After being honored Saturday, the senior players of Warren girls soccer returned to War Memorial Field on Thursday evening and put on a dazzling display.
Led by a dominant, five-goal, one-assist performance from Kyleigh Wilson, the group helped push the Dragons to a 10-0 win over District 10 Region 3 opponent Conneaut (0-3) to improve to 4-0 on the year.
In the midst of an unprecedented season due to COVID-19, Warren’s core captains have been a welcome source of confidence and consistency.
“It is nice because they understand responsibilities,” Warren head coach Jeremy Bickling said. “They have been here so long that I can put them in charge of things, whether that is on the field or at practice, and they can take some of that responsibility. We trust them with that, they have been part of the program since they were kids. It is nice to see them have this chance to step up and be leaders.”
Joining Wilson for a final season in Warren are Kaelah Knupp, Kyra Wotorson and Paige Johnson.
Following Wilson’s offensive lead, Johnson smacked home a rebound off a corner kick in the fourth minute to give the Dragons an early 2-0 lead, ending her day with seven shots on goal. Wotorson picked up a goal and an assist on six shots.
“You saw the role that they played tonight, the three that put the predominant amount of time on the field were all contributors,” Bickling said. “Kyra and Kyleigh both started as freshmen, so they have always played a role and always have had the pressure on them to score or be important components.”
The Dragons were almost without the services of Johnson this season, who made the decision to pursue her swimming career as a junior. With her adding strong play and athleticism behind the already potent duo of Wilson and Wotorson, Warren appears primed to continue its scoring barrage.
“I think she is one of the biggest pieces, especially on a team that is pretty small,” Bickling said of Johnson. “We don’t have a huge roster, so having her and a senior back is just huge. I would say she is probably the one player we needed and we’re glad that she is here.”
In contrast to Thursday’s final, Warren has had some challenges when it comes to finishing offensive chances.
In the previous three games, Bickling estimated that his team has averaged close to 30 shots on goal. The focus now has been on making sure those shots find the back of the net.
“Trying to get the girls up to speed and finishing better was a big goal for us this week,” Bickling said. “I think tonight we started putting that together.”
Joining the effort was Georgie Bickling with two goals and two assists; Sydney Rex with a goal; Lauren Anderson with an assist; and Marielle Stanz with three assists.
Like so many other teams, Warren has had to adjust to a new schedule and health protocols this fall. Time may be one remedy for that.
“It has been hard without the spring, without the summer training, the rhythm is just not there,” Bickling said. “As we go on, they are doing as expected. They are starting to synch and gel and starting to finish fantastic.”