Lady Trojans expect improvement
Chase Women’s soccer coach Scott Hopper admits that 2013 could be a rebuilding year for the Lady Trojans. Even so, he believes that the team will improve on their 2-14-2 record from a season ago.
“There are wins out there to be had,” said Hopper. “Last year all of our matches except for Burns and Shelby were decided by one or two goals. If we can pull some of those up to wins or at least ties, I think we will have a pretty good season. I’m just not certain right now what kind of team we are going to have.”
That uncertainty stems from the fact that Chase lost eight seniors to graduation, seven of which were starters.
“We have a lot of new faces this year and we are going to be a very different team with a lot of young players,” said Hopper. “Whenever you only have four starters coming back it’s basically a new team so it’s going to take awhile for everything to come together.”
One area where Chase will have to come together quickly is on defense. Brittney Swink is the only returner with experience in the back, a fact that concerns Hopper.
“I’ve put most of the emphasis on defense just because we have lost so many people back there,” he said. “I think our midfielders and strikers have looked really good, but I’m worried that our defense won’t be able to stop anybody. It scares me a little.”
In order to alleviate those fears, Hopper will employ an unorthodox strategy rarely seen in high school soccer. He plans to drop a fifth defender back to help further protect the Chase goal and keep opposing players from attacking the middle of the field.
“Last year we played with four defenders in a diamond formation," said Hopper. “This year I feel like we need some extra help in the back. We are going to use five defenders because defense is the weakest part our team. That fifth player is going to be our stopper.”
Who that “stopper” is will change constantly during the course of the match, as players shift position to stop the opponent’s attack.
“This system is a difficult one to play because everyone has to move so much and they have to communicate when they are going forward to stop the ball,”he said. “It’s an unusual system but the girls have responded well to it and enjoy playing that formation. Hopefully it will payoff for us during the season.”
If the ball does get by the extra defender, the Lady Trojans do return experience between the pipes in the form of junior goalie Harley Cline.
“Harley is very aggressive and she has quick hands,” said Hopper. “She is a very solid keeper and her experience will help this team.”
While defense maybe a weakness in 2013, offense looks to be a strength this season for the Lady Trojans.
“Even though we lost our leading scorer from last year, I think we can still put the ball in the back of the net,” said Hopper. “Last year, we had players who would try to take over games by themselves. This year players are willing to pass the ball to keep possession. That’s how you score goals and win matches."
Hopper points to a trio of players who will be the focal point of the Chase offense, Kendra Holcombe, Christiana Jimenez, and R.S. Central transfer, Liliana Gonzalez.
“Kendra is the type of player you can you can move all over the field,” he said. “She can be a defender but also looks to score at the same time. Christiana was a multiple goal scorer for us last year and I am expecting bigger things this season. I’m also very excited for what Liliana can bring to this team. She links up so well with other players and is always a threat to score. She is fun to watch.”
If the offense and defense can fuse, Hopper believes Chase can win the county championship and make a second straight appearance in the playoffs for the first time in team history.
“Our goal is to get the second 2A-seed in the conference and make the playoffs,” he said. “Of course, we would like to get the number one seed, but honestly, it is a little unrealistic to think that we are going to challenge Shelby or some of the 3A teams right now. Secondly, we want to win the county games. That is very important to the girls and they have made it a goal this year. If we work hard and play well, we can reach those goals. I think it will be an exciting season.”
Chase kicks off their home season on March 7 as they host East Burke. Match time is set for 6 p.m.