By Amanda Perkins
Last year’s Liberty soccer team took second place in the district behind Logan-Rogersville, having claimed the title the year before. Now the Lady Eagles have a new coach and return a handful of experienced players to help them in their bid for the state tournament.
Shelly Renegar has served as the team’s assistant coach for the past two seaons. As she transitions to the role of head coach, the Lady Eagles also enter a new district. “We have moved down a class and have a completely new set of teams to compete for the district title,” she said. “This year we will be competing alone, without Willow Springs.”
The team previously included players from Willow thanks to an agreement between the schools, as the Lady Bears do not have a soccer team.
Another change the Lady Eagles will contend with is a large player loss due to graduation. Nine seniors contributed to the 9-8 team last season, including seven starters, four who earned district honors.
Hanna Vines, Taylor Pulliam, and Savannah Salinas each made the all-district first team and Bailey Wagner the all-district second team. Kaitlyn Raith, Morgan Wilson, Kaitlyn Humbert, Cami Daniels, and Adrianna King will also be missed.
Coach Renegar will be working to rebuild her new team. “Having such a small and young team will definitely bring challenges,” said Renegar, “but with high expectations set by myself and returning players, I anticipate that we will overcome anything that comes our way throughout the season.”
Returning players include seniors Jaci Mantel and Whitney Prewett. The two will lead the defense, with Mantel as a first team all-district keeper. She had 128 saves last season.
Angelina Herold was named to the all-district second team last season thanks in part to scoring five goals, and the junior will be joined by classmates Sydney Burton and Kristina Stockton to play significant roles on the field.
A host of underclassmen will also help out. Amanda Mantel was new to the program last season, but the sophomore earned second team all-district honors and was the team’s leading scorer with 10 season goals.
Classmates Abigail Reese, Sydney Wilson, Lupe Salinas, and Tehya Pierce will also bring a year of experience to the field. Three freshmen and four more who are new to the game are also expected to join the team.
“Judging by the few preseason conditioning practices and watching new players in other athletic competitions, I anticipate to have a group of hard-working girls that will set goals and strive every day to meet them,” said Coach Renegar.
The Lady Eagles will compete in the Lebanon Tournament on March 17-18 to kick off their season.