Morris Catholic head coach Andy Rotsides had a series of preseason tests planned out for his players to complete before ultimately making the varsity squad. A lot of the testing was predicated around running, but one included juggling the soccer ball 100 times, using all surfaces of the foot.
By the time the preseason was complete, all players passed the tests.
The first time freshman star Bailey Chant juggled, she reached 235. By the third week, she reached 400 using both feet, with the ball less than a foot off the ground.
According to Rotsides, as Chant approached the 400 mark, her teammates were proud of her, cheering her on every step of the way.
From day one, the Morris Catholic girls soccer team was built on being a family.
And that’s only one reason why Rotsides believes this team is one of the best he’s had in 10 years.
“As a coach, there are two aspects you look for when you have a team,” Rotsides said. “The way they play on the field, and the way the players get along together. What I have this year truly is a team. We are very athletic, very physical and very big. As a team we are getting better as time goes on. We are improving and peaking at the right time.”
Morris Catholic (6-2) began the 2015 season on the wrong foot, losing its first two games — a 4-2 defeat to Ridge and a 2-1 loss to Hanover Park.
“We weren’t looking to start off the season 0-2,” junior Sarah Racine said. “But we pulled ourselves together and realized no team is going to give us an easy game. And if we start to underestimate teams, we aren’t going to win games.”
Since then, the Crusaders have won six games in a row, including wins over Whippany Park and Pequannock, and are well on their way to a promising season.
Senior captain and 12-letter varsity athlete Rachel Mills has been the heartbeat of the Crusaders in the early going. Rotsides says Mills has been his best player, and the team will go as far as she can take them.
“It is a big leadership responsibility to make sure everyone stays focused,” Mills said. “My job is to lead the team moving forward.”
Racine has stuffed the stat sheet through the team’s first eight games, scoring eight goals and collecting 11 assists.
“Out of the three years I’ve been here, we definitely have the best team chemistry by far,” Racine said. “We don’t rely on individual players. Everybody on the field is capable of holding their own. I think in that aspect, this might be one of the better teams in regards to relationships and skill.”
The Crusaders lost two players to graduation and are a year removed from the state semifinals, where they lost to Villa Walsh. However, freshmen newcomers Chant and Mills’ younger sister, Danielle, have been a huge boost to the program.
Chant, a center midfielder, who has six goals and nine assists on the season, has the best skills on the team, according to Rotsides. She provides the team with good vision, she can control the ball at her feet and, most important, she is very humble. Danielle Mills is the team’s starting center back who plays a very physical style of defense. Her job is to mark the opposing team’s best offensive threat on a nightly basis.
“I have pretty high expectations for myself,” Chant said. “I want to score goals and do anything that is going to make the team better and help us win games. He (Rotsides) expects as much out of me, just like anyone else on the team.”
Morris Catholic has a tough road ahead. It will travel to Pope John on Friday, Oct. 2, and its quest for a Morris County Tournament title will continue when it hosts Morristown on Sunday, Oct. 4.
“We push ourselves really hard,” Racine said. “I think if we play our best game, we have the potential to win it all, but it isn’t going to be easy. No team is going to let us win it.”
Added Rotsides, “Our county is very balanced this year. Any of the top 12 teams can beat anyone on any day. Anything can happen, but you need a little bit of luck.”
Spartans ‘Dig Pink’
The Sparta girls soccer program is running a “Dig Pink” fundraiser on Tuesday, Oct. 13. It’s raising money for the “Friend 2 Friend” program in support of breast cancer awareness month. The girls and fans will be wearing pink T-shirts, hoping to spread the word of making this a community event. In addition, the Spartans will be holding their “senior game” on Monday to honor the seniors and their dedication to the program.
Staff Writer Dan Canova: (862) 240-2878;email@example.com
MORRIS COUNTY TOP 10
- West Morris (8-0)
- Morris Catholic (6-2)
- Roxbury (5-2-1)
- Kinnelon (6-2-1)
- Morristown-Beard (6-1)
- Hanover Park (7-3)
- Villa Walsh (7-2-1)
- Randolph (4-4-1)
- Montville (8-3)
- Mendham (5-3-1)
All records and statistics through Wednesday