Saturday, April 13

    Girls Soccer Preview: Mayfield Wildcats

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    After spending two years as an assistant coach at Kirtland, Ivica Miljak was named Mayfield’s new head coach and he hit the ground running.

    The Wildcats, who finished 6-9-2 overall and 4-2-1 in the Western Reserve Conference last fall, return seven starters and two others with varsity experience.

    “I am very excited to see what this group can accomplish in the season ahead,” Miljak said. “After not achieving up to our own standard last fall, the girls return this season hungry to take a step forward. With a good blend of returning varsity experience and young players with the potential to make an impact right away, I’m looking forward to challenging for our conference and district titles.”

    Mayfield and Miljak have the unenviable task of replacing leading scorer Emma Buda, but the Wildcats have the talent to soften that graduation loss.

    “It’s never an easy task to replace your leading goal scorer, but if any group was set up to handle that loss well, it’s this one,” Miljak said. “We return several players who chipped in with significant goal contributions last fall, and I believe they’re more than ready to take the next step and shoulder more of that responsibility this year.”

    The Wildcats have three junior forwards ready to step up this season.

    Mary Isabella returns after scoring seven goals with five assists. Molly Snider added seven goals with one assist, and Allison Spencer scored three goals last season.

    “Mary is a well-rounded player who will cause headaches for opposing backlines as she leads our press from the front. She’s adept at winning possession in dangerous areas, leading to the creation of very valuable goal-scoring opportunities in and around the box,” Miljak said. “Molly is a terrific athlete who has played in a number of different positions with this program so far. With an impressive ability to make runs behind the defensive line, I think she’ll thrive this year as part of a dynamic forward line. After some injury troubles last year, Allie didn’t have the season she wanted. But when she returned healthy at the end of the year, she was a force. She is a complete center forward, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing her reach her ceiling in terms of goal-scoring production.”

    Senior Ella Robinson and junior Cami Stella will patrol the midfield

    Robinson scored two goals with one assist and Stella recorded eight goals and three assists.

    “‘Robbie’ is one of the most natural leaders I’ve come across in my time as a coach. She’s not afraid to set the bar high for herself and her teammates, and while she’ll be playing a slightly different role in the heart of our midfield this year, it’s been a seamless transition and I’m excited to see her continue to push the boundaries of what we can achieve,” Miljak said. “Cami’s soccer IQ is off the charts. She sees things that other players can’t, and has the technical ability to execute those ideas at a high level. It’s really fun to watch.”

    Juniors Marisa Montoni and Morgan Palazzo will play key roles on defense.

    Montoni scored six goals with two assists last season while Palazzo chipped in with an assist.

    “Marisa is incredibly dynamic and versatile. Her ability to get involved in the attack is going to be key to the way we want to play this year. As a former winger, she has a very good understanding of what’s required to be successful in the final third, and she’ll be an important creative outlet for us as she brings that knowledge to a different role,” Miljak said. “Morgan is a very capable one-on-one defender who adds composure when playing out from the back. She adds another dimension to our attack as she will allow us to build up in deeper areas, inviting the opponent’s press so that we can open up spaces higher up the field.”

    In the net, senior Mia DeVito returns after recording 52 saves and two clean sheets as a junior.

    “A couple of years ago, Mia made the decision to become a goalkeeper, and it’s been a natural fit,” Miljak said. “She’s made excellent strides in a short amount of time to become an impressive shot-stopper. She will add much-needed stability to the defensive third after the graduation of a couple of starting defenders last year.”

    Miljak implemented new schemes and he believes his team’s success hinges on its ability to quickly adapt and overcome any adversity the Wildcats will face.

    “I’m bringing new ideas, and our success will ultimately be determined by how quickly we can adapt to a new system and style of play,” he said. “In my short time working with the team so far, I’ve seen very promising signs of the girls’ ability to pick up on the new tactical details I’m asking them to think about. It’ll take some time to put it all together, but I believe that this group’s potential is very high, and as long as we can continue to grow in this area, I feel very confident about what we can achieve.”

    Mayfield will be inexperienced at several positions this season but the Wildcats won’t let that stop them from achieving their goals.

    “After graduating a few starters last fall, we’ll be young in a couple of key positions. What we lack in experience in those positions, we make up for with an extremely high technical ability and understanding of the game,” Miljak said. “We have a very solid group of young players who are ready to contribute from day one. For them to reach their potential, though, it’ll be important for the players around them to be disciplined and provide cover in key areas. We’ll look to press high up the pitch to maximize goal-scoring opportunities, but when it is necessary to defend a little deeper, we’ll make sure we make the correct rotations to stay balanced defensively.”



    Steve Hare
    Steve Hare
    The creator and publisher of, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for, a member of the network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. was created in 2004 and was a member of the network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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