It’s little wonder that the Chargers are regarded as the area’s premier team.
The roster features three athletes who in previous springs were honored as the All-Area Soccer Player of the Year.
The list of senior standouts starts with Katelynn Martinez (2012 Player of the Year), Chantal Meacham (2011 choice) and Dagny Olson (2010 selection), but it doesn’t end there.
Five other seniors could contribute, including goalkeeper Hope Archer. The other veterans include Trasina Diazmunoz, Eliza Glezer, Haley Hollern and Jenny Olmstead.
Centennial is seeking a seventh consecutive winning season under coach Hsiung Marler.
“We have goals, but we are focusing on the road,” Marler said. “Goals are great, but they mean nothing unless you put in the work, the sacrifice and the commitment necessary to accomplish those things. The team decided we are better off focusing on the road to those goals than the goals themselves.”
Among the non-seniors who could make an impact are juniors Kate Folts, Destiny Norris and Sara Regan along with sophomores Devin Kyler and Lindsey Taylor. Four freshmen made the 19-player varsity roster.
“Like last year, our success should be more of a reflection of our team character and system than individual play,” Marler said.
The Chargers should get a boost from the return of two of their go-to players.
Meacham missed last season with a leg injury.
Olson, who will play soccer at Illinois State, will remain one of the marquee players. She returns to the Chargers after spending last season with a Chicago-area club team.
“Dagny will be asked to carry more of the load winning the balls and distributing than in her previous seasons where she could focus on her scoring,” Marler said.
Centennial is 0-0, with three postponements, ahead of Thursday’s match on the road against four-time defending Big 12 Conference champion Normal Community.
The Maroons had their best season last spring (14-9) since a 16-win campaign in 2004. Coach Mick Galeski’s squad should be in the upper echelon again this year though there are as many sophomores (eight) on the team as juniors (four) and seniors (four) combined.
Last year’s top scorer, sophomore Maddy Chalifoux, is back after netting 29 goals in her first year of high school competition. She has led Central to a 3-0 start, scoring or assisting on seven of the team’s first eight goals this season.
Another sophomore, Emica Quigley, will be an offensive threat. A third sophomore who figures into the scoring is Hannah Hart, who had a hat trick Saturday against Monticello. “I believe we have a well-balanced team that can beat anyone on a given day, which makes us a nightmare to play against,” said Galeski, the school’s fifth-year head coach. “We have some very good leadership from senior captains Hannah Walker and Julia Smith, who both play in the back line.”
Walker was also an All-Area first-teamer in 2012, along with Chalifoux. Junior Abby Manaster was in goal for Saturday’s shutout against the Sages. Central’s other seniors are Kate Meyers and Maddy Philipp.
The Maroons’ 19-player roster includes three freshmen. Central has been assigned to the five-school Class 2A Urbana Regional, a field that also includes Centennial, Danville, Mahomet-Seymour and the host Tigers. The sectional will be held at Normal West.
In many years, based on the quality and number of returnees, the Bulldogs would be considered the area’s No. 1 team entering the season. This spring, however, that honor is bestowed on Centennial even though M-S has a strong nucleus back from a 15-3-1 team.
The varsity veterans include All-Area goalkeeper Kathy Bradley, all-sectional choice Morgan Paintner and Eastern Illinois University-bound Kayla Thompson from the senior class as well as standout juniors such as Sarah VanWingerden, a coaches association all-stater, and Catherine McHale, an all-sectional selection. M-S is off to a 3-1 start, shutting out two of the opponents. “Our challenge is to use improved skill and strategy to overcome teams that may have more talent and athleticism,” coach Joey Gruner said. “One strength of our program is the coaching staff, both assistants and volunteers, who have earned the girls’ respect and have a lot of experience and knowledge to help us move to the next level.”
Team captain Marisa Ellis (a senior defender) and newcomers Aleyna Brunner (a sophomore midfielder) and Kylie Lenschow (a freshman defender) are projected as other prominent players. In all, eight starters return from last year’s squad. M-S is seeking to make this the sixth successive year the program has either won more matches than the previous year or equaled the win total from the year before. “Many of the girls have worked a great deal in the offseason to be better prepared to face teams with which we have traditionally struggled to compete,” Gruner said.
St. Thomas More
The Sabers are in position to surpass last year’s record-breaking 15-6-1 season (school-record 11 shutouts) with 10 of 11 starters returning. Headliners include All-Area first-teamers Jade Brinkoetter (senior midfielder), Louisette Lukusa (junior forward) and Lexi Wallen (sophomore goalkeeper). Brinkoetter (21 goals, 12 assists) was last year’s team MVP. Co-captains Ellie McGrew (senior defender) and Katie Kulas (junior midfielder) will be major contributors as will sophomore Michaela Ward, who missed much of last year with a knee injury, and Caroline Geubelle (freshman defender). Sophie Collard (sophomore midfielder), who plays soccer year-round, and Gen Harrington (senior midfielder), who returned to the sport from track, will be other catalysts.
“The strength of our team is undoubtedly their unwavering work ethic, fitness level and competitive drive,” coach James Johnson said. “Our girls saw what it takes by watching the STM girls’ basketball team this winter, and those (basketball) girls (Brinkoetter, Wallen and Hadley Murray) have helped instill the same competitive drive in the other girls. Since I came to STM, we have put an increased emphasis on team defense and the importance of discipline and fitness.”
Johnson toughened up the Sabers’ schedule. They will play defending 1A state champion Quincy Notre Dame in May as well as Class 2A fourth-place finisher Normal U-High (on Thursday) and Class 3A opponent Pekin. The school has its largest turnout for soccer, 30 players.
Urbana’s Tigers and Uni High’s Illineks are facing rebuilding seasons. The Tigers are 1-1 and boast an experienced midfield crew with junior Ellie England and senior Sophia Ruiz-Gehrt joined by freshman Rebecca Hanks.
“Hopefully we will be able to control the ball better than we did last year,” Urbana coach Randy Blackman said.
Senior forward Anna Krehbiel and sophomore fullback Alison Slaughter are other prominent returnees for Urbana. “We hope to compete at a higher level than we did last year,” said Blackman, whose team was 4-11-3 a year ago. “My expectations are to continue to develop our skills and improve as the year goes on. I feel we may be able to score a little more than we did last year.”
The Tigers added former track pole vaulter Cate Hummel, a senior forward, to this year’s roster. At Uni High, coach Phil Anders’ team is off to a 1-2 start. “This is a young team with the potential to surprise,” Anders said.
The Illineks’ offense is led by the two individuals who shared the scoring lead last spring, senior (and 2012 MVP) Sarah Vaughen and sophomore Grace Lilly. Vaughen was an All-Area second-teamer in 2012. Other squad members with the most varsity experience are senior forward Juliana Trach, junior midfielder Mara Dolan (who scored twice in a 4-0 win against Judah Christian), junior goalkeeper Jia Curry-Bild and sophomore midfielder Carmen Gewirth. Freshmen who could make a quick impact are defender Tiye Baraka and midfielder Natalie Dullerud, who had an assist against Judah. Uni High was 10-7-2 last spring.