Lady Cavaliers rebuild to start outPublished 10:40pm Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Lakeland High School girls’ soccer coach Matt Crowder and the Lady Cavaliers are learning to adjust this year, because sometimes things don’t work out as planned.
Eight out of the 11 starting players from last season are not returning for the 2014 season.
The varsity team now includes only 14 or 15 members.
Some departures were due to graduation, including Ashley Heuberger and Amanda Regione. Junior Morgan Fenton moved out of town, which has her now playing for Maury High School.
Several other players had previously signed field hockey scholarships and did not want to endanger their college status by potentially getting injured in spring soccer.
The list of dual field hockey and soccer players not returning included talented seniors Alexis and Jamee Albright, Kelsey O’Leary, Kasey Smith and Kristen Vick.
Lakeland’s girls’ soccer program has struggled, but these players contributed to a season of growth in 2013, as the team finished 4-9-1 overall.
“That’s the most success we’ve ever had,” Crowder said, noting several of the losses were close, as well. “We competed in a lot of games.”
With lower numbers this year, Crowder said he will be taking an academy-style approach to the program, holding joint varsity and junior varsity practices.
“Everybody trains together, so we’re all learning the same things, we’re all progressing as a unit,” Crowder said.
“The girls who show that they’re learning quicker” will make the varsity cut, he said.
Even with his team in a rebuilding year, Crowder has solid expectations for it.
“I would like to see us finish at least in the top three in the conference,” he said.
The coach cited the Virginia High School League’s realignment as a reason for optimism.
“I think it’s fantastic,” he said, noting Lakeland’s success already across various sports in the fall and winter seasons. When Lakeland competes against schools of like size, he said, “It really shows our talent level.”
“I think soccer is going to do well,” he said. In reference to conference games, he said, “I’m happy with the make-up of that part of the schedule, and I think we will compete in a lot of games this year. My expectation is obviously to get better. We’ve got some good returning players,” and he also expects to start at least three freshmen.
He looks for both of his seniors to be standouts, including Kendra Harris on defense and Carol Holland as a defensive midfielder.
Formerly a star player on the JV team, sophomore Jennifer Rockwell will make the move to varsity and start at center fullback.
“Having somebody like Jennifer Rockwell coming in, it’s going to help our defense out,” Crowder said.
Junior Julianna Durand was Lakeland’s leading scorer last season with 10 goals, and she will be utilized as both a striker and a center midfielder this year. But Crowder said toward the season’s midpoint, once the freshmen start developing, he anticipates moving Durand solely to striker, her primary position.
Crowder praised the instincts of junior Erin Bradshaw, who returns as goalkeeper.
Fellow juniors Amanda Mason and Lindsay Bagley will be back starting at striker and midfielder.
One of the freshmen, Kaylee Conner, will start as an attacking center midfielder.
Crowder said his team is going to have to be smarter when it has the ball this season, showing improved tactics and technique.
“We’re just going to have to really step up on the field to replace the athleticism that we lost, and not only the athleticism, but the intensity that those girls’ brought to the game,” Crowder said.
The Lady Cavaliers begin their regular season schedule next Tuesday at Great Bridge High School.