The 2011 soccer season was quite memorable for several teams in Lorain County. Avon and Elyria Catholic earned regional berths, Wellington celebrated its first conference championship and other teams — like North Ridgeville — experienced overall success but struggled in conference play.
The Panthers and Dukes are hoping to prove last year wasn’t a fluke and that they can be even better this season, while North Ridgeville is looking to make some noise in the West Shore Conference.
All three teams have a common thread — a talented junior that had an impact on last year’s team as a sophomore. The three players are Elyria Catholic’s Danielle Dziak, North Ridgeville’s Kalya Zingale and Wellington’s Jen Echstenkamper.
Dziak helped the Panthers’ 400 relay team place third at the state track meet last season. She’d like a return trip to state, but this time in the fall and with a few more friends.
“We had a great season last year,” said Dziak of the soccer team. “We lost six seniors but we have a lot of girls coming back. We want to show that we are still a good team and that we can continue what we started last year. It’s not going to be easy, but we are focused.”
Panthers coach Tony Rozanc believes Dziak and her experienced play will be a large part of any success the team has this season.
“Danielle played a lot of minutes her freshman year and it was a good opportunity for her,” said Rozanc. “She’s quick and we were looking for athletes. She was a freshman playing on top and with her prior experience on club teams she adapted well. I think her line of progression will continue its upward trend this season in a big way.”
Dziak was an All-Lorain County honorable mention in 2011 after scoring eight goals and grabbing two assists. She worked hard in the offseason by attending weekly foot skills clinics, and worked on her speed and conditioning as a member of the track team. She is switching from forward to outside midfielder this season, and Rozanc believes the move will take advantage of Dziak’s speed.
“She just has that run-down speed that gets her up and down the field,” said Rozanc. “It’s going to put her in positions to score and feed our other players with passes. As long as she stays healthy, I believe the sky is the limit for her.”
There’s no question of what Zingale can do on the field. As a freshman she scored 13 goals on 61 shots and had two assists. She increased those numbers to 17 goals (67 shots) and nine assists as a sophomore – a performance that landed her on the All-WSC first team, All-Lorain County first team, All-Greater Cleveland second team and she was named the team MVP.
While the recognition is nice, Zingale would rather see the Rangers improve in the WSC. A 7-7-1 overall record in 2011 included an 0-6 mark in the conference. With regional qualifiers Avon, Bay, EC and Rocky River in the WSC, it won’t be an easy task.
“I think we are going to be a factor in the conference this year,” said Zingale, a team captain. “I think our team is better this year. We have worked hard in the offseason and we are ready to face those teams this season. Last year I think we were kind of in awe of them when we played.
“I don’t expect that to happen this year.”
For the Rangers to be successful, Zingale is going to have to elevate her game for the third straight year. North Ridgeville coach Bryan Asp believes that won’t be a problem.
“Kayla’s only going to get better,” said Asp. “She has played soccer her entire life and loves the game. Kayla knows what she needs to work on in regards to her game and pushes herself to be the best. She has a great work ethic and drive to be the best she can be.
“She has put a lot of effort into this season and I think it’s going to pay off for her and for us.”
Injuries have limited Echstenkamper’s ability in her two years on varsity but she has still managed to make an impact for the Dukes. As a freshman, she played 38 halves and finished with three goals and three assists. She had the same numbers in 25 halves as a sophomore, but the lack of scoring is a reflection of her injuries and not her talent, according to Wellington coach Kevin Ziegler.
“She has fought some serious foot injuries the past two years,” said Ziegler. “I know that the injuries have not allowed her to accomplish everything that she would like to, but she’s determined to be on the field for us and we want her there.”
If the foot injuries weren’t enough, Echstenkamper is currently battling a case of mono. She knows she will be playing catch-up with her conditioning.
“I haven’t been able to prepare the past few weeks as I would have liked,” said Echstenkamper. “But I did a lot in the offseason prior to getting sick. Once they tell me I can start running, I am going to have to do twice as much to get ready.”
While sitting on the sideline hasn’t been much fun for Echstenkamper, it has given her a new perspective of the action on the field and what she needs to do once she gets back on it.
“She can bring a lot when she is healthy,” said Zeigler. “She works hard and can run up and down the field. She has good crosses into the center and a great right-footed shot when she brings the ball into the center.
“If we can keep her healthy, she is going to be a huge asset for us. She can bring a lot to the field. We’ve only seen bits and pieces of what she can do.”
Contact Hans Schneider at 329-7135 or email@example.com.