Fans looking for excitement this fall should turn up at Burgbacher Field in Middlebourne and tune in the 2014 version of Lady Knight soccer. While they may or may not wind up with more wins than losses on the year, this group of five seniors, nine juniors, five sophomores, and four freshmen are primed to make a difference in the local soccer world.
"They're excited for the season to get underway," said head coach of the Lady Knights Matt Kinnard. "They're a fun, good group of kids and really, the majority of them have put in the work in the off season and you can tell. I see so much improvement in certain players since last year. This growth and extra conditioning can only help us in the long run."
With the loss of five seniors to graduation, including two-time all state goalie, Sophie Kinnard, the readiness of the 2014 Lady Knights was a concern to some. But the addition of a couple of athletic newbies, a strong incoming senior class, steady junior players, and an enthusiastic set of freshmen, the Lady Knights look to be just fine this season.
Lady Knight soccer - 2014
"I think we might surprise some people who aren't sure what to expect from us," Kinnard said. "We're not the same team we were last year, or the year before that. The kids are catching on, and it's great."
Seniors on the squad this year include returners: Kelsey Bonar, Kaylee Hartsfield, Taylor Hess, and Haleigh Smith. "These girls are our leaders on the field and are doing a good job of it," Kinnard said. "Every one of them has improved since last year and we're expecting a lot out of them this year. Kelsey, Kaylee, and Haleigh will be our captains."
Juniors out for the team include returners: Lacey Seckman, Cheyenne Blizzard, Casey Kelley, Rae VanCamp, Kara Dalrymple, Shannon Lamp, and Amber Watson. Additions to the junior camp are Madison Kissner and Katelyn Gogan.
"Our juniors are a steady group, and with Madison and Katelyn joining them this year, they look to be our go-to players," said Coach Kinnard.
The five sophomores vying for playing time will be Kara Smith, Isis Moore, Payden Clem, Bethany Littell, and Vanessa Templeton, who has already tied down the starting goal keeper's position. Freshmen joining the team this year are: Kenna Smith, Taylor Britton, Whitney Rose, and Demery Nelson.
"Our expectation for this year's team is the same as it has been for the past couple of years," Kinnard said. "We need to improve every single year. This program will go nowhere if we don't continue to work to improve everything we can about it. The girls have bought into that, and so far, we've been able to do it."
Proof is in the game statistics as the Lady Knights have already faced their first opponent of the year last week when Oak Glen visited at Burgbacher Field. Last year the Golden Bears handed the Silver the loss 4-0. This year, the Bears came out the winner by the score of 2-0. Also, in this first game, the Lady Knights took 10 shots at the net, more than they took in the first four games last year.
"We just have to be patient and play our game," the coach said.
The Lady Knights will play at Madonna on Aug. 30 and return to Middlebourne on Sept. 2 when they host Steubenville.