Rangers pressing reset button for girls soccerJuly 13, 2020
BY JONATHAN SAXON
FERDINAND — Forest Park girls soccer coach Brad Weyer was quick to admit that this year’s team will look a lot different this fall. Last season, a talented senior group led the Rangers to a 12-5-1 record and a berth in the sectional finals. Weyer attributed the Rangers’ recent success to those seven seniors, some of whom were four-year starters, and called it “bittersweet” to see them graduate. But their transition creates a lot of excitement on the team as Weyer looks forward to experimenting with the lineup to see which combinations best serve the Rangers.
“I look forward to a fresh start,” he said. “It makes it more fun and interesting as a coach to try out a couple different things and try players in new spots. When you have a group of seniors for so long, you have to press the reset button for a lot of these positions. It’s going to allow some of my younger players an opportunity to grow and mature.”
Weyer isn’t asking for the Rangers, whose first game is against the Princeton Tigers on Aug. 15, to replicate the kind of offensive output they generated last season. He sees the Rangers adopting a more conservative approach with an emphasis on out-possessing their opponents instead of engaging in fast-paced shootouts.
“This year we may have to rely more on a defensive mindset,” he said. “We’ll have a more compact shape, utilize playing on the counter more and forcing teams to make errors. I don’t see us having nearly as many offensive opportunities as we had in years past.”
The Rangers will only have three seniors this fall in Ava Hamilton, Katie Russell and Linda Jacob, but Weyer said they all bring good experience and have taken up the leadership reins in the early going. The Rangers also have a deep junior group that includes Payton Dilger, Leah Dilger, Madison Wathen, Grace Fleck, Emma Grundhoefer, Claire Eckert and Abbie Jahn. Weyer said any one of those girls has the potential to start. Sophomores Sara Hamilton, Zoe Becher and Kayla Fischer could also be key contributors this season.
Weyer would like to see the Rangers increase their level of physical intensity, particularly when it comes to controlling loose balls during games. He believes that’s an area the team has lagged behind in the past, and it will be more important than ever given the possession play they’ll be looking to execute.
“We’ve always been a little more hesitant to challenge out of the air,” Weyer said. “I’m looking forward to setting the tone and ensuring that we want the ball. Wanting the ball and valuing the ball are probably the two biggest points we’re going to emphasize this year.”
Weyer doesn’t expect there to be a major drop off between this season and last year, but he does expect an adjustment period where the team could hit some bumps as the girls figure out what works best for them to win. But once they get past that, he thinks the Rangers will be right back in it competing for another sectional crown.
“We have a great core in our junior and senior classes,” Weyer said. “It’s going to depend on who can step up and become that scoring presence. By the end of the season, I see us competing for a sectional championship. We have the pieces, it’s just finding the right pieces and putting them in the right places.”
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