West Branch soccer looking to fill holes
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
By Rich Murawski Assistant Sports Editor
ALLPORT - The West Branch girls soccer team has been to the District 6 playoffs in all four of Clark Dale's seasons as head coach, including semifinal exits the last two seasons.
But if the Lady Warriors want to make a return trip to the postseason, they'll need to find a way to replace six girls, who were lost to graduation and provided much of the offense.
And they'll need to do it with a relatively young team.
Despite returning 10 letterwinners, only two are seniors. And over half the roster is made up of freshmen and sophomores.
"We lost quite a bit of firepower," Dale said. "But we have some ninth graders coming up that can fill in at those spots. They're just young and need experience, but I think as the season goes on, they'll get used to varsity soccer and I'm sure they'll adjust real well."
Seniors Lauren Evans and Delanie Kolesar, juniors Lauren Anderson, Rachel Little, Shelby Medzie, Alicia Myers, Skylynn Peffer, Jenelle Thompson and Natalie Zetts and sophomore Rachael Brown are the returning letterwinners and should provide Dale with a solid core to build around.
But the fifth-year head coach is also looking for more from the group.
"My two seniors have been with me since my first year as varsity head coach," Dale said. "They're my rocks on defense.
"But I really need my juniors to step up this season. I don't think they've played to their full potential, but I know they can do some really good things. I just need them all to step up for me."
In addition to Evans and Kolesar, Dale will also rely on Brown, Little and Thompson on the defensive unit, and has Medzie back for her second full year in goal. Medzie also saw time between the pipes as a freshman.
"I told the girls at the beginning of the year that we were going to have to rely on our defense to win games," Dale said.
"We switched some things up on defense. We were thinking about using two sweepers, and they did well the first scrimmage. But we kind of laid an egg in the last one, so we are kind of back to square one on defense."
Along with Medzie, freshman Charis Gallaher will also see action in net.
"Shelby was my keeper all of last year and a little bit her ninth grade year, so we're counting on her," Dale said.
"And we have a ninth-grader (Gallaher) that we're hoping can do some things at keeper as well. She's going to be seeing a lot of playing time."
While the defense is comprised of six of the 10 letterwinners and is pretty set, the attacking midfield and forward positions will certainly experience some growing pains with four freshmen in the mix.
Myers, Peffer and Zetts will see time in the midfield as well as up top, while Anderson along with freshmen Samantha Hanslovan, Regina Hayles, Angel Stagi and Madysen Turner are also going to log key minutes for the Lady Warriors.
"Sky Peffer, Alicia Myers and Natalie Zetts have really been stepping up," Dale said. "I'm looking for the four freshmen to step up and help them out offensively."
The early results for West Branch have been mixed, as the Lady Warriors performed well in their first scrimmage, but had some issues in their second tune-up, according to Dale.
"We looked real good in our first scrimmage, but the last scrimmage we didn't," he said. "And it wasn't just defense. It was offense and midfield, too.
"I think what it boils down to is just getting someone to step up and be a leader. We've always had that in the past, but this year no one has come forward yet to take on that leadership role.
"Our preseason games didn't go like we were hoping. We have the talent, it's just a matter of putting everyone in the right spot and getting everyone on the same page. And that's probably going to take a little while."
Even with the young squad and tough preseason start, Dale believes his team can be just as successful as the previous squads and has the goals set high.
"We are always looking for an ICC championship," Dale said. "And we always shoot for a District 6 title every year. I told the girls there is no doubt in my mind we can do those things.
"Everybody just has to stick with it. They have to believe in the program, believe in themselves and believe in each other, and I think we'll be alright."
West Branch opens its season Saturday at the Bellefonte Tournament.
*Lauren Evans, *Delanie Kolesar.
*Lauren Anderson, *Rachel Little, *Shelby Medzie, *Alicia Myers, *Skylynn Peffer, *Jenelle Thompson, Ally Ward, *Natalie Zetts.
*Rachael Brown, Sierra Carles, Jocelyn Huff, Madison Maines, Kestrel Merritt, Kristan Williams.
Charis Gallaher, Samantha Hanslovan, Regina Hayles, Angel Stagi, Madysen Turner.
30-at Bellefonte Tournament, 10 a.m.
4-at Curwensville; 8-Moshannon Valley; 11-at Tussey Mountain, 6 p.m.; 13-at Tyrone, 11 a.m.; 16-at Everett, 6 p.m.; 17-at Northern Bedford, 5 p.m.; 20-at Chestnut Ridge, 11 a.m.; 25-Tussey Mountain; 27-at Bald Eagle Tournament, 9 a.m.; 29-Philipsburg-Osceola.
2-Northern Bedford; 6-at Moshannon Valley, 6 p.m.; 9-Everett; 13-Tyrone; 16-East Juniata.
Matches begin at 4 p.m. unless noted.