Hempfield girls soccer focused on rebounding from disappointing season
Don't remind coach Krissy Edmonds and her Hempfield girls soccer team about last year.
“We know we finished terrible,” Edmunds said.
The Spartans ended the season with seven straight losses, but after graduating only one player, they are essentially bringing back everyone from last year's underachieving 5-11 team.
“I have pretty much my whole team coming back,” Edmonds said. “I also have a handful of incoming freshman that stepped up (in camp).”
Injuries have forced freshmen into prominent roles. Senior defender Alexandra Panagis tore her ACL in the first scrimmage. Another senior, Olivia Haile, last year's starting goalie, was forced to step away from soccer due to medical issues. She will serve as team manager, which left an open competition between the pipes.
“We were put in a predicament with goalies,” Edmonds said. “We had a freshman step up. (Samantha Orie) said she was willing to try goalie and she's coming along.”
Orie is one of the handful of freshmen Edmonds is looking to contribute significantly, along with Keturah Mort and Alexa Arcuri. In her 10 years as coach, Edmonds says it's typical to rely on underclassmen, but this year she believes the upperclassmen, led by eight returning seniors, are making a positive difference.
“Now the upperclassman are filling the role of the big sister,” Edmonds said. “They're showing the importance of working hard and keeping a positive mindset. It's a positive group.”
Senior defenders Megan Boyle and Chloe Heaps, along with juniors Chelsea Burkhart (center midfielder) and Keirsten VanHorn (central defender), have stepped up as leaders this offseason.
“You're the main people everyone looks up to,” said Boyle, who is being recruited by several Division II schools. “One thing I'm trying to do more is make sure I'm there for the underclassmen.
“I think this year we have really great chemistry as a team. I'm just trying to make it more so that everyone on the team is comfortable with each other.”
Edmonds points to the high participation numbers during offseason conditioning, when most of the girls had practice and games for other club teams, as an indication of the dedication to the upcoming season in tough Section 1-AAA.
“The willingness to try and make it work to get to the high school practices...” Edmonds said. “They weren't happy with the way the season ended, so they come in with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder. They're going to prove themselves.”
Hempfield isn't unfamiliar to postseason play, which is why last season was such a disappointment. Expectations are always set high, and the Spartans feel this year will prove last year was a fluke.
“Definitely a winning season and also the playoffs,” Edmonds said. “We've made the playoffs up until last year.”
Boyle added: “There's always expectations to win. I think we can definitely have a competitive season.”
Justin Criado is a freelance writer.