While the new coach admits his team is a work in progress, so far the Nate Rausch Era of Stow-Munroe Falls girls soccer is going just fine.
Stow opened the season by going 2-0 during the season's opening weekend.
The Bulldogs opened by scoring a 3-1 win at Kent Roosevelt Aug. 20, using their possession game to control their backyard rivals.
In its home opener Aug. 22 against North Canton Hoover, Stow got off to a bit of a slow start, but came home with two second-half goals to score a 2-0 victory.
Against the Rough Riders, sophomore forward Elyse Casalinova was the star for Stow, as she scored two goals in her first varsity start.
Casalinova got the Bulldogs on the board early, as she put a pass from Sophia Boris into the net at a little more than a minute into the game.
Stow was quick to double its advantage, as sophomore forward Theresa Parr made it 2-0 in the fifth minute. Junior defender Moriah Payne was credited with an assist.
Up 2-0 at halftime, Casalinova made it 3-0 early in the second half. This time, sophomore forward Emily Andrassy was credited with an assist.
Stow did a decent job keeping Roosevelt star forward Kayla Fischer under control, though Fischer did score the Rough Riders' lone goal late in the game.
Stow finished with a 9-5 edge in shots on goal, while Roosevelt had a 5-4 edge in corner kicks.
Stow goaltender Amanda Holocker finished with four saves.
While Roosevelt has been a possession team in recent years, Hoover plays a much more direct, defense-oriented style of soccer.
Within the first 10 minutes, Stow established a large edge in possession against the Vikings, shutting down Hoover's offense as it had no first-half shots. Hoover hung back and clogged the middle of the field for most of the night.
"I think we fell into a trap of playing their game in the first half," Rausch said. "We made some adjustments at halftime."
Tied 0-0 at half, Rausch told his players to attack the flanks in the second half, as the Vikings defense was collapsing on anything in front of goal, particularly when Casalinova held the ball up.
"Every time we had the ball, there were three players coming at us," Rausch said. "We knew they weren't going to come out of it."
The breakthrough came in the 59th minute when Parr ran past her defender and cut back to the middle.
Juking a pair of defenders, Parr slid a square ball in the box to Andrassy, who shot the ball underneath Hoover goalie Madison Smith and into the net.
"It was a totally different team in the second half," Rausch said.
The game opened up after the goal. Andrassy played a big role in Stow's second goal, which came in the 63rd minute.
Breaking past her marker on the right side, Andrassy sprinted into the box, forcing Smith to come off her line. Smith made a diving save to deny Andrassy, but Stow forward Maddie Merlene snagged the rebound with Smith out of position.
Merlene dribbled in front on net and curled the ball home before Smith could get back to her line, giving Stow the 2-0 lead.
Hoover pressed forward in the last 10 minutes, but Stow withstood the pressure. A long shot from Viking midfielder Tess Cunningham, which bounced off the crossbar, was as close as Hoover came to scoring.
Holocker finished with two saves to get her first shutout. Stow finished with a 7-2 edge in shots on goal and a 6-3 edge in corner kicks.
"It's a good way to start the season," Rausch said. "We're still processing a new system and trying to establish a new identity. It's going to take time, but we're getting there."
Stow was set to host Tallmadge Aug. 27 at the Stow Soccer Stadium, but results were not available at press time.
Stow will open its Suburban League National Conference schedule when it travels to Wadsworth Aug. 31 at 7 p.m.