After qualifying for last year’s Class 2-A state tournament in its debut season, the Ankeny Centennial girls’ soccer team will be moving up to Class 3-A this spring.
The Jaguars appear to be well-equipped to handle the stronger level of competition.
“Last year, we lacked experience as a team, but this year the opposite is true,” said Centennnial coach Chris Allen. “We will benefit from the playing time that our young squad gained in the tough CIML and add to that a strong crop of upperclassmen who have decided to play for their high school, having had illustrious careers for their club teams.”
Centennial posted a 12-8 record a year ago, including a 2-1 mark in the CIML Eastern Division. The Jaguars ended their season with a 1-0 loss to eight-time defending state champion Cedar Rapids Xavier in the Class 2-A quarterfinals.
Centennial boasts five returning all-state players from last year’s team. Juniors Claire Dahm and Sammy Stoelk are back along with sophomores Jessie Ault, Kayla Grenier and Adrie Gunn.
Dahm, a forward, led the team with 11 goals and also had four assists. She was named the team’s Offensive MVP and earned first-team all-state honors.
Gunn, a midfielder, scored 10 goals as a freshman. She was selected to the all-state second team.
Ault, a fullback, had six goals and two assists. She was named the Jaguars’ Defensive MVP.
Grenier, a midfielder, contributed four goals and four assists. She received all-state honorable mention along with Ault and Stoelk.
Stoelk, who had two goals and two assists, was named the team’s Overall MVP. She is one of several players who could be used in a different position this season.
“We might be switching up our formation a bit this year,” Allen said. “Sammy ran the defense last year from centerback and might end up as a defensive midfielder, a position we experimented with on a few occasions last season and that she played more extensively last fall with her club.”
Junior goalkeeper Savana Johnson, junior midfielder Lexi Koerselman and sophomore centerback Abby Yaske are the team’s other returning starters. They each received all-division honorable mention.
Johnson made 67 saves and allowed just 16 goals while posting nine shutouts in 2014. She was named the team’s Most Improved Player.
Koerselman scored three goals and had two assists. Yaske added two goals and two assists.
“We have loads of depth in the midfield with players like Sammy, Abby and Lexi returning and with players like Meg Brandt and Kate Johnson returning after a season off,” Allen said. “We also add a very talented sophomore in Natalie Beck to the mix as well. To have depth in such a key area will be a huge luxury.”
Both Brandt and Johnson played for Allen’s Ankeny team that captured the state championship in 2013. Brandt, a Nebraska recruit, was named the captain of the all-tournament team as a freshman.
There are 59 players in the program, including several other newcomers who previously played club soccer. The Jaguars will host Des Moines East in their season opener on Tuesday.
“It’s a given that I want the girls to put themselves in a position to compete for championships whether they be divisional, tournament or state tournament,” Allen said. “Hopefully, this can be done with a perspective of approaching one game at a time.
“A successful season will need a commitment to the program’s goals and to operate in accordance to our core values as we develop positive team chemistry,” he added.