School is back in session, meaning the girls soccer teams in Robertson County are prepping for the fall season.
All five of the squads open their campaigns the week of Aug. 19. Breakdowns of each team in our coverage area are below (2018 records are in parentheses):
East Robertson (8-9-1)
2018 was a “rebuilding” year for the East Robertson soccer team, according to coach Todd Evilcizer. East Robertson reached the sectional round in 2017 but exited the district tournament with a 5-0 loss to RePublic last year.
Evilcizer said the Lady Indians are still trying to determine which lineup combination will be the most effective this season.
“We had a lot of quality players graduate,” Evilcizer said. “There are new faces in different positions. We are moving people around like chess pieces to try to figure out what is going to work and what is not going to work.”
The return of senior forward Izzy Lanius should be a shot in the arm for the Lady Indians. She was an All-Robertson County player her junior year but missed nearly all of last season with a torn ACL.
Sophomore forward Peyton Lackey and sophomore midfielder Anna Hornberger will also be important pieces for East Robertson. The team’s starting goalie is still to be determined.
East Robertson opens its season hosting McGavock on Tuesday, Aug. 20. The Lady Indians will then travel to Gatlinburg for the Smokey Mountain Cup Aug. 23-24.
After a forgettable 2018 season, the Greenbrier Lady Bobcats are starting fresh.
Twelve of the team’s 17 players are newcomers, and at least seven of them are completely new to the sport or did not play competitively before high school.
“We’re a very young team,” Greenbrier coach Jonathan Sutton said. “It’s definitely a big learning curve right now. The girls are coming along very well. We’re just trying to get them up to speed on how to play soccer.”
The Lady Bobcats have just two seniors – forward/midfielder Morgan Shelton and defender Olivia Burns. Shelton is expected to be one of Greenbrier’s top scoring threats, while Burns will anchor the back line.
Sophomore Ava Pierce returns as the starting goalkeeper. Junior Leah Madrigal and freshmen Mya Saunders and Rebecca Stafford will each be contributors in the midfield.
Sutton is now in his second season and has been able to drum up soccer interest at Greenbrier, which beings its season by hosting the Bobcat Classic Aug. 21-24.
“Getting to be the coach all year allowed me to meet with the eighth graders to try and get as much interest as I could,” Sutton said. “Having eight freshmen is (progress) for us.”
The Lady Yellow Jackets are looking to keep the momentum going after producing the third winning season in program history last year. To do so, Springfield coach AnnMarie Turpen said her squad must find a way to sharpen their mindset.
“We need to get tougher mentally,” Turpen said. “We’re kind of the underdog in our district. We’ve got some big teams to play against. We’ve got to be prepared for those games mentally.”
A big reason for their 2018 success was the emergence of Molly Smith, who had a breakout freshman season, netting 41 of Springfield’s 53 goals.
“She’s the real deal,” Turpen said of Smith, who’s primed for a big sophomore season. “She works really hard. That’s what she spends her spare time doing – getting better at soccer.”
Turpen said she expects the scoring to be a bit more evenly distributed this season to keep the team from becoming one-dimensional. One of those scoring options is senior Alex Griffis, a defender who will also play wing at times.
Starting junior goalkeeper Leslie Lujan Luis is back to direct the Springfield defense, which Turpen said is one of the team’s strengths.
“She’s solid,” Turpen said of Lujan Luis. “She’s a good leader and she works hard. I feel good having her back there with that defense. They work well together as a unit.”
Springfield is set to host Overton on Wednesday, Aug. 21 at Travis Price Park.
*White House (10-10-3)
The Lady Blue Devils took a step back last season after winning the Class AA state soccer crown with a 1-0 win over Greeneville in 2017.
White House will field an even younger team this season after graduating 12 players from its 2018 roster. The Lady Blue Devils have 15 newcomers, 14 of which are freshmen. The team will be led by its five seniors including Hannah Potts, Mackenzie Tabb, Baylee Miller, Delaney Lang and Eva Felts.
“I’m satisfied so far,” White House coach Mike Felzien said. “We have a lot of new faces. We’re hoping to progress fairly rapidly to get us ready for the regular matches.”
Of the nine White House players named to the 2018 Main Street Preps All-Sumner County team, junior forward Kaitlyn Stanfield is the only returner. She projects as one of the team’s top scorers.
White House is already off to a good start in the preseason. The Lady Blue Devils beat Rossview 6-5 last Monday and then topped East Robertson 10-1 on Thursday.
“The main test before us is trying to get them into our system and how we expect them to play,” Felzien said. “Most of them haven’t played together before.”
Felzien said senior leadership will determine whether the Lady Blue Devils get back on track this year. White House travels to Station Camp on Aug. 20 for its season opener.
“It’s about our seniors trying to get (everyone) to buy in and adapt,” Felzien said. “That will determine where we go this season. Our motivating factor is to capture the district title, since we didn’t accomplish that last year.”
White House Heritage (11-7-1)
The Lady Patriots boast the most experienced team in the area and could be primed for a breakout season. White House Heritage did not lose a single senior from last year’s team.
“This is the most talented (girls soccer) team White House Heritage has ever had,” coach Rett Roach said. “But talent doesn’t always win games, so it’s about putting the right people in the right positions to be successful.”
The road to the AA state tournament often runs through rival White House, which is a problem since the Lady Patriots are 0-18-2 all-time against the Lady Blue Devils.
“We never beat White House,” Roach said. “Everybody is like, ‘I feel like you’re the frontrunner this year.’ How can you be the frontrunner when you’ve never beaten a team in your district?”
This year’s White House Heritage team may have the talent to finally get over the White House roadblock. It all starts with senior captain Eimy Esparza, who plays center midfield and centre-back.
“She’s a natural leader through the way she plays,” Roach said. “She never takes off days. She embodies what it means to be a teammate.”
Along with Esparaza, the Lady Patriots have four other high-impact seniors. Alex Green, last year’s leading scorer, will again play a big role on offense. Wing Abby Tolbert is the team’s fastest player, according to Roach. And former wing Mally Horn has moved to defense, where she has already performed well in the preseason.
Rounding out the senior class is goalkeeper Sadie Short. The Lady Patriots only allowed 34 goals in 19 games last year, and Roach said Short made drastic improvements this offseason.
Roach said he believes the difference with this team is that they are friends off the field, too.
“Our team’s strength is their togetherness,” Roach said. “I feel like I used to have to beg teammates to do things outside of soccer together. But they always take the initiative (now). They really like each other outside of soccer.”
Heritage will open its season at the Smokey Mountain Cup in Gatlinburg Aug. 24-25.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: White House HS is in Sumner County, but it is part of The Connection coverage area.