Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
WAVERLY — When the waters got murky at Waverly last season, Loren Moran seemed to always take control of the ship and lead the Tigers back into smooth sailing.
And whether she likes it or not, Moran finds herself in a similar situation before her senior year has even begun to take off.
With COVID-19 continuing to influence the decisions of the state’s leaders, Moran and her teammates aren’t sure if they’ll even have a season. But if they do, one thing is for sure … they’re shooting for the stars.
“Topping last season will definitely be difficult to do, especially since we’re not sure if we’ll have a season at all. I really just wake up everyday with the mindset that we are going to have a season and do my best in practices,” Moran said. “I’ve set some individual goals as well, some of those are getting 100 goals for my career and making All-Ohio again. It’ll be tough to do but I strongly believe it can be done, especially with the help of my team.”
The Tigers are coming off a magnificent 2019 campaign, one where they went 14-4 overall and captured their first-ever Southern Ohio Conference title — sharing the crown with Wheelersburg.
Moran was a huge piece to that puzzle.
She scored a team-high 25 goals and passed out a team-high 15 assists. Those numbers landed her SOC Player of the Year, first-team all-district and All-Ohio honors.
But as fantastic as those accolades may seem, she’s not at all satisfied. Even with the season hanging in the balance, Moran is working harder than she’s ever worked to be the best she’s ever been, and her peers are following her lead.
“As an individual, I think I’ve gotten better at reading the goalie and knowing how to better place the ball with my shots. When I was younger, I would just absolutely blast the ball and it would go over the goal,” Moran said, laughing. “As a team, I think we’ve gotten better at reading teams. We know how to make runs that confuse defenses and we’ve been working very hard on finding splits in defenses as well. We’re also getting better at trusting that a teammate will be there if we play a ball into space.”
The Tigers bowed out of the postseason in 2019 with a 1-0 loss to Warren in a Division II sectional final. They were then forced to wave goodbye to several seniors, including goalkeeper Anna Jordan and captain Kaylee Spencer.
Moran admits that there are gaps to fill within the Tigers’ starting lineup. But during the summer, Waverly has been building chemistry and quickly figuring out how to patch the leaks in its armor.
“Starting in June, going three days a week and then coming into July with practice five days a week, really helped us get to know our incoming freshmen and get used to not playing with our prior seniors,” Moran said. “Although practices aren’t mandatory, almost everyone is showing up, which already shows the dedication.
“It’s super important for, not just me, but all the seniors, that we reach all of our goals this season. Almost all of our class has been playing together for seven years with club and high school,” she continued. “We want to make sure we work very hard to reach our goals and make sure we leave a legacy at Waverly.”
As of now, Waverly’s season is slated to begin on Aug. 24 at West, which will start the team’s quest to defend its SOC crown.
Moran, and a host of talented returners — including Zoiee Smith, Kylie Smith, Alexis Murphy, Michaela Rhoads, Amelia Willis, Lydia Brown, etc. — are up for the challenge.
“Even though we’re not sure if we’re going to even have a season, we’re still taking practices and conditioning very seriously,” Moran said. “I think back-to-back SOC championships is very possible for this team. We lost valuable seniors last year, but we also have some good freshmen coming in and our senior class is very strong. I think we’ll just have to take it one game at a time. I think, if we get a season, we’re going to be very strong and challenging for teams to handle.”