The Ohio Elite U16 Girls have moved to the ECNL Midatlantic Conference this season after spending the last few seasons in the Midwest, which has made for a “unique situation” according to head coach Tim Lesiak.
“We are in a pretty unique situation because we moved to the Midatlantic Conference this year, so we are playing a lot of teams we don’t normally get to play,” said Lesiak. “For us, we get the best of both worlds because we play cross-conference games, against old rivals like Michigan Hawks, and now new teams in this conference.”
With a 4-0-0 record to start conference this season, the move appears to have fit the team pretty well. Lesiak attributes a collective effort from all of his players to the great start to the season.
“We aren’t giving up a lot of goals,” said Lesiak. “I think that is because of our organization on the field and team defending.”
While it has been a group effort to maintain four clean sheets in seven games, Lesiak highlights the play of his four defenders and two goalkeepers for their tireless effort to lead the team to a 6-1-0 overall record.
“We have played with the same back four for every game, except for an injury here or there,” said Lesiak. “The normal back four have been playing together for three years. When you talk about consistency, it comes from those kids playing so much together.”
Lesiak’s normal defense consists of Lauren Heger, Madeleine Pescovitz, Darby Schwarz, and Megan Niebuhr. The coach also highlighted the play of the goalkeepers Brooke Mauro and Anna Hall who he said are “playing the best they have ever played.”
Offensively, Maddie Huster is the standout. Huster, who is a member of the U15 national team, plays as a center midfielder for Ohio Elite.
“We kind of roll with how Maddie rolls,” said Lesiak. “She is a central midfielder, but she is more like a withdrawn striker. Everything through the midfield comes through her, she is probably most dangerous in the final third.”
Chasing Lesiak’s team in the standings is FC Delco, which just started its season, and McLean Youth Soccer. ECNL standings are based on points per game rather than overall points.
Ohio Elite has yet to play FC Delco, but did already face McLean in the first game of the season for the Cincinnati based club. Ohio Elite won 2-1 in a close contest. Lesiak complimented the opponents by referring to them as one of the “best teams we’ve faced this season.”
U17 Midatlantic Conference
FC Delco and FC Virginia lead the charge in the U17 Midatlantic Conference, but closing in on their shadows is Bethesda SC, which is third in the table with a 3-1-1 record to the start the season.
“We’ve had some immediate success,” said Bethesda SC U17 coach Jonathan Morgan. “We were fortunate enough to train twice a week during the fall when the girls had high school soccer so we felt prepared going into the ECNL season.”
Morgan went on to say that the scheduling has been fortuitous too, as his side has mainly played teams that have just now started the season, but soon Bethesda will face the Virginia clubs, which are at the end of their season.
The difference in the amount of games played was apparent in the lone loss of the season for Bethesda, according to the coach.
“We had a great opportunity to win that game,” said Morgan. “They were seasoned and more prepared to deal with management of the game once they gained the lead.”
Bethesda had the lead early, but eventually gave up two goals and lost 2-1 in the third game of the season for the Maryland club. The loss has not deterred any ambitions for this team. The goal remains to finish in the top eight in the national standings.
Morgan said that the team had too many things going on at the same time at the end of the season last year, and decided to turn its full focus on the ECNL this year.
One high profile team member as it drives toward postseason success is U17 national team star Andi Sullivan, who has only appeared in one game for her club team this season due to the heavy schedule of camps leading up to CONCACAF Qualifying coming up this Spring.
“She has a pretty big role with the U17s, so we have to be careful with the minutes she plays,” said Morgan. “It is a balance to keep her sharp with a fair amount of games.”
Morgan also spoke about the strong play from a quartet of players who have helped the team to a strong start to the season.
“I’d say our standouts so far have been Cortney O’Connell, Tyler Lussi, Alexandra Grossman, and Jordan Coburn,” said Morgan.
The coach added that he is excited to have this group back in full training and about the upcoming competition. Bethesda returns to ECNL action on Saturday against Richmond Strikers.