Warsaw’s girls soccer team had to play its 2011 campaign without the services of Meredith Hollar, who injured her knee during the club season and required surgery. Hollar’s sophomore season in 2010 was one for the books, having scored 28 goals to set the single-season scoring mark at Warsaw.
Adding that kind of firepower to an already stout program has given head coach Dan Miller reason to smile.
“There is no doubt you need someone to finish, and Meredith did that two years ago,” Miller said. “Last year, we didn’t really have that one player. We had a lot of girls that contributed, but not just one big scorer. But I don’t want just one player that has the burden of scoring all the goals. I want several goals that are capable of scoring goals, not just relying on someone like Meredith to do all the work.”
Warsaw finished its year 13-3-2 and won the Plymouth Sectional before bowing out, 4-2, to South Bend St. Joseph in the regional.
The attack around Hollar will certainly give Warsaw plenty of options. Warsaw does have to absorb the graduation loss of its leading goal scorer in Hannah Cutshall, who led the 2011 club with 15 goals.
Senior midfielders Erica Gauger and Sydney Rose will dictate pace in the middle, and will get help from classmates Emily Tandy and Gabby Monroy.
Senior Lauren Snodgrass will lead a Warsaw defense that allowed just 10 goals all season.
The protection will further bolster the insurance junior goalkeeper Abby Schue has proved between the pipes. Schue racked up 13 shutouts last fall, and is already garnering attention from major Division 1 programs around the country.
“Abby is a huge part of our program and will keep us in games this year,” Miller said of his keeper. “She is definitely difficult to score on. She is good at covering both sides and can get low to cover those shots.”
Only Time Will Tell
While its neighbors to the south are rich in talent and experience, Wawasee will have to rely upon several unproven freshmen and sophomores.
A program of just 22 players does have nine returning letterwinners, but of the production from that group returns just five goals and five assists. A bulk of its production graduated in Mallory Rondeau, who leaves as the leading scorer in program history with 87 goals and 35 assists.
“We are very young and inexperienced,” ushered John Blunk, entering his second year as head coach. “Other than Lexy who had four goals and four assists, Rachel Rozow had one goal and one assist. That’s it.”
Lexy Blunk is one of just three seniors, with Cassie Martinez returning to the program after missing last season with a knee injury. Jordan Edington returns to goal for her second season in the neon jersey.
Wawasee also has the returning services of sophomores Rozow, McKenzie Schmitt, Caitlin Clevenger, Breanna Ferm, Natalie Jones, Sarah Olejniczak and Ashley Larson.
Can Whitko Repeat The Dream?
Not many people expected Whitko to do what it did in 2011, rising to a sectional championship in just its first year of existence, beating Mississinewa, Manchester and host Blackford, 2-1, in the sectional last October. What can they do for an encore?
The Lady Wildcats allowed just seven goals all season before Fort Wayne Concordia blitzed Whitko, 6-0, in the regional last fall.
At the head of the defense is keeper Chloe Nestel. The senior netminder made 65 saves last fall for a team that posted six shutouts among its 9-3-1 overall record.
Nestel is joined by classmates Josie Sparks at fullback and Cagney Craig at forward as the only seniors on the roster. The roster will have to find scoring in a big way as gone is Micaela Sylvester, which led the team with nine goals, six assists and took 73 shots. Juniors Ellyana Blue and Sydney Sims combined to score nine goals last season.
“With our success last year, it opened some eyes of a few athletes that have never considered soccer before,” said Whitko head coach Gary Sims. “We ended up with 18 on the roster last year and eight of them graduated. This year, I have 19 on the roster. Yes, several have never played soccer before. However, there is a lot you can do with an athlete.”