By John Miller (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
With 15 players returning from last year’s varsity team, the Springfield Catholic Fightin’ Irish look to be in for a strong season this coming spring.
Only three players graduated from last year’s squad that went 16-8-1 and won the Central Ozark Conference-Small Division with a 3-0 mark. Graduated seniors Maggie Greenley, Ali Libel, and Maggie Temofeew have all departed, and won’t be easy to replace.
“They were all experienced players with at least three years as varsity starters for us,” said Catholic coach Ben Timson. “We will miss their solid play and the depth they provided to our team.”
Fortunately, the Irish have plenty of returners to help pick up the slack.
“This is a mature and experienced team, the bulk of which has played together for the past three seasons at Catholic,” Timson said. “We have an athletic group that has a good mix of attacking, midfield, and defensive players, and two good goalkeepers.”
The list of returners includes Class 2 all-state juniors Brinn Cooper and Mackenzie Serrano. The team also welcomes back Missouri State signee Emma Skornia, who missed most of last season with a broken leg.
Also returning is Peyton McNabb, who led the Irish in scoring two years ago but missed last season with a torn ACL.
Andrea Gray, an all-state defender last season, will switch to track this spring and not play soccer. Gray wants to pursue distance running in college.
“Serrano is an excellent defensive and midfield player,” said Timson, “while Skornia, Cooper, and McNabb are excellent attacking players.”
Catholic also brings back two keepers: junior Ellie Palmer and sophomore Kaitlin Knetzke.
“Knetzke is also a very strong central defender whose versatility and athleticism gives us multiple options,” Timson added.
In addition, three more returning starters in senior Rachel Miller and sophomores Kaleia Huttenlocher and Ashley Andrews should give the Irish strength and depth on the field.
Three newcomers will make their way onto the varsity roster this year. Junior Emma Lucas and sophomore Olivia Wilson have both played basketball at Catholic and tried their hand at soccer last year.
“They both played soccer for the first time in our JV program last season,” Timson said. “They have both progressed very well in soccer, and I expect them to make significant contributions to our varsity this year.”
The team also welcomes freshman Harper Collins, who has played in the Springfield club system and should contribute at the varsity level this spring.
“Expectations are always high at Catholic, and this year is no exception,” Timson said. “If we can avoid major injuries, we have an opportunity to progress deep into the postseason in Class 2 this year. The girls are working hard in preseason fitness activities, and they are excited and looking forward to a strong season.”
Catholic returns its entire coaching staff from last year. Mike Hines, now in his second season, will lead the JV squad and assist with the varsity while former Missouri State players, Alix Opfer and Kayla Seabaugh, are also back for their second year.
“Both have the temperament and experience to make a major positive impact on the program,” Timson said.
A third former Missouri State player, Lauren Shadel, will join the staff for her first year this spring.
“I am very excited about our coaching staff this season,” Timson said. “I am very excited to work with this group.”