By Jim Manion | Correspondent
The Kent Roosevelt girls' soccer program is looking for its fifth straight Portage Trail Conference Metro Division championship this season. As the PTC division schedule got under way this week, the 10 dedicated Rough Riders seniors are beginning the challenge of winning or sharing four straight titles in their high school careers.
Not only is this group of girls about to battle for another title, but they are also doing it with another new coach. Curtis Ahrens was named the Rough Riders' head coach for 2013, and he becomes the third coach in the four-year career of this senior class.
Ahrens, who was the boys soccer head coach at Field High School last year, is a teacher at Kent Roosevelt and stepped into the job when former head coach Leslie Niece resigned after last season. The Rough Riders shared the title with three other teams -- Coventry, Field and Norton -- last season. All finishing with 3-0-3 Metro Division records.
Ahrens was an assistant coach on the boys soccer program at Roosevelt for three years prior to gaining the head position at Field in 2012. He has been an assistant track coach for the Riders for six years. Ahrens grew up playing soccer and was a four-year letterman at Southeast High School (Class of 1999) before walking onto the soccer field at Ohio State, then playing four years of club soccer throughout the Big Ten after a coaching change.
The Falcons' boys program lost the PTC title to Roosevelt in the last game of the 2012 season after Curtis revived the program to one of the best years in Field history.
"I really enjoyed the Field experience and thought I would be there for some time, but when this opportunity came up, I just felt I had to take it," Ahrens said. "Being in the building all day, I get to see the girls and it makes it easier to coach."
The Rough Riders graduated last year's co-Player of the Year Libby Bradford, but return three starters that were recognized on the PTC Metro Division's First Team and also a pair of Second-Team players.
Those returning from First-Team honrs a year ago are Justina Fortson, Hailey Stuver and Sierra Glass, along with Katie Mohnacky and Maya Davis who were Second-Team selections in 2012. However, Ahrens pointed out that this team is not about individual performances, but about how this group works together as a team.
"We are led by 10 extremely skilled and knowledgeable seniors on our squad this year," said the Roosevelt coach. "Being in my first year with a girls program, it has been a true pleasure to see how hard these girls work and their dedication to a common goal even while having all the outside obligations and distractions that goes with being a teenager in high school."
Leading the senior group is midfielder Haley Stuver, while junior goalie Audra Grimm was also named as a team captain. Other seniors are: Midfielders Carly Evans, Forston, Davis and Dawn Ceccardi, defenders Emma Sampson, Mohnacky and Glass, and forwards Melisha Vaughn and Micayla Moore.
Ahrens admits that he doesn't have a set starting lineup, and in addition to the senior group, he also has some talented underclassmen. Grimm leads that group, while sophomore midfielder Keely Leising and a pair of freshmen see plenty of action -- Lydia Flannery, who plays both midfielder and defender, along with defender Abbey Fraley.
The Riders got off to a slow start this season, however, Ahrens noted his team's schedule has featured stronger opponents in an attempt to prepare the team for the tournament season and tough Division I programs.
Despite being the largest school in the PTC, Kent Roosevelt is considered a smaller Division I school and play mostly Division II teams during the PTC season. Roosevelt reached the district championship game last year and has set goals to go farther this season.
On Tuesday, Vaughn scored a hat trick when the Riders opened the Metro Division season with a 6-1 win at Crestwood.
"Though the season is in its early stages, and we have struggled to get our footing, the girls have been showing continued growth and development," Ahrens said. "We are determined to take this growth and adversity and use it for positive outcomes here in the near future."
Ahrens believes coaching soccer is more than just about wins and losses.
"My goal through soccer is to help build that better student-athlete," said Ahrens. "I realize not all kids are going to have the opportunity to go on and play at the next level. Maybe one percent, but for the 99 percent, it's about how soccer is going to impact them in teaching life lessons down the road. My assistant coaches, Jason Greene and Erin Waples, and I really try to emphasize more than just soccer."