SIDNEY — Lehman will officially open its season on Friday night — but it won’t be football.
The Lehman girls soccer team, one of the top small-school programs in Ohio, has agreed to participate in the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s “Friday Night Futbol,” an initiative passed to allow games to be played on Friday, Aug. 21, one day earlier than the traditional Saturday start.
Lehman will make the long trip to Cincinnati to take on another perennial soccer power, Madeira, in an early-season showdown.
Acording to Lehman head coach Jeremy Lorenzo, the OHSAA initiative had a few goals in mind.
“One, to provide an opportunity for high school soccer teams to get the publicity, recognition and attention that high school football teams normally receive on Friday nights,” Lorenzo said. “Two, it’s an opportunity for high school bands and cheerleaders to be a part. And three, to get as many high school students, youth league members and community members out to the game as possible.”
Lorenzo led the Lady Cavaliers to a final No. 8 ranking in the state last season. Lehman is coming off two straight district-championship seasons and are looking for more success this season. Madeira was also a district champion last season.
Last year, the Lady Cavaliers finished 13-1-2 in the regular season, 16-2-2 overall, won the Western Ohio Soccer League and district champions.
Returning letterwinners include seniors Claudia Fantone, Sarah Fuller and Emily Reinhart; juniors Madison Cline, Katie Edwards, Hannah Fogt, Kaitrin O’Leary and Moriah Pauley; and sophomores Abby Jones, Molly Safreed, Amanda Titterington, Brogan McIver and Kelsey Weber.
Top newcomers include freshman Grace Monnin, Samantha Edwards and Grace Olding.
“We have high expectations every year for our program — win the league, district, region, and state,” Lorenzo said. “Our goals are simple – give 110 percent today and be better tomorrow. Last year, not many gave us a chance, replacing eight senior starters. However, we repeated as district champions before getting knocked off by division III foe Cincinnati Summit Country Day 1-0 in a rematch of an early season draw. We just came off two very physical games with Newton and Preble Shawnee and were still grieving over our loss of midfield star Katie Edwards who suffered a season ending knee injury in the district finals. We fought hard but we were beat up, not very deep, and out of gas.
“I learned a lot as a head coach last season. I made the mistake of not putting trust in my bench early on. This came back to bite us in the regionals. My girls left it all out there and I take full responsibility for our exit out of the tournament.”
Lorenzo is excited about Friday night’s challenge.
“We were scheduled to play on Saturday at 3, and Madiera’s coach (Dan Brady) and I talked when the proposal came out and both agreed how special it would be for our girls to get a chance to play in a much-publicized event on a Friday night in a tournament-like atmosphere,” Lorenzo said.
“A couple people asked me if I was worried about stacking the odds against us with our toughest non-league schedule ever,” he added. “Opening at Madeira won be an easy task, but we want to be challenged on the big stage to make us stronger in October. We’re hoping the local soccer fans will turn out and support us.”
The game will begin at 7:30.