COLUMBUS East may have lost all five of its first-team All-Hoosier Hills Conference players to graduation, but the Olympians aren’t expecting a dropoff in 2014.
East went 17-3-1 last season and won its first sectional and regional titles in seven years. The Olympians made the state’s Elite Eight for the first time in school history.
“Our goals for this year are no different from last year,” East coach Ilya Schwartzman said. “We feel very good about our goals of competing for the sectional and regional, and we’ll aim to go to the state again.”
Although only five full-time starters are back, several other returners saw extensive action last season.
“We have a great nucleus of players coming back with a lot of experience and a lot of talent,” Schwartzman said. “This group through the offseason has shown that we’re capable of playing very high-level soccer. These kids have waited their turn, and this is their turn. They’re anxious to prove what they can do on the soccer field.”
Senior Kristen Bellinger, who has committed to Grace College, and junior Elisa Watkins move from defender to midfield, while senior Kayla Halterman will remain at defender. Senior forward-midfielder Bailey Dowd and senior midfielder Molly Conner also return to the lineup.
Senior Kylie Stattenfield was a starter before tearing her ACL and will be back on defense. Junior midfielder-forward Danielle Rodgers, junior midfielder Brooklyn Taulman and junior goalkeeper Bryn Eudy all saw plenty of action last season.
“We feel very good about where we are on the defensive side, and we’re showing a lot of improvement on the attacking side, as well,” Schwartzman said. “This team is going to have a different look personnel-wise than in the past. Some of the players will be playing in different positions, but they’re adapting to their positions very well. But we will play a very similar style with emphasis on defense and developing out of the back.”
Junior defender Ella Rohlfs, sophomore midfielder Maggie Lewis, freshman midfielder-forward Addy Galarno, freshman defender Morgan Martindale and sophomore defender Kayla Gastineau will all see extensive action.
“Our expectations are very high,” Schwartzman said. “We’re very pleased with the work ethic and where we are at this time of the season. This team will define its own personality and will prove it’s capable of doing very well. We are very athletic and very skilled, and we will surprise people if they’re not taking us seriously.”
The Bull Dogs didn’t have a bad season either last year, going 13-5 and winning the Conference Indiana title. They’ll look to regain the sectional crown they had won the six years before East wrested it away last season.
“I think we have a good chance to take a run at it,” North coach Derek Stewart said. “We definitely have a good foundation of talent. It’s finding the right chemistry to make it happen.”
The Bull Dogs return seven full-time starters — senior defender Laura Anne Watanabe, senior defensive midfielder Riley Perry, senior center midfielder Olivia Stewart, senior midfielder-forward Claire Chambers, sophomore midfielder-forward Natalie Teo and sophomore forward Addy Lang. Sophomore Charlotte Verbanic started in goal and will miss first couple weeks of this season with a broken foot.
Junior outside midfielder Katie Carlson and sophomore defender Emma Wilson were part-time starters last season.
North will be without senior Emma Risley, a University of Indianapolis recruit, for the entire season because of a torn ACL. Helping ease that loss is the addition of senior midfielder-forward Shelby Ross, a move-in from Michigan.
Senior Kyra Dasovich and freshman Liz Tynan are battling to fill the goalkeeping job until Verbanic returns. Senior forward Micah Shoaf, junior midfielder-defender Emma LaVelle and sophomore midfielders-forwards Chloe Chambers and Regan Ward also could see action.
“We have a lot of depth,” Derek Stewart said. “We have a lot of options to go to this year.”
“They’re progressing pretty good,” Stewart said. “We’ve gone to a couple summer tournaments, and we fared pretty well in those. I’m pretty happy with the preseason performance.”
The Panthers return six starters from a team that went 2-11-3 last season.
Junior forward Justine Corya, senior midfielder Sydney Kirchner, sophomore center midfielder Leah Borgman, junior center back Taylor AmRhein and senior goalkeeper Maddy Hovious all return. Junior Elaine Lykins moves from outside back to center back.
Sophomore outside midfielder Olivia VanOsdol, junior outside midfielder Anna McGriff, freshman defensive midfielder Lexi Brown, freshman outside back Kilee Litrell and junior outside back Gabby Galvin will fill the other starting roles.
“I have a couple of freshman that are pretty good,” Jennings coach Kate Gray said. “They’re going to come out and help us right out of the gate. We’re changing our formation a bit, so we’re hoping to open some things up and create some new opportunity.”
The Eagles suffered a big blow late in the spring when junior Rachel Smith, who led the team with 19 goals last season, broke her leg while playing soccer indoors. Brown County also lost 10 seniors from last year’s 9-6-1 squad.
Junior midfielder Kennedy Bruner; junior defender Kayla Snyder; senior outside midfielder Sarah Kurdziel; junior defender Corina Greiner; and senior Katie Higgins, who plays all over the field, are returning starters. Smith also could be back by the end of the season.
Senior Amber Sizemore will take over in goal. Also looking to fill starting spots are sophomore outside midfielder Maddy Fields, sophomore defender Jori Bruner and freshman forward Katie Spires.
“We did graduate some key players, but our juniors have really stepped up to try to fill those voids,” Brown County coach David Phelps said. “We don’t have a huge group of seniors, so those juniors have taken those freshmen under their wing. I’m looking forward to a successful season. I know it’s going to be a little different because of the experience level, but we have the talent.”
The Owls have seven starters back from a team that went 9-6-2.
Senior midfielders Lillie Hartman and Maria Morales, sophomore defender Kayla Griffin and senior goalkeeper Kelley Sharp all return. Also back are sophomore Marie Lenart, who moves from defender to forward; junior Liz Davis, who plays all over the field; and junior forward Louisa Carter, who was injured most of last season.
Junior Emma Wood, sophomore Andrea Ferrer and senior Claire Collett will step into the midfield. Junior Maria Cerda, a transfer from Batesville, will play at forward.
“I’m pretty excited with the team we have,” Seymour coach Greg Musser said. “We’re young, but we’ve gotten better. We ought to be able to compete with just about anybody now.”