With a year of experience under her belt, Erin Ferguson is looking forward to her second year with Centerville High School’s girls soccer program.
Early on, she is met with a tough task, though — replacing offense.
Katie Smith and Alexis Turpin were the two leading scorers from last year’s team and both graduated, along with three other starters in Maranda Carpenter, Lauryn Marshall and Kaylee Tomforhde.
Union County also looks to improve on a two-win season in the school’s third season with a girls soccer program.
The Bulldogs have 10 new players on the roster this year and plenty of returning talent.
“We have a lot of new players and a lot of promise, a lot of girls with potential,” Ferguson said. “… That’s a lot of growing room for us and a lot of potential.”
Marshall will no longer be on the field for the Bulldogs, but will be on the sidelines joining Ferguson as an assistant coach.
The Bulldogs already kicked off the season on the right foot on Tuesday — and demonstrating the potential offensive attack they bring — defeating Rushville 5-1.
Returning senior Ally Moore provided a hat trick and an assist in the game, while junior Makayla McFarland added two goals and an assist of her own.
The Bulldogs return six total seniors in Moore, Alexa Lingg, Mikayla Sullivan, Holly Baird, Kayla Miller and Kayla Smith.
Lingg is expected to be a key defender and Ferguson is looking for Miller to be the team’s goalkeeper.
“We have a strong senior class who will be leading the team and I’m really excited about their leadership,” Ferguson said. “I feel that we’re further along this year, I know the girls are going to work together.”
The Bulldogs play host to National Trail on Monday in one of six home games on the season. Oldenburg Academy pays a visit on Aug. 30 and Franklin County visits Sept. 10 for the first of four straight home games, followed by Jay County (Sept. 15), Connersville (Sept. 18) and Union County on Sept. 27.
“I think that the girls that are returning, their goal is to step in their shoes of the girls that have graduated,” Ferguson said. “My goal as a soccer coach is to teach these girls soccer and to allow them to see the creativity that comes out of the game and also the fun that they can have playing together the sport of soccer.”
Todd Fields returns for a second full season with the Patriots.
They look to replace three starting graduates in Molly Fields, Ryane Hillard and Molly Mescher, but return four seniors and add a few incoming freshman.
“We have a pretty mixed crew of players this year, six or seven incoming freshmen, four seniors, the rest are all sophomores and juniors, so we’re pretty well spread out as far as experience goes,” Fields said.
Returning seniors include goalkeeper Aryanna Cotton, a two-year starter at the position, defensive specialist Haley Snyder and offensive tools in leading scorer Emily Bantz and Megan Ellinger.
Fields says he has seen some impressive improvements from last year’s team so far in this year’s preseason practices.
“One of our big problems last year was we had a hard time moving the ball on the offensive end and it put a big burden on the defensive end, and we’ve improved on that,” he said.
Other returning starters are juniors Emily Fields, Madeira Ferrario, Hanna Swafford and Cassy Smith, who have all started in both of the Patriots’ seasons.
Fields is also excited about assistant Andy O’Sullivan, who was born and raised in England and brings European perspective to the game.
The Patriots start their season Saturday at Greensburg, then host five straight home games against Rushville (Aug. 21), Connersville (Aug. 25), Franklin County (Aug. 28), Middletown (Ohio) (Aug. 29) and Richmond (Sept. 4). They play all their home games on the high school football field.
“From what we’re seeing in practice, I’m pretty sure that we’ll be much more advanced than we were last year,” Fields said. “… We’re going to focus on having fun each game — the number one priority is that the kids have fun and I think that will translate into wins for us.”