NEW FRANKLIN Manchester head coach Eddie Kissner entered the season with a lot of question marks after losing 15 seniors, and eight starters from from last year's 9-8-1 squad.
However, with the regular season winding down, the lady Panthers have been able to answer most of them compiling a respectable 5-4-2 mark against some very difficult competition. They have grown up quite nicely for Kissner as the youth-laden squad gears up for possibly another long postseason run.
A year ago, Manchester was eliminated in the district semifinals with a 3-0 loss to Chippewa.
"We're a new team as far as playing together," Kissner said. "We've also been fighting off some injuries all season long, but we're starting to get some of our players back. We have not had what I considered our strongest 11 players on the field since we played Barberton (3-2 loss) in the second game.
"Considering all things, I think we are in good position to achieve our goals, which is to get to the district championship and beyond. We are looking to finish strong."
Key players on this year's team are seniors Mackenzie Ferguson, Molly Norris, Adrianna Miracle, Isa Summers and Kailey Miller; juniors Nevaeh Mowery and Emma Davis; and sophomore Shannon Saikaly.
"Mackenzie (Ferguson) and Molly (Norris) are two of our players that missed significant time," stated Kissner. "We missed both of them not only for their leadership, but we certainly will be stronger in the midfield.
"Kailey (Miller) has been our most consistent player this year. For what she lacks in the body size, she makes up for it with her heart and determination."
Mowery is the team's leading scorer with 12 goals, while Ferguson is top in assists with seven. Summers, and Saikaly handle the goal-keeping duties.
Promising newcomer are sophomores Audrey Dolan, Sophia Cope, Madison Schaber and freshmen Kayla Saikaly.
According to Kissner, if there was one moment to reflect back on the season it was his teams 2-1 win over Western Reserve Academy.
"It was a huge win for us considering we played without a few of our top players against a very good WRA team," he said. "Some of our younger players really stepped up in that game. It gave us confidence boost."
Looking ahead, to the upcoming Divison II Sectionals at Medina, Kissner said, "We expect to compete for a district championship. Our district is one of the strongest in the state, and we have the potential to make a good run. We still need to improve in some areas, and that will be our goal as we finish the regular season."