By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Paul Lewis is no stranger to the sidelines, with 2019 marking his 16th season as a head coach, 13 of which have been at Marshfield. And, with the Lady Blue Jays return nine starters and 11 total letterwinners, 2019 comes with high expectations.
Last season Marshfield’s 12 wins was the program’s highest total since 2010. Lewis and a senior-laden team will look to carry that success into this season.
Seniors Leiken Barton (17 goals in 2018) and Izzy Harrison (11 goals in 2018) return and will shoulder much of the scoring load. Classmates Maddie Gardner and Kennedy Deckard, along with goalkeeper Haleigh Clift, will anchor a defense that posted seven shutouts a year ago.
Gardner was a first-team all-conference and all-district selection last year. Barton and Deckard joined her on the all-district team.
They’ll be accompanied by midfielders Payton Lafferty, Hannah Slavens and Mayci Huff. Shayden Porter will again be a key defensive piece.
“With nine returning starters that are all seniors, they can all have a huge impact this year, each of these ladies has played and started for the last several years,” said Lewis. “They will bring much needed experience to the club this year.”
That experience will be pivotal.
In 2017, Marshfield went 2-8 in one-goal games. Last year, the Lady Jays improved that record to 3-2. With so many players that have played in tight games, as well as district competition, Lewis is hopeful that experience will be the catalyst for another great season.
“Two years ago, we lost multiple games by one goal,” said Lewis. “Last year, we were able to win those games by a goal. And with the amount of experience coming back this year, we should be able to maintain and improve on the season that we had last year.”
Lewis also expects contributions from players without starting experience, including a freshman.
“Juniors Lacey Brown and Rene Ryder will add to the depth in the forward positions. Freshman Hayleigh Cantrell will be a huge addition to the midfield.”
Joining the reformatted Big 8 will have less impact in soccer than in other sports from a scheduling standpoint. Catholic and Rogersville will remain on the conference slate, departing the old COC-Small with Marshfield.
If the Lady Jays are to compete for conference and district championships, Lewis believes the recipe is simple.
“We have to take advantage of the opportunities that we create,” said Lewis. “We have to stay healthy. We have a lot of experience, but not a lot of depth. Our experience is the key to our success.”
Marshfield will open the 2019 season on March 15 against Cassville and Monett in the Fair Grove Tournament. The Lady Jays home-opener will be on March 19 against Lebanon.