By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
New Covenant finished the 2018 season with a 7-11 record, falling to MV-BT Liberty in the district semifinal round.
As the program enters its fifth year of competition, head coach Eric Crain continues to develop a culture of positive attitudes.
“I felt the girls competed all the way through the end in all the games we lost,” Crane said. “We have always hung our hat on the ability to work hard.”
The Lady Warriors lose a trio of graduated seniors in Jacey Lamb, Jocelyn Gamble and Allison Pankiewicz.
While the losses create roster holes to fill, New Covenant also returns some key components in junior keeper Hanna Isbell (169 saves, 5 shutouts), senior center mid Madeline Michaliszyn, junior center mid Alicia Batten and sophomore outside mid Aubree Klemish.
Batten was selected to the all-district first team last season, while Isbell, Michaliszyn and Klemish received second-team honors.
A host of varsity newcomers will compete for playing time on the New Covenant pitch this season.
While many lack extensive soccer experience, Crane believes their multisport backgrounds will allow for quick development as the season progresses.
Those players include Macy Seevers, Madi Seevers, Lillie Bodeen and Hailey Anderson. In addition, Crane expects strong contributions from an incoming freshman class.
“We have nine new players to the team,” Crane said. “Not all of them would consider themselves as soccer players, but they are athletic and competitive. They will fit in well with the program.”
Crane believes the Lady Warriors will have a significant advantage at the defense end this season and will rally around Isbell in goal.
“We are returning everyone in the back field except for one, but I believe we have gain the personal that will help fill that defensive slot,” Crane said. “Having a good keeper always helps the team play with confidence and allows the team to go forward more and makes you opponent to play more defense.”
New Covenant’s competitive schedule includes a host of larger programs this season, including Hillcrest, Logan-Rogersville, Lebanon, Springfield Central, Monett and Parkview.
While the difficult schedule presents some significant challenges, Crane believes his team will be well-prepared to compete, develop and improve as a program.
“We play a tough regular season schedule against bigger schools and we will need to make sure we stay focused on the big picture,” Crane said. “The one thing I love about our team is that they never give up, and the girls will work hard every minute of the game.”
New Covenant opens the season against McDonald County on March 21.