The Centerville girls soccer team returns plenty of talent after winning a sectional title and going 8-7-1 with a team composed of mostly freshmen and sophomores.
Jessica Carter and Makayla McFarland have graduated, but the majority of the team is expected to return, along with head coach Erin Ferguson, in her fourth year with the program.
One of the teams looking to make a run at the sectional is area foe Union County, which fell just shy of upsetting the Bulldogs in last year’s sectional final.
Ferguson helped the Bulldogs knock off Triton Central, which was ranked 13th in Class A at the time, before a penalty kicks thriller over Union County gave them their second sectional title in program history.
Shelby Minhinnett is a returning senior and juniors Merissa Ross and Lauren Honkomp are two other players to watch, according to Ferguson. Ashley Sheperd was the team’s starting goalkeeper and is also back.
“I’m really excited about our returning core,” Ferguson said. “Shelby Minhinnett is our senior. She’ll provide a lot of senior leadership. Her foot skills have improved greatly. I’m excited to see her playing center midfield.
“We also have Merissa Ross returning. She’s a junior and an excellent athlete, very fast, and she’s improved by putting in the work in the offseason.”
The Bulldogs open the season Tuesday with a trip to Rushville.
“We have two sectionals that we’ve won as the Centerville soccer program, so we’re looking for another one this year,” Ferguson said. “That’s kind of our goal. One of our goals is to win sectionals.”
Union County provided a challenge for that second sectional, and the Patriots have as experienced a group as they have had since the team started in 2010.
Brad Abbott returns for a second year after helping UC finish 5-11 and advance to a sectional final.
“This is probably the most experience Union County has had,” Abbott said. “They’ve all actually played soccer for the most part. Before we even have some of the upperclassmen that had never played. At least now a lot of these are coming in with a better idea of what’s going on.”
Emily Ellinger and Alisha Burkhead are the team’s only seniors, followed by a strong junior class with Carrie Bantz, Sammie Elleman, Haley Price, Cierra Gronning, Megan Abbott and newcomer Maddie Walters.
Walters is a standout softball and basketball player who coach Abbott said ran cross country and played football in the past.
Chyanne McClurg and Vanessa Reese are sophomores, while Abbott said freshmen Ann Marie Persinger, Maddie Soper, Hannah Soper, Ally Gaebel, Jessica Holt and Megan Imnoff are expected to earn playing time.
Union County opens the season Tuesday with a trip to Batesville.
“With the way we ended last year, I’m hoping we can start pretty closely to where we left off,” Abbott said. “It took us so long to get started and get confidence, when we got it, it was nice to see.”