By Chris Chaney
The Clermont Northeastern girls’ soccer program was in a state of flux following last season’s runner-up finish in the Southern Buckeye Conference National Division. Graduating nine seniors in total, four of whom were All-Conference performers, head coach Misty Goetz was unsure of what to expect in 2013.
“I was a little apprehensive because graduating that much talent is difficult,” she said. ”We have some phenomenal talent with our younger girls, so all my nerves went away when we did the Mason Preseason Classic and I just knew right then that they were going to be good.”
Going from a senior-laden roster to just one fourth-year player on the team this year, Goetz’s Lady Rockets have impressed not only their coach, but also the preeminent league favorite in Batavia.
The Lady Rockets opened their season with a 3-2 win over the defending SBC champions, jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead before the Lady Bulldogs tied the game up early in the second half. But a game-winning goal by Jackie Sullivan gave the Lady Rockets an early-season boost.
“(The win) definitely boosted our confidence and helped us realize that it doesn’t matter if you have one senior or nine seniors, it’s just a matter of how much talent can gel on the field,” Goetz said.
The lone senior, Nicole Glancy, is being flanked by a mix of younger players, which includes Kyla Toles. Toles, a junior forward, returned to the Lady Rockets’ lineup a year after breaking her ankle in the season opener against Batavia in 2012. Goetz said getting the win over Batavia was huge for Toles.
Toles will be up top in Goetz’s new 4-4-3 formation along with Glancy and Jenny Erickson.
Aiding the trio up top, Sullivan will be one of the four midfielders along with Katlin Reece and Sydney Gacek. All three accounted for goals against Batavia.
Another new role that has been embraced was that of goalkeeper McKenzie Cooper.
“I had no keeper this year because of graduation and no incoming freshmen that wanted to play keeper,” Goetz explained. “Finally, I talked to (Cooper) and said that we think she could do it. With her basketball background, she has really good reaction time and she plays very aggressive in the goal. She has been our best hope.”
In her first varsity soccer game in the net, Cooper played exceptionally well, making 13 saves to help hold off a potent Batavia offense.
With the first game and win of the season under their belts, the Lady Rockets have a chance to take a stranglehold on the conference with a strong run through their next four matches in which they face the rest of their division rivals and the objective for Goetz is simple.
“Obviously, (the goal) is to win them,” she said. “We just need play like we played against Batavia. If we played every game like we came out and played the first game, we got league. They did everything right; they did everything I asked them to do.”
Still, Goetz doesn’t want to get ahead of herself. Clearly, her squad has showed the talent to play with the best teams in the league, but her primary goal over the course of the season is to keep developing the young talent on her roster.
The gauntlet of SBC matches ratchets up over the next 10 days as CNE goes on the road to play Williamsburg, Georgetown and Felicity in consecutive games before facing the other side of the SBC in non-conference competition.