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Minus Grimm, Ligonier Valley girls soccer team looks to maintain success

| Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, 8:38 p.m.

The 2013 campaign will be a challenge on many fronts for the Ligonier Valley girls soccer team.

Not only are the Rams tasked with backing up their most successful season in program history, but also with replacing the program's winningest senior class, which included Ligonier Valley's all-time goals leader Maddy Grimm.

But coach Eric Vogelsang believes this year's group is certainly up to the challenge.

“I was initially worried that the senior class leaving would be a negative thing and obviously they're great girls, but in some ways it's been a positive thing because pretty much any girl with any experience has stepped up,” he said. “Because of that we're a little more cohesive this year.”

With five returning starters from last season's 13-4-1 team that advanced to the District 6-AA quarterfinals, the Rams will rely on Nikki Davis as well as three-year starter Jess Anto and defenders Phebe Cornell and Abby Salancy to take on bigger leadership roles.

Davis, whose 47 career assists are one shy of breaking the program's all-time record, will be called upon to shoulder the bulk of the Rams' scoring load this season, and Vogelsang had high praise for his senior.

“Nikki Davis will definitely lead us,” he said. “She put up some really impressive statistics last year, and it was kind of overshadowed by Maddy Grimm putting up once-in-a-lifetime statistics. … The best thing I can say about Nikki is she's very much a lead-by-example kind of person. She is very task-oriented, very goal-oriented and extremely dedicated.”

Aside from the seniors, Vogelsang cited underclassmen defenders Nicole Cramer and Emily Bucklen, who were two of the team's pleasant surprises heading into this season and will help to solidify the Rams' back line.

“Both basically came somewhat completely out of nowhere to earn starting spots for me, and they are two girls who were literally more dedicated than anyone in my summer training sessions,” Vogelsang said.

While Grimm's 112 career goals will not be easy to replace, Vogelsang and the Rams are optimistic, leading the coach to expect yet another playoff appearance in 2013.

“Every one of the girls on my team wants to prove that we're more than just one player,” he said. “Everyone loved Maddy, she's an awesome leader but all of us want to prove that (we had success) four years in a row because we're a strong program not because we had one superstar player.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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