Guarded Patriots primed for headway

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Heritage Hills defender Rebeka Mercker is one of several starters returning from last year’s sectional championship team, the program’s second straight crown. The Pats could produce gaudy goal totals, as their three top goal scorers return. Elsewhere, Jasper boasts the competitive drive, Forest Park tries to blend youth with experience and Northeast Dubois returns all 11 starters from last year’s team.

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

Throughout last fall, Heritage Hills coach Doug Satterfield often seemed apprehensive to lavish too much praise on his team, particularly with many key contributors being underclassmen at the time.

One year later, the approach remains cautious, albeit with an awareness of what potential the future could hold for the Patriots.

“I think we have guarded optimism,” Satterfield said. “We know we have some good players coming back, so it’s going to be a matter of translating our potential into actual results on the field.”

The Patriots scored three or more goals in 10 games last season en route to a 13-6-1 mark, share of the Pocket Athletic Conference title and second straight sectional crown. And while they lost two seniors, the bulk of the production returns.

Junior Karaline Staggs (15 goals) will roam at the striker spot while classmate Breigh Haase (team-high 18 goals) will revolve between outside midfield and forward. Senior Darby Vinson and sophomore Adrianna Oxley (seven goals) return to the center midfield, with junior and three-year starter Greer Neff on the right. With Haase pushed forward, sophomore Paige Priest will be installed on the left. Junior Madeline Crews should also factor into the midfield.

Junior Abby Busler and sophomore Rebeka Mercker will serve as the nucleus of the defense. On the left will be junior Carolyn Burroughs, who Satterfield said came on strong in the latter half of last season, and senior Olivia Morris, who was sidelined last season with a torn ACL (she tore the ligament again this spring), could start on the right side if her knee feels healthy.

Satterfield also mentioned the possibility of freshmen arriving off the bench, as well as junior Mariah Burdin, a strong athlete and former cheerleader who’s working to sharpen her technical skills.

“We’ve got the core personnel back and it’s a pretty competitive team,” Satterfield said. “The juniors and seniors have won a couple sectionals and a couple conference (titles) so I think they like the feel of winning. That’s what we work so hard for.”

JASPER
Players battled. No 50-50 ball went uncontested. One side conceded a goal then came roaring back to eventually earn a victory.

Jasper coach Anthony Price savored the intensity. And it was only August. Tuesday’s intrasquad scrimmage, to boot.

Insignificant, yet meaningful all at once.

“It’s a unit that, No. 1, really enjoys the game. And No. 2, they’re willing to fight all the time,” Price said.

“And I like that vibe — everyone has to work hard every day because there is a lot of competition.”

Perhaps it’s the sting of the Wildcats’ 1-0 defeat to New Albany in last October’s sectional championship, which halted the Big Eight Conference champions’ 10-6-2 campaign. And while this season finds Jasper with a medley of new and old, seven seniors will steer the starting lineup.

Senior Emily Jones (six goals), the team’s top returning scorer, will be stationed in the central midfield, while classmates Laura Renner and Annie Stenftenagel will bolster the midfield as well.

Though last year’s four starting defenders graduated, the Wildcats will fill three of the spots with seniors Erin Moser (five goals), Jenna Leinenbach and Makala Osterman. Classmate Shannon Sonderman (six shutouts) returns as the starting goalkeeper.

Junior Elizabeth Day will be thrown into an attacking midfield role, as will sophomore Brittany Haskins. Fellow sophomore Elizabeth Verkamp should see scoring chances at forward.

While Price applauded the senior core for guiding the team through the preseason, he’s also been impressed with his crop of underclassmen, who “have really stepped up and try to test themselves not only as subs or swing players but as viable options.”

All told, Price said he’s found a deep collection of players not only in quantity but ability.

“That’s what I really like about this team,” Price said. “It’s not just that we have a bunch of people. We have a bunch of people who can play.”

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Jasper’s Erin Moser will try and supplement a Wildcat defense that had seven shutouts last season but lost all four starters.

FOREST PARK
Ranger coach Amanda Gogel is beginning to see the cycle repeat itself.

Forest Park relied on two four-year starters in its midfield last season for both poise and production, and with their graduation arose slight concern for the second-year coach.

“That was my biggest issue, just the thought of how we were going to fill those roles (in the midfield),” Gogel said.

The mystery is becoming a bit clearer.

Supporting top returning scorer Cassie Dilger (five goals) in the midfield will be junior Madison Knies and two freshmen — Shelby Louden and Jasmine Jacob, the cousin of 2013 graduate and last year’s leading scorer Amanda Jacob.

Louden and Jasmine Jacob are part of a nine-player freshman class that will help fill at least four starting spots for the Rangers, who finished 8-9-1 before falling 3-2 in the sectional championship to Heritage Hills.

The experience will be found in the back line. Senior Tabitha Steckler will return as goalie. Classmate Madi Boeglin returns to the outside and junior Abby Tempel will occupy the center spot. Freshman Emma Mehling will fill in for senior Rachel Lueken alongside Tempel in the middle while Lueken recovers from a knee injury that’s expected to sideline her for two to three weeks.

Junior Lauren May and sophomore Shayna King will split time at forward, accompanied by promising freshman Madisyn Hunt, who could also shift into the midfield.

Additionally, Gogel’s been impressed with freshman Mackenzie Voegerl, the Rangers’ backup goalkeeper who could double as a field player as well. Senior Cheyenne Bolden’s veteran leadership has also stood out to Gogel.

The Rangers face a daunting early-season slate of games, which could force the youth and experience to integrate immediately, Gogel said.

“We’re going to be young. We’re not going to be immature on the field but we’re going to have to mature,” Gogel said. “The young ones will be tested and hopefully they’ll be able to handle it. And hopefully the upperclassmen will show them how to handle it.”

NORTHEAST DUBOIS
In the wake of a season as emotionally draining as last fall, Northeast Dubois coach Katie Layou feels slightly relieved to have come upon more methodical times this season.

After playing without a senior on the roster following the season-ending accident suffered by then-senior Ashley Humbert, the Jeeps return all 11 starters from a squad that, despite a 5-7-1 record overall, won three of four Blue Chip Conference matches in 2012.

“We have pretty high hopes for this year’s team,” Layou said. “It makes a big difference with an experienced group. And we have some really talented girls.”

To find the catalyst, look between the posts. A returning starter and one of seven seniors, goalie Katie Kluesner, a vocal leader who serves as Layou’s “coach on the field,” will continue serving as a barricade in net while capitalizing on sparse minutes at forward (she scored once last year). Bordering her in defense will be classmate Taryn Friedman at stopper, junior Brynn Hoffman at sweeper, senior Kaytlynn Dodd on the right and sophomore Katelyn Ferguson on the left.

Anchoring the middle will be center midfielder Kendra Schroering, a sturdy senior who performed well as a stabilizer last season, Layou said. Classmate Jennifer Schepers teams with Schroering in the center, while senior Emily Epple manages the left side and junior Ashton Knies — who runs cross country as well — will navigate the right.

Senior Alicia Betz, who deposited seven goals a season ago, returns to her forward role alongside junior Danielle Lynch.

Layou also has a host of reserves who could also develop into contributors.

Junior Bri Frazier, who began practicing with the team just last week, could become a viable option at attack. Layou also hopes to give junior Jade Hoffman some more time in goal through the year. Sydnee Kuebler and Brittany Partenheimer might also shake into the midfield rotation.

With almost everyone back from last year’s rotation, Layou and her team have found comfort, perhaps stimulus, in the familiarity.

“It’s still the same family that they were last year,” Layou said. “They’re a hard-working, happy team that isn’t going to give up.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.




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