Williamsburg’s drive determined to overcome their learning curve

Williamsburg’s Hope Schaljo dribbles during a game against Felicity on Sept. 3.

Williamsburg’s Hope Schaljo dribbles during a game against Felicity on Sept. 3.
By Chris Chaney
Sun staff

Every season presents its own challenges and for Tim Swart and his Williamsburg Lady Wildcats, the 2013 season has been no exception.

Currently sitting at 2-2-1, the Wildcats have shown the talent and discipline to play quality soccer while overcoming some injuries as well as enduring the maturation process that comes with playing varsity high school soccer.

“There has been a great learning curve for some of our younger kids,” Swart said. “We’ve had injuries — our first two matches we played without our regular goalkeeper, (Mallory Guess), who will be playing in college.

“I’m pleased with the growth of the kids. They’ve been handling everything really well and each match they are getting better.”

The Lady Wildcats split their opening two games against Purcell Marian (6-7) and Georgetown (2-1) while Guess was out dealing with some ligament damage and then went on to go 1-0-2 over their next three matches, all of which were against Southern Buckeye Conference National Division opponents.

Williamsburg’s improvement over the course of the first three weeks of the season was tested on Monday, Sept. 9 as they hosted Batavia, falling to the league leaders 5-1.

“I’ve said it before, but the road to the SBC in our division always goes through Batavia,” Swart said. “They’re very strong and have a tremendous amount of experience and club kids that come through their program.”

Williamsburg, whose conference record is 2-1-2, is right in the hunt through the first series of matches against their league opponents. Batavia sits atop the heap at 4-1-0 in the league with Blanchester in second place at 4-2-0.

The Lady Wildcats aren’t holding any punches when asked to set goals at the beginning of the season. Swart said he’s not one to really dwell on the past success, but couldn’t help but notice the absence of a winning season on the Williamsburg books since they’ve joined the SBC. Initially, Swart thought that having more W’s than L’s would be a solid mark to shoot for, but his team had different, loftier goals.

“Our girls want to win the league,” he said. “I don’t know when (the last time) they’ve had a winning season, but the girls are very driven. Just this past Sunday, I had girls call and ask to workout on Sunday morning at 7 a.m., so that’s what we did.

“They’ve been working hard and lifting weights. Our fitness coach and trainer has a program set up for them and they’ve been doing a great job.”

Looking at the personnel for Burg, they’re led from the back to front.

“It all starts with our goalkeeper Mallory Guess,” Swart said. “She’s the anchor back there and does a lot of communicating with the defense. Then we moved our senior defender Alyssa Donthnier from midfield into our central defender with another senior Caley Pringle and they’ve helped us solidify our defense.“

Swart said Miranda Wiedemann and Kailyn Hollins have stepped up to aid the defense while junior Mylee Knipper and senior Samantha Maupin have given opponents’ defenses fits with their speed and ability to put pressure on the ball.

Up top, Swart has inserted senior Chelsea Arnold and freshman Hope Schaljo into attacking positions and said they have worked well together recently.

Alexis Donthnier is giving Arnold and Schaljo some support on the outside despite playing through pain on a surgically repaired ankle that may require further surgery following the season.

Given the core group’s first look at their conference opponents, they know they can play with and beat just about anyone who takes the field with them. Swart is preaching spacing and combination play to take what the defense allows, meaning that if the middle of the field in clogged, the Lady Wildcats will take the ball wide and play in from there, or vice versa with an attack coming straight up the gut.

Burg has a run of interdivision play on deck when they will play Bethel-Tate, Fayetteville and Norwood in three of their next five games before closing the season out with a five-game stretch in which their goal of winning the league will be on the line.

The next game for the Lady Wildcats comes on Thursday, Sept. 12 at Fayetteville.