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GIRLS' PREP SOCCER: Lady Panthers want to keep things as is (8/17)

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By Nathaniel Bryan

By NATHANIEL BRYAN nbryan@thenewsenterprise.com ELIZABETHTOWN — The more things change, the more they stay the same for the Elizabethtown High School girls’ soccer program. Despite graduating six first-team, second-team or honorable mention All-Area players as well as two reserves that either graduated or chose not to play this season, the Lady Panthers aren’t planning to drop off this season. “I’ve been on them, but I’m not going to let them settle because they can be very, very good. The seniors have been pushing them hard because they don’t want to see things change,” said coach Rob Zoeller, whose Lady Panthers have won the last seven 5th Region Tournament titles and the previous six 10th District Tournament championships. “No matter who’s in the jersey, things don’t change. Tradition doesn’t graduate.” What the Lady Panthers did graduate, however, were Miss Soccer Jenna Goblirsch, first-team All-Area midfielders Amanda Sutton and Emily DuPlessis, second-team All-Area midfielder Emily Greenwell, honorable mention All-Area midfielders Eliza Dyrdek and Madison Kuklinski and reserve goalkeeper Jordan Douglas. “We’re not going to rebuild. We’re going to reload and kids will take advantage of opportunities,” Zoeller said. “This has been our toughest preseason so far. I’ve killed them. I’ve worked their tails off and they’ve done nothing but respond.” Up top, Zoeller plans on starting a pair of freshmen who tore up the junior varsity ranks last year in Tara Gilpin and Taylor Perkins. “They’ve become a pair to me. Where one girl is, the other one better be. They better be close enough to play together,” said Zoeller, who said he’s not bother by such a youthful attacking corps. “We started two sophomores a few years ago with Shannon (Smith) and Sarah (Goblirsch). Neither one had tons and tons of varsity experience and that didn’t work out too bad. Look at (Louisville DuPont) Manual: They started two freshmen up top this past year and they were very, very good. So I’m not worried about having freshmen up there. They have a good supporting cast with their midfielders and they know their job.” Those midfielders feature three All-Area honorable mention selections in senior Caitlin Adams and juniors Kayla Laisy and Christina Thompson. Adams, a fourth-year starter, anchors the midfield from the center. “She’s a great leader. Tactically, she may understand the game better than any kid I’ve coached,” Zoeller said. “She can do almost anything with the ball. She’s important when it comes to circulating the ball and keeping our midfield in line.” Freshman Hannah Kuhn, a two-year starter on the JV level, is left wing, while second-year starter Christina Thompson is the right wing. “Hannah’s got a wonderful left foot, but a pretty good right foot as well. She’s a creative attacking piece. She can set up shots for herself or set the table for other people,” Zoeller said. “Christina’s a good crafty kid with the ball who has a good attacking mind. She’s a versatile kid who we can put anywhere. She’ll spend a lot of time on the field and she gives us more age in our midfield.” Freshman Hallee Pinkham, another two-year JV starter, is the left defensive midfielder. Junior Kayla Laisy, a defender in 2007, moves up to the right attacking midfielder spot. “Hallee’s a phenomenal worker. She actually started at right back, but she does such a good job at defensive mid. She blows things up. Very rarely will someone be able to get by her. And whether she’s defending or attacking, she’s going to be a key to what we do for many years,” Zoeller said. “Kayla gave us a bit of pace last year in the back, but we knew moving Kayla up was something we were anticipating since Day One. She was good in the back, but I think she’ll be effective in the middle. She’s got pace and can get behind (defensive) players.” A two-year JV starter, freshman Samantha Matherly, joins a defense featuring 2007 All-Area second-team senior left back Kaylee Gabhart and honorable mention junior center back Ashley Valentine. “Samantha’s a quality technical player with a strong leg. And she’s strong in the air. She’s got everything you look for in an outside back,” Zoeller said. “I thought Ashley had a good enough year last year to be Sophomore of the Year, but that’s not the way coaches saw it. But that’s OK because we don’t play for individual awards, we play for team awards. And at the end of the year I don’t think Ashley would have traded everything we accomplished as a team for an individual award. “Ashley’s solid. She’s very good technically and she’s gotten better in the air. I really think she’s a huge piece to what we do as a team,” Zoeller added. “And it doesn’t matter what we do, Kaylee wants to win. It’s all about results with her. She’s an absolute competitor who will do whatever it takes for us to win. She’s been a great leader. She does what we expect our seniors to do.” Senior first-team All-Area selection Terra Lucas returns at goalkeeper after recording 15 shutouts last season and not surrendering a goal to any area team. “Terra’s a phenomenal goalkeeper. I think she’s one of the top two or three goalkeepers in her (senior) class in the state easy. She has Division-I height. She’s got good hands and can jump. She’s a dominating presence on set pieces,” Zoeller said. Senior Paige Pardue and junior Kate Richardson are the top attacking reserves, while Zoeller can call on junior wing Annie Cooper, sophomore wing Hailey Hart, sophomore middle Olivia Pardue and freshman middles Morgan Thompson and Alison Blaiklock to give his midfielders a rest. Should Lucas need a break, Zoeller will turn to freshman Audrey Duke or sophomore Jasmine Brissett. “We’ve got a nice group of 20. We carried 19 last year and I think we’re much deeper this year. Our depth has gotten better, so that’s a positive,” said Zoeller, who’s assisted by Dodd Caudill, Shige Iwahara, Jon Parsons, former Elizabethtown boys’ player Mike Bennett and former Elizabethtown girls’ player Lindsey Alicna. “They’re ready to play and I think they’ll prove people wrong and show they can play.” Nathaniel Bryan can be reached at 505-1758