Blue Devils appear to be getting closer to achieving such lofty status.
Despite finishing with an overall record of 7-9-2, including a modest 1-5-1 mark in its first year of the Suburban League American Conference, Tallmadge reached the Division II district semifinals for the second time in the last three years.
The Lady Blue Devils' season came to an end with a 5-3 loss to American Conference rival Revere in Bath Township.
Davis certainly doesn't think last year was a fluke. As a result, he strongly believes his talented squad can take another step forward.
Tallmadge lost just one senior to graduation in midfielder Annika Kisha. Everyone else, on the other hand, is returning to the field.
"We had a really good group of kids who are all working hard," Davis said. "All of them support each other. We just want to make sure that translates onto the field."
As the Revere game suggests, the Lady Blue Devils certainly didn't lack offensive firepower. But Davis feels his team can crank up its offense even higher.
"We're going to play more of an attacking style," he said. "We're hoping it leads to some more goals. We want to wreak havoc on teams."
Tallmadge will utilize a 4-3-3 formation and hopes to get its share of goals with its exceptional team speed.
"We have three forwards who can put pressure on teams," Davis said.
Those three forwards are senior Rochelle Haught (11 goals and 3 assists) and juniors Sara Johnson (9 goals and 10 assists) and Riley Chochola (9 goals and 5 assists).
"We expect a lot of goals out of them," Davis said.
The Lady Blue Devils also have plenty of experience on defense.
Leading the way are senior center backs Ally Warmenhoven and Alyssa Yamokoski.
"Our whole back line returns," Davis said. "We have a lot of senior leadership.
"Ally and Alyssa will anchor the defense."
Returning midfielders are senior Alyssa Garbinsky and junior Danielle Gregory.
The starting defensive center midfielders are expected to be junior Addison Onchak and freshman Katie Hussing.
The starting outside backs are projected to be seniors Madison Rearick and Mandi Rinaldi. Maria Kisha is expected to be the team's starting goalkeeper for the second consecutive year.
"I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do," Davis said. "We have a lot of firepower up front.
"Our main goal is to put the ball in the back of the net."
Other varsity players include seniors Amelia Masic (midfielder), Melissa Speelman (midfielder), Sneha Srinivasan (defender) and Morgan Reese (defender); and sophomore Laurysa Ridenour (forward).
Davis' varsity assistant is his father, Larry Davis. Riann Hughes is the junior varsity coach.
After struggling in the first year of the American Conference, Davis hopes his team can get a few more conference wins.
"We can definitely improve on last year," he said. "Copley and Aurora are the top teams in the league.They were tied for first last year. We want to compete against those teams."
Davis knows his team is capable of achieving some lofty goals in 2016. And to some degree, that worries him.
"The biggest thing is living up to our potential," Davis said. "We still have a lot of work to do."
Tallmadge was scheduled to make its 2016 season debut at Massillon Aug. 20. Results were not available at press time.
The Lady Blue Devils are set to visit Suburban League crossover rival Stow-Munroe Falls Aug. 27 at 7 p.m.