The Central girls soccer program once claimed supremacy in East Central Indiana by winning seven sectional championships in an eight-year span from 2001-08.
Head coach Amanda Guess played on two of those title teams, and with the Bearcats now in the midst of a four-year sectional title drought, she is trying to return the program to championship form.
The Bearcats already lost to defending sectional champion Yorktown 8-1 last week so that will be a daunting challenge, but with four talented seniors to rely on in strikers Sydney Clasby and Jessica Rowe, sweeper Madelyn Beaver and goalkeeper Samantha Bartholome, she is optimistic they will improve on their 6-9 record from a year ago.
Last year, any possibility of a sectional title, or a winning record for that matter, ended before the season even started for the Bearcats. Goal scorer extraordinaire Clasby tore the anterior-cruciate ligament in her left knee and missed the entire season. Clasby netted 32 goals as a freshman and followed with 16 as a sophomore in 2011.
Her absence left the Bearcats short on goal scorers. Opponents blanked the Bearcats in six games as only Rowe put shots away with any consistency.
“Last year without Sydney, it felt like a lot of pressure,” said Rowe, who scored 16 goals.
The pressure is lighter on Rowe now with Clasby back on the field. Clasby showed her old form in a season-opening win against Wapahani. She put three shots past the opposing goalkeeper for a hat-trick.
“We definitely needed her skill out there, but just having her back in general, she brings a whole different like thing to the field,” Bartholome said. “She always stays positive out there and keeps other players positive, makes sure we all keep our head up when the other team scores. She definitely helps out on our side with the scoring aspect.”
Clasby shook off the proverbial rust last spring, playing for Delaware County Futbol Club. She swam in the winter for the Bearcats, but that in no way prepared her for her return to the soccer pitch.
“I was so out of shape, like all of the muscles in my leg had deteriorated because even when I was like swimming, I just got my flexibility and movement back, I didn’t get the actual muscle back, so that took a while,” Clasby said.
Back when she tallied goals at a prolific rate as a freshman, Clasby set her sights on 100 career goals. That possibility faded after her scoring output dropped significantly as a sophomore and then dissolved completely after she missed her junior season.
Her sophomore season is still a sore spot for her. Opposing coaches marked her every game, so that at least one opposing player blanketed her every move.
“Sophomore year was so much more difficult than freshman year,” Clasby said. “I remember I was getting upset almost every single game because I couldn’t do as much as I used to because I was being man marked so much.”
Rowe dealt with a similar problem last year, but now with Clasby back on the field, opponents will be challenged to contain both of the goal-scoring threats.
“It’ll be nice to have Sydney back so we’ll have both sides being able to score,” Beaver said.
Neither Clasby nor Rowe care how many goals they score this season. Their sole focus in their final season is to win as many games as possible, potentially pull an upset in their sectional and restore East Central Indiana supremacy.
“Our goal is to make it as far we can in sectional and hopefully regional, and we’ll see from there,” Clasby said.