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August 6, 2020

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Lady Bulldog soccer poised to field best team in years

The team returns nine starters and 12 letter winners

Story and photos by Cort Reynolds
Team photos at bottom of story -

ADA - Third-year Ada varsity girls soccer head coach Doug Poling is cautiously optimistic his squad can set the elusive program record for single-season wins this fall.

That was the aim last fall, but a young team fell a few wins short. This season the club is more talented, a year older and driven to achieve that record wins goal.

The Lady Bulldog kickers return nine starters and 12 letter winners from a squad that finished 5-11-1 overall and 2-3-1 in Northwest Conference play last fall.

Their talented and experienced core features strong senior, junior and sophomore classes on the 17-player roster.     

"We are chasing the record for most wins (8 would set it) in program history," said Poling. "We are as deep as we have ever been in true soccer players. Seventeen is the most players I have had, and they are experienced. I am excited about our returning core."

Four senior letter winners
Poling has four senior letter winners back to lead the club, which will operate out of a 4-3-3 formation.

Midfielder Bella East, forwards Katie Butterfield and Ella Poling, and goalkeeper McKenzie Long are the four veteran seniors back expected to lead the team as they pursue Bulldog team, career and individual marks.

"Katie was our leading scorer last year and is chasing the school record for goals," Poling noted. "Ella is chasing the school career assists record. Bella will be an offensive leader out of the midfield.

"Bella, Ella, Katie and Timber (Blankenship) will generate most of our offense," he added, with the last three serving as forwards up front.

The speedy Butterfield was voted first team All-NWC in 2018 after making the second team in 2017. Meanwhile, East was named first team All-NWC in 2017 and honorable mention last year.

Forward Blankenship is a speedy, aggressive sophomore who is also a good competitor. Poling and Blankenship were HM All-NWC selections in 2018.

Two juniors, Brenna Hissong and Kylie Shafer, will spearhead the defense. Hissong has been named first team All-NWC and All-NCOSA  in each of her first two seasons. She has good speed and is very skilled at fullback/defender, and is adept at generating offense from defense.

"Brenna will lead our back line of defense, and Kenzie is solid in goal," said Poling. Hissong, Shafer, sophomore Luci Wall and Alaina Robirds will comprise the starting defensive backline, with twin sister Hailey Robirds at midfield.

"Hailey will lead our defensive midfield," said Poling. He also pointed out Wall as one of the team's more promising newcomers.

Senior Long will again handle the critical goalkeeping duties after starting last year. "She works very hard and has gained a lot of experience the last two seasons," noted Poling.

Sophomore Julia Kamatali (MF) and East add punch to the offense at midfield.

Rounding out the roster are athletic senior Braelynn Dodge (F), senior newcomer Sidney Gossard (D), senior Tabitha Tidd (D), sophomore newcomer Lauren Mullins (D), soph Carmella Thompson and the lone freshman, Ella Badertscher (MF).

Gossard was a three-year standout setter on the Ada volleyball team, while Mullins ran cross country last year and has good stamina.

Team has several goals
Poling noted that the team has several goals in addition to the program wins mark. "We want to be seeded at tournament time so we have a decent chance to win," he said. Last year Ada tied rival Allen East in the season finale, then lost to AE in the first round of sectionals.

"We also want to beat an NCOSA team, and finish in the top three of the NWC," he noted.

The Bulldogs took fifth in the seven-team NWC in 2018. Spencerville won the crown at 5-0-1 and is favored to repeat. Bluffton was second at 4-0-2, while AE fashioned a 3-1-2 mark to come in third.

"Spencerville is the defending champion and they are the best team in the NWC," said Poling. "I think we can finish in the top two of the NWC. We can compete with just about anyone."

As far as the rugged NCOSA league race is concerned, Poling feels "Liberty-Benton and Riverdale are the strongest teams. I think we can compete with Cory-Rawson and Upper Sandusky."

With health and confidence, Ada could easily surpass the program record for season wins in a season, and advance in the post-season tournament.

Ada kicks off its season August 16 with a Friday night girls/boys doubleheader at Indian Lake. The home opener is August 21 vs. county rival Kenton.

NWC lidlifter Aug. 27 at Spencerville
The NWC lidlifter is Aug. 27 at powerhouse Spencerville, followed by a tough match at perennial power Bluffton Aug. 29. Thus, the early part of the NWC schedule is very tough as the Bulldogs face the top two teams from last year on the road in a span of three days.

That experience could help toughen the Bulldogs and strengthen them for the rest of the season.

"From our practices I can tell our overall level of play has really risen as a group," Poling observed. "We just do not want to beat ourselves mentally, or get down on ourselves."

Ada girls soccer at a glance
2018 record: 5-11-1, 2-3-1 NWC
Head coach: Doug Poling, 3rd year
Formation: 4-3-3
Letter winners back/lost: 12/3
Starters back/lost: 9/2
Top returnees: Sr. Bella East, Sr. Katie Butterfield, Sr. Ella Poling, Sr. McKenzie Long, Jr. Brenna Hissong, Jr. Kylie Shafer, Sos. Julia Kamatali, Timber Blankenship, Hailey and Alaina Robirds  
Key newcomers: So Luci Wall, Sr. Sidney Gossard, Jr. Lauren Mullins