Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
Southern Ohio Sports Authority is presented by OhioHealth.
WHEELERSBURG — For three seasons now, opposing defenses have been trying to game plan around Wheelersburg’s Jocelyn Tilley.
And for three seasons, Tilley has ruined those party plans.
Since the moment she first stepped onto the field, Tilley has been the definition of a game-changer. She’s always seen the field well, consistently makes those around her better and has become a household name as an elite passer.
After a stellar junior season that saw her score 13 goals and pass out 24 assists, she’s now preparing to turn in her best season yet.
“As a player, I’ve been working on my footwork and my speed,” Tilley said. “I haven’t always been the best at making moves on players and I really wanted to change that for myself and my team. Being able to get through multiple players and making a pass to a teammate isn’t always that easy and it’s something my team needs, so I’ve been working on my speed with and without the ball. My club coach really helped me learn how to play faster with the ball on my foot.”
Throughout the first three years of Tilley’s career, the Pirates’ captain has helped her team go 43-10-4 overall and win a district championship in 2020.
While fitting like a glove into a culture of success, she’s racked up 33 goals and 34 assists.
She’ll be the first to tell you that those numbers didn’t happen because of luck or pure talent. Tilley, as well as the girls around her, have put the work in to get to where they are.
“One reason our program continues to get better each year is that our players realize how much potential we have and how much further we would’ve gone if we would’ve just worked a little bit harder,” Tilley said. “The second reason our program continues to get better is because of our coaches. They push us every day we’re on the field and are correcting us and explaining to us if we mess up. All of our coaches are very good at watching and showing us what we need to do better.”
The recipe for success is certainly in place, and has been for quite some time.
Last fall, Tilley led the Pirates to an overall mark of 14-3-2 alongside a 9-0-1 record inside Southern Ohio Conference action.
However, the year still ended before Wheelersburg would’ve liked thanks to a 4-1 loss to Eastern Brown — who eventually won the program’s first-ever regional title — in a Division III district final.
The silver lining to that loss is the lessons it taught Tilley and her teammates.
“Our last tournament game definitely wasn’t what we wanted. But looking back at that, we can see the things we need to work on and become better,” Tilley said. “Coming off that loss, I think we need to be better at helping each other on defense, meaning two players to the ball. And we need to start looking for better shots. We love shooting the ball, but sometimes we shoot just to shoot. If we start looking for that one or two extra passes, we will be even better.”
As the beginning of a new fall season inches closer, Tilley has high expectations — and rightfully so. Wheelersburg welcomes back a host of returning talent that has a knack for winning coupled with plenty of experience in meaningful games.
The team’s offense, and one that Tilley commands, is jam-packed with names that can find the back of the net.
“It’s really awesome having multiple players score. It helps so much because it’s hard for other teams to defend us,” Tilley said. “We work really hard at practice to finish our shots and shoot when we need to. It’s great to have so many players on the team so we can rotate in and out and not completely tire one person out. We have great speed up top that allows the midfield to find a good place and to score.”
Wheelersburg’s season opener is set for Aug. 12 at Unioto. The Pirates’ first home match is lined up for Aug. 29 against Waverly. No matter the date or the opponent, Tilley and her teammates are ready to take on a clean slate head on.
“The girls that played on that team last year have really realized how important every moment is,” Tilley said. “I’ve noticed in practice throughout the summer that girls are becoming more focused and willing to work harder to be the best we can be. This season is my senior year and I want my team to go farther because I know we can. It will be hard but I really believe we can do it. We have so many girls that can play on the field and that’s a game-changer.”