by Matt Deutsch
There are plenty of challenges for the Nordonia High School girls soccer team at the outset of the 2016 season.
First and foremost, the Lady Knights lost quite a few players to graduation. In fact, the final total was eight. Those eight players included varsity regulars Katie Karalic, Vanessa Love, Maddie Lim and Caroline Courtney.
Last year was the first for head coach Les Gicei at the helm. Nordonia finished the 2015 campaign with an overall record of 5-7-4. The Lady Knights also 1-4-1 in their first year of the National Conference of the Suburban League.
In the postseason, Nordonia dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 decision to Bainbridge Township Kenston on the road in a sectional semifinal contest.
Although the Lady Knights did lose quite a bit in terms of senior leadership to graduation, they have both talent and experience returning for the 2016 season.
That group of returning players includes seniors Delaney Masteller and Danielle Bobay, juniors Carmen Licht and Jenna Toth and sophomores Kaitlin Kinch and Sophie Lim.
Gicei also is expecting a pair of newcomers to make significant contributions throughout the campaign. Those two newcomers are freshman Riley Saliga and sophomore transfer Kenna Krasovec.
Although this year's senior class may not be as large as last year's, Gicei pointed to senior leadership as one of the Lady Knights' strengths. He also mentioned team unity as another strength.
This is what Gicei stated when describing his team's weaknesses: "We will be a small, inexperienced team."
Despite whatever challenges Nordonia is facing at the start of the 2016 season, Gicei is setting ambitious goals for the Lady Knights.
"We want to knock off a top-ranked team, win the Suburban League and advance far into the playoffs, all while working hard and having fun," he said.
When discussing the National Conference, Gicei knows that his squad has its work cut out for it.
"Hudson, North Royalton and Brecksville are always state-ranked teams," he said. "All should be very good again this year."
Gicei's assistant coaches this season are Michael Codispoti and Jeremy Pollock.
Nordonia is scheduled to host Bedford in its season debut Aug. 19 at Boliantz Stadium. Play is set to begin at 5 p.m.