She used an old expression to explain her challenge as a soccer player: "I'm a marked man," she said. That pretty much nails it for Jacoby Ziegler, Wellington's high-scoring senior striker. Well, except for that "man" reference.
Ziegler, who's closing in on the school's career goal-scoring record, will indeed be marked - soccer-speak for played one-and-one by defenders. Truth be known, she'll likely be double-marked much of the time.
That's something a team's top scoring threats have to cope with as opposing defenses learn who they are and what they're capable of doing.
The Dukes' opponents most likely already know about Ziegler's offensive potential. One need look no further than the Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association website to see what she did last season.
The slightly built Ziegler scored 28 goals, which not only led the Dukes, but placed her in a tie for 12th statewide in Division II. She added nine assists, which trailed team leader Monique Hyde by 10, but was good enough to rank among the top 60 D-II players statewide.
Hyde, who graduated in June, added 21 goals for 61 total points. Ziegler's goals and assists gave her 65 total points, meaning the high-scoring duo combined for 126. As her senior season begins, Ziegler needs just eight goals to tie Hyde's career record of 55. She needs 18 assists to tie Hyde's record of 37.
So, to use the essence of her own cliche, Ziegler is a marked woman. Perhaps knowing that puts pressure on her to perform at least as well as she did a year ago.
"I guess it means I'll have to work harder," she said. "I know that I'm marked, meaning that they'll be leaving my other forwards open. So I'll take the pressure outside and let them have the center. I'll be working on creating space for my forwards. We haven't really worked on that yet, but I'm sure we will."
Ziegler nearly scored the winner in a scrimmage with Orange, but her late shot hit the left goalpost, bounced laterally away and the match ended in a 2-2 tie. The scrimmage showed the Dukes are getting comfortable with newcomers, Ziegler said.
"We're learning and working on playing more intensely," she said. "Starting intense, finishing intense, trying to keep it up the whole game. Getting organized, playing intense, finishing the game."
She made the assessment by comparing the performance against Orange to an earlier scrimmage. In that one, the Dukes - now in the new girls Division III - were routed 7-0 by Division II power Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy.
"That told us we have to pick up our game, that there are a lot better teams out there and we have to step it up," Ziegler said. "We know that we can be better."
As for their presence in the new division for smaller schools, Ziegler said: "We know that we have a very good chance (of advancing) farther than we have before if we play intensely. But we have to work hard."
The Dukes were 12-6-1 last season after a 2-0 loss to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in a D-II district semifinal at Brunswick. This year, Ziegler is optimistic.
"I think we're the best girls team Wellington has ever had," she said. "It's depth. Not only do we have strong starters, we've got a lot of strong players who can come in for us now. We have quite a few freshmen who came up and four or five will stay with the varsity. There was a little shock for them when they first started out, because they weren't ready for how intense it was at the varsity level. But they're realizing it and they're really stepping it up."
Incidentally, Ziegler is a first cousin, once removed, of her coach, Kevin Ziegler. Suffice to say, coach Ziegler is happy to have her on the squad.
"When you get players like Jacoby at a small school like this it gives you a lot to build around," he said. "It also gives the other girls the opportunity to see a top-level player, to play against her in practice and get better because of her. They can see what she does and try to emulate her. So a player like that helps to improve everybody and improve everybody's skill level, just having her there in practice."
He also thinks Wellington has a chance to improve on last season's record and can go deeper into the postseason than ever before.
"We have a chance in the (Patriot Athletic) conference. With the addition of Fairview and Firelands, the conference is tougher," Ziegler said. "There are three or four teams that can compete for the title, that have a chance. We just happen to be in the division with Buckeye, so we have to beat Buckeye and come out with a better record to win or tie for a share of the conference.
"I also think if everything goes well, we have a chance at doing well in the tournament, to go deeper in the tournament than we've ever gone."
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.