The 2018 KHSAA girls’ soccer season is getting close, set to begin on August 13.
The three Kentucky teams in the coverage area approach the season in different paths. Mason County looks to replace nine seniors, St. Patrick is bringing their team back after a one-year hiatus and Fleming County looks to keep the momentum going after back-to-back winning seasons.
Here’s a glance at each team from the area:
MASON COUNTY (10-9 in ‘17)
Mason County not only has to replace the prolific goal scoring from Danielle Heflin, but they lose their whole back defensive line and a total of nine seniors from the 2017 team that went 10-9 with a 38th District runner-up finish before losing in the first round to Bishop Brossart in the 10th Region tournament.
Who will step up to keep the Lady Royals at a competitive level?
“That will be our focus early on. Getting some of the younger players in and getting them to work together and play together. I have a young team, but I feel real confident in the girls that are coming back with their leadership and their guidance and their help with some of the newer girls that didn’t play varsity and help uphold this team,” Lady Royals coach Amy Cottam said.
Cottam enters her fourth season with the Lady Royals, compiling a 30-26-1 record and a winning record in the prior three seasons.
The goal hasn’t changed despite the large roster turnover as they aim for a district title. Standing in the way will be Harrison County, the Fillies winning four of five district titles since the 38th formed in 2013.
“They seem to always be our Achilles’ Heel over many, many years. They always seem to be that one team we can’t quite get,” Cottam said, who the Lady Royals have lost to in the last three district championships.
In order to get there, they’ll first have to find ways to put the ball in the back of the net. Heflin accounted for 36 of their 66 goals last season and assisted on six others. That alone is over 60 percent of the goals scored. Some candidates to fill-in will be Rachel Payne, Ashley Taylor, Emily Brophy, Ashleigh Spencer and Kendra Shoemaker. Taylor and Spencer will most likely play up front as forwards, while Payne, Brophy and Shoemaker will be in the midfield.
“That’s a lot of pressure playing behind her (Heflin). She was great, so we’ll try and step up as much as we can,” Taylor said, who scored a goal and had four assists last season.
Next in the order of business will be putting together a back line and a goalie to try and put out a similar output as the ’17 team that allowed just 1.8 goals per game. Kara Moran, Hadley Faris, Hayley Cottam, Kaitlyn Cottam and goalie Nadia McGranahan were a big part of that success last year, all are now departed.
“It comes down to teaching the basics of defense, have to collapse it in the middle. Hold tight that center position. Let them have the flanks and longer shots, but you have to get in front of them,” Cottam said. “As soon as you get possession, you have to get it out, has to come out and move forward. We just need to keep coaching that way and I think over time and experience with these girls we will get to that point.”
Cottam said she’s looking forward to some other players stepping up in those roles such as Espy Vasquez, Nariyah Harrison, Eva Caudill and Brittany Hunt along the back line of defense. Lexi Adams will be the replacement in goal, who got a taste of postseason action last year in the regional game against Brossart.
“Lexi Adams has no fear, she wants the ball,” Cottam said. “After our regional game last year I had a lot of feedback from coaches and parents wondering who that keeper was. I told them ‘Watch out for this one, she’s coming.’”
Things may be a work in progress early on for the Lady Royals, but Cottam and crew will hope the learning experiences throughout the season will have them primed and ready come postseason time in October. For players like Shoemaker, she’s excited to take what she learned from the large senior class as a freshman and implement it on the field as a sophomore.
“I’m finally able to take what I know and implement it with the younger ones on the team coming up. It will be a lot of fun teaching them to have fun and leave it all on the field,” Shoemaker said.
Another factor that might help come October is the Lady Royals are scheduled to host the district tournament the week of October 8.
SAINT PATRICK (Did not field a team in ‘17)
The Lady Saints will be making a return to the pitch in ’18 after taking a year off due to not having enough players. The 2016 team went 4-12 under Father Michael Black, who will not be coaching the team this year as he heads up to Chicago for additional schooling.
Javier Cardenas takes over the reigns with a little bit of experience on the team as four players return from the ’16 team, Olivia Poczatek, Natalie Wilson, Anna Porter and Libby Gallenstein. Gallenstein and Poczatek joined up with the boys’ team last year, forming a co-ed team for the Saints and playing varsity with the boys.
St. Patrick will be thin in terms of depth, currently with 11 players on the KHSAA roster, having two seniors, five juniors and four freshman.
The Lady Saints last winning record came in 2009, when they won what was then the 23rd District. They’ll start their season on August 14, at home against Mason County. Only seven games are currently on their schedule for the season.
FLEMING COUNTY (13-4 in ‘17)
The Lady Panthers are coming off back-to-back winning seasons and their winningest season since 2011 as they finished with a 13-4 record in ’17.
They were stingy defensively, allowing just 19 goals in 17 games, recording a +35 scoring differential. The regular season success did not translate into the postseason though, as they lost a hard fought game to Bath County, 3-2 in the 61st District semifinals.
Fleming moves forward to 2018 having to replace six seniors, including their top two goal scorers in Maggie Hamilton (12 goals) and Lauren Applegate (11 goals), along with their top goalie, Cayla McFarland, who allowed just 1.4 goals per game and recorded six shutouts.
They do return four seniors and 19 players based off last year’s KHSAA roster. The trio of Grace Hay, Maleah Hendrix and Alexa Dials combined to score 19 goals last season. The Lady Panthers will again be faced with the task of trying to top Rowan County, the 61st District champ six straight years since the 61st was formed in 2012.
Some games to gauge where the Lady Panthers are at will be August 21 and 22 against East Carter and Mason County, respectively, and three critical district games in a two-week span in September, starting with Bath County on September 6, Menifee County on the 11th and Rowan County on the 19th as Fleming County looks to get back to the 16th Region Tournament for the first time since 2014. The Lady Panthers start the season on August 14 at West Carter.