Stafford Leader

Inexperience May Hinder Southern’s Hard-Working Girls Soccer Squad

Sep 14, 2018

Losing 11 seniors to graduation can easily affect the Southern Regional girls soccer team this fall. But through the first week of the season, there was no indication of any struggle for the current crew of Rams. A pair of victories to start the season had second-year head coach Kaitlyn Hartkopf’s squad moving in the right direction before rain started wreaking havoc on the schedule. Still, with the rest of September and most of October left to play, the coach was cautious about saying her Rams are ready to make a run at a Shore Conference Class A South division title.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean anything,” Hartkopf said following the Rams’ 8-1 rout of Manchester on Sept. 6. “Starting off with two wins is good because it gives our younger players some confidence. But the big stuff is still coming. That’s when we’ll see what we’re really made of.”

This season, the Shore Conference imposed new regulations aimed at allowing its teams more divisional crossover and non-conference contests, by limiting teams to only one game against each divisional opponent as opposed to the traditional two games. Hartkopf welcomed the chance to play a diverse schedule, but A South play may have benefited her young group a bit more because it is typically a competitive division.

“Not playing Toms River North, Brick Memorial and Jackson Memorial twice may help us later in the season,” she said. “But it may not. Playing good competition, as a coach, is what you want. Players learn from their mistakes if they’re playing good teams, so in a lot of ways the competition in A South helps. I’m not sure how it will work out for us. But every game counts, so we’ll do the best we can with it.”

The biggest challenge for the Rams this fall is overcoming its inexperience throughout the lineup. With only a few players returning as starters from last year’s 7-11 squad, Southern needs a lot of newcomers to step into roles and play consistently well.

“The work ethic with our players is high,” Hartkopf said. “I know that whatever challenge or obstacle is in front of them, they’re going to give us 100 percent. We’re going to have a whole new chemistry this season because we have so many young players filling roles, but it will give us the opportunity to adapt the system to benefit them.”

Leading the way this season will be a pair of seniors, forward/midfielder Grace Rickards and midfielder Kayla Singiser, along with junior midfielder/forward Megan Lockwood, who last season had 18 goals and eight assists and will be looked toward as one of the main catalysts on offense. Senior defender Maddie Johnson, junior defender Karagan Bulger and sophomore forward Brooke Kline also have returned to the roster this fall after playing significant minutes last season.

Beyond that group, the Rams will rely on a slew of newcomers to the varsity squad to help win games, including seniors Sarah Harkness, Kali Budd, Kelsey Hemenway and Courtlyn Wechkus; juniors Lindsey Selert, Riley Chenoweth-Hafner, Shayna Kenduck and Alex Mattner; sophomores Stef Leonard, Ashley Altman and Stella Freda;, and freshmen Shae Cassidy and Riley Schoka.

“So far, our seniors have been amazing,” Hartkopf said. “We need to develop some consistency right now. During the preseason, we won big and then played down for a tie, then had a loss, so some days it’s hard to know what to expect. But as the season progresses, I believe our girls will continue to play with more consistency and get better.”

David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.