Despite losing seven seniors, the Madison Central girls soccer team looks to continue its dominance in the 44th District this season.
After finishing last season with a 14-4 record and their seventh-straight district title, the Lady Indians underwent a coaching change in the offseason.
Former Central junior varsity coach Charlie Hamilton took over the position from Chris Dunham — who coached the Lady Indians for the past 10 seasons.
“Chris did a heck of a job. He left some big shoes to fill. So far, it has been so great to be Central’s new head girls soccer coach. The reception I’ve gotten from the seniors and players and their parents, has been so great,” Hamilton said.
The new coach said his familiarity with the Lady Indians has greatly assisted with the transition.
“Except for the seniors, I’ve coached or worked with all (the players on the team) or taught some of them in school ... I’ve put a lot of pressure on these girls and they have risen to every challenge. It’s tough enough to deal with a new coach and I’ve been changing everything on them, but they have been more than wonderful,” Hamilton said of his team.
The Lady Indians won the district title last season in a hard-fought, 1-0 double overtime game against cross county rival Madison Southern.
However, Central fell in the first round of the 11th Region tournament to Paul Laurence Dunbar, 4-0.
This season, the Lady Indians will be without midfielder Rachel Hughes and forward Kiara Long, who accounted for 17 of the team’s 66 goals last season. Hughes also led the team in assists with 10.
The team will also be without veteran keeper Gabby Duerson, who had six shutouts and 82 saves last year.
Despite the losses, the Lady Indians will return much of their scoring power with senior Shelbi Morrison — who led the team with 17 goals last season — and sophomore Tristen Hornsby, who had 11 goals for Central last year.
Sophomore Emery Willis will take over the role of keeper after sharing the duty with Duerson last season.
Willis had just two saves last season.
“Emery has been our junior varsity goalie for the past two seasons and I’ve had the privilege of coaching her since middle school,” Hamilton said.
The coach said despite losing several seniors, the Lady Indians still have a lot of experience and leadership in the nine seniors on the roster.
“We have such a strong group of seniors this year. They are stepping up and leading this team. This summer we won two games and tied two games and that, I think, is due to the example those seniors are setting. They’ve done the little things — they show up early and stay late. All those seniors are amazing.” Hamilton said.
Returning players include Jekauri McKeithen, Lyndsey Patrick, Savannah Saylor, Madison Whittaker, Sydney Maggard, Jenna Jones and Kara Estill. That group accounted for 17 goals and nine assists last season.
Hamilton said that in addition to the strong senior class, the Lady Indians have talent in the freshman Sara Hymer and Kally Lloyd.
“Those are the two that will step in immediately. They are still learning their roles, but they are very capable,” Hamilton said.
The coach said Central will benefit from a very balanced team this season.
“We have a lot of experience on our team, with some new young, talented blood. We will just need to work on bridging that gap and getting that sense of family we are striving for,” Hamilton said.
The Lady Indians will begin their season on August 19 when they take on Corbin in Richmond, before facing George Rogers Clark and Garrard County in a two-game road swing. Central will face its first district foe on Aug. 28 when they take on Berea at home.
“Just at first glance, our schedule looks to be very competitive. I think it will be a good test for us right out of the gate. We should see a lot of competitive matches. We have a lot of home games, which is great,” Hamilton explained.
The coach said the team has fostered a family-like atmosphere early this summer and hopes that connection will propel them to new heights this season.
“With a great program that has a tradition of winning — that’s a lot of pressure. We want to go beyond that though and have that sense of family… Once we have that, we can continue to build. Why not more? Why can’t we be talked about in the region and across the state as potential state champions?” Hamilton said.
The new coach said he is looking forward to seeing what Central can accomplish this year.
“I’m very excited to get started and just thrilled. It’s always been a dream of mine to have my own team and I can’t wait to see what this season brings,” Hamilton said.
The Lady Eagles are firmly in rebuilding mode after losing 10 seniors to graduation in addition to a pair of underclassmen who did not return to the team.
Those losses account for almost all of Southern’s goals last season (36 of 47).
Madison Southern coach Katy Cress said the team will have a lot of work to do to fill in the voids left by starters Lizzie Westerfield and Madison Kallenberger, but believes her young team is up for the challenge.
The Lady Eagles finished last season with a 9-7-2 record and failed to unseat cross-county rival Madison Central’s iron grip on the 44th District title before falling to Henry Clay in the first round of the 11th Region Tournament.
However, Cress said this year’s team has already shown it has the work ethic to take on another challenging season.
“We’re a scrappy little team,” Cress said. “We are young and it’s going to definitely take a while, but we hope to running back full speed ahead after we get some things figured out. There is going to be a learning curve for our younger players, but it’s nothing that I don’t think they can master quickly.”
Cress said her young team has a lot of upsides.
“(Our freshman) have a lot of experience playing soccer — just not at this level. By the end of the season, I think we will be strong contenders. I’m just lucky to have a hard-working group of girls. They have a great attitude. They have done everything I’ve asked them to do,” Cress explained.
Despite losing a lot of experience, the team returns a strong core of seniors, who Cress said, are eager to lead their team.
Southern has seven upperclassmen, but will certainly miss two players who would have been seniors.
Minako Jumper led the team with nine goals and four assists last season, but transferred to South Oldham,
Logan Ann Moberly had six goals last season. She is also no longer with the program.
Senior Peighton Sowder (six goals) is Southern’s top scorer back from last season.
The team will have plenty of experience in goal with seniors Ashtyn King and Sarah Mitchell. The pair split time as keepers last season, with King grabbing two shutouts in 14 games and Mitchell one shutout in eight games.
Cress said both King and Mitchell can also play the field — making them a dual threat for Southern.
“A few seniors have already been big leaders for us like Heidi Hylton, Peighton and Katilyn Stanton,” Cress said. “They are stepping up and are really committed to making us competitive.”
The coach also said the senior leaders are determined to compete for the 44th District title this season.
Southern defeated Central 2-1 in the teams’ only matchup in the regular season and was on a four-game winning streak heading into the district championship game.
However, the Lady Eagles narrowly lost to Central in a hard-fought, double-overtime game.
“I think the older girls on the team still feel that hurt a lot. They are definitely going to relay that experience and feeling to the younger girls,” Cress said.
Many of those younger girls have already emerged as contributors over the summer.
Cress said junior Abby Sheffer has come into her own on the field and sophomore Kaley Savia have become a defensive threat.
“We are still seeing where everybody is going to fit and switching up some positions just to see who fits best where and how everyone is going to work together,” Cress explained.
The Lady Eagles will have a good shot of honing their teamwork on their own field as they begin the season with three straight home games.
On Aug. 15, Southern will open the season with a match against South Laurel, which the Lady Eagles defeated 3-0 last season. The team will then take on Scott County and Model Laboratory before taking on Great Crossing in Georgetown.
The Model Laboratory girls soccer team will be using a lot of young talent to account for the loss of much of their scoring power from last season.
The Lady Patriots lost 10 seniors to graduation, including Maya Valencia, who racked up 31 of Model’s total 49 goals last season.
The team will also be without Virginia Creech, who led the team in assists with 13.
Model finished last season with a 7-8-4 record, which coach Mike Austin said he hopes to improve on.
“Obviously, the hardest challenge will be replacing Maya. She was such a force for us. Last year, all those ties were winnable. We want to try to push harder this year. We really want to have a winning record. We want to be competitive in district matches,” Austin said.
The coach said, while the team is younger this season, much of the underclassman are talented and eager to forge their roles, while many have also already started for the Lady Patriots.
“Four or five freshman have already played a lot for us, they have a year of varsity under their belt. We will be young this year, but in some ways it’s good. I think we have our strength more evenly spaced on the field,” Austin explained.
The Lady Patriots hope to take advantage of the speed and quickness of the younger players.
“They are ready to play. A lot of the freshman have been big surprises,” Austin said. “Even though the midfield is young — they are a lot quicker. I’m optimistic this year. I’m happy with how they have practiced and we are setting things up to play to their strengths.”
Seniors Shria Holla and Holly Miller, along with junior Analyce Valencia, will anchor the Lady Patriots defense.
“Shira and Holly have stepped up on defense and Analyce has played varsity since she was a freshman. So we have some strength and experience there,” Austin explained.
Junior Mckenna Tuttle will return as the Lady Patriots starting goalie. The keeper had two shutouts last season and more than 50 saves.
“She has been playing varsity since she was a freshman, so she has some great experience. I think she is one of the best keepers in our area,” Austin said.
Sophomores Anniston Bray, Rebecca Otieno and Julia Luxon will also return as forwards and strikers this season.
Otieno had seven assists for the Lady Patriots last season and two goals, while Luxon had one goal and one assist.
Model will open its season against Louisville Collegiate in Richmond on Aug. 12 before going to Estill County on Aug. 14.
The Lady Patriots will face their first district opponent when they take on Berea on Aug. 22.
“We tried to set up our schedule this season so that other teams can challenge us and that we can challenge them. With Louisville Collegiate as the first game, we wanted to try to play against other schools that have good programs. It will be a good test to see where we are, at least on paper we are pretty evenly matched,” Austin said.
The coach said he is optimistic the Lady Patriots can be competitive this season with the combination of strong experienced leadership and young talent.
After finishing last season with a 4-11-1 record, the Lady Pirates will look to youth and a few key experienced players to propel them this season.
Berea lost four seniors, including leader Emily Nigro who had a team-high five assists.
The team will also be without leading scorer Jatzel Correa, who accounted for 12 of the Lady Pirates 22 goals last season.
However, coach Craig Wideman said the team will return Madison Cummins, who was the second-leading scorer from last year with four goals.
Senior Evi Stefan, who scored two goals and had two assists, will also be returning this season for Berea.
While the Lady Pirates may be young, many of the underclassmen have already proven themselves at the varsity level.
After joining the team last year as a sophomore, Emily Maynard will return as the Lady Pirates main keeper.
“It was her first time playing soccer last year. It worked out well with her and we are excited for her to come back for another year. She is growing in that role and learning to become more vocal and take command. That’s a huge thing for us,” Wideman said of Maynard.
Maynard had more than 70 saves last season and had two shutouts.
Sophomore Katie Morgan and junior Julia Kilgore will also bring some much-needed experience to the team.
“Katie is getting that good, strong voice on the team. She has a very concise command on the field. Her partner-in-crime, Julia Kilgore, has always been vocal and the voice of the team. She is honing that role,” Wideman said.
The coach said the team has been focusing on bringing an intense game on the field through training and working to increase the skills and knowledge of the game.
“We have a lot of young players and we have just been focused on getting used to the way we like to play and getting them stronger so they can have that confidence on the field. We have a couple of younger players who are really embracing the challenge,” Wideman said.
The coach said the team has also been really adaptable to taking on new roles.
“We’ve been restructuring the team. We are looking at the girls and seeing where we can fit them into places that are more beneficial to them and the team,” Wideman explained.
The Lady Pirates will open up their season with three-straight home games.
Berea will face Estill County first on Aug. 13, before taking on Paris and Frankfort Christian.