Lady Wildcats building team culture

By Garth Shanklin - Sports Editor

The Williamsburg Lady Wildcats continued their strong play on the pitch last season, and this year’s squad hopes to continue their winning ways.

Last year, Williamsburg finished just behind Bethel-Tate in the Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference’s National Division, with the Lady Tigers posting a 7-1-2 mark in league play while Williamsburg finished at 7-2-1.

The Lady Wildcats lost a trio of seniors from last season, including first-team all-conference performer Hailey Beesten, but two other first-teamers return: Emma Beesten and Emily Hart. Belle Middendorf and Amanda Mitchell both return as second-team performers, while Lily Williford returns for her junior campaign having earned honorable mention honors as a sophomore.

Head coach Brian Hart welcomes a host of new faces to the team this season, and says adding so many players while losing so few is a good thing for the team.

“I think we’re going to benefit from that,” Hart said. “We lost three seniors, and we gained seven or eight freshman this year. It’s always nice when you can lose a small handful and gain a lot more.”

Hart enters his fourth season at the helm of the Lady Wildcats with the same mindset he had at the beginning: giving the players on the field a good experience.

“That’s the thing with us, my whole goal with this is to give the girls a good experience,” Hart said. “Going into coaching soccer, my whole focus was to bring the girls a good experience, make them better soccer players and success will come with that instead of trying to get success out of the gate. That team bond is so important. When those girls trust each other, they know each other’s tendencies and they develop on the field a lot better. We’ve seen it happen. That’s one of our big things. If we have that bond and that trust is there, success will come.”

Emily Hart is one of several players Coach Hart believes could make an impact for the team this season.

“She’s really growing leaps and bounds,” Brian Hart said. “Emma Beesten and Belle Middendorf too. Defensively, we should be really strong. Some of the girls we’ve had playing defense we can kind of release from that role now because we have defenders. Amanda Mitchell is one to watch. We have a handful of girls that we think will do really well this year.”

Of the team’s new players, a few will be able to help the team out in multiple areas of the field, according to Hart.

“We’ve got a small handful of girls that will be able to contribute to the varsity side, which will be nice. They’re well-rounded players,” Hart said. “We have a girl who can jump in on defense and play forward if need be. We have a girl who can play midfield and forward, another who can play defense or midfield. It’s nice to have the young girls who are more well-rounded and can fit where needed.”

Numbers aren’t just boosted at the varsity level. Williamsburg is adding a junior varsity team for the first time, according to Hart, which he says will help provide all of the players with game experience.

“It’s extremely important for us or for any program, having that developmental tool,” Hart said. “Some of the girls who aren’t ready for the varsity level have the chance to grow with game-time experience and game-time scenarios that will help them take that next step to the varsity program when they’re ready. It’s super important, we’re happy to have the junior varsity program initiated and we’re hoping it will continue to grow.”

If Williamsburg wants to bring the league title back to campus for the second time in three seasons, Hart said the team is going to have to maintain their bond with one another.

“We have to have that strong team bond,” Hart said. “I really feel like that’s the key to success. Once you have that, they can trust and rely on each other, that’s when the teamwork will happen. We’re also big on skill work, as skills are developed the confidence raises. When the confidence raises, your awareness raises. It’s a snowball effect, in that sense.”

By Garth Shanklin

Sports Editor