Ashlynn Dean

Hillsboro’s Ashlynn Dean dribbles the ball while being marked by Caitlynn Johnson of Festus during the season-opener for both teams on March 19.

Since 2017, Festus and Hillsboro have opened the girls soccer season against each other. The Hawks have won each time against their Jefferson County Activities Association rivals. In their season-opener on March 19 in Hillsboro, the Hawks made it three opening-day shutouts in a row, this time 4-0, and showed no ill effects from the loss of the 2020 season to the coronavirus.

 

Junior Colleen Theiss scored two goals and added an assist for Hillsboro. Seniors Gracie Schmitt and Zoe Wood also scored for the Hawks while Baylei Clubb started in goal and made eight saves for the shutout.

“She had a great night,” Hillsboro head coach Sam Nansel said of

Theiss, a center attacking midfielder. “All the girls did. I sent them a message the day after the win telling them how proud I was of how well we played.

“Going into the season, I didn’t know what to expect. Chris (Schacht) and I were thinking last year was going to be rebuilding. Then they didn’t get that experience by not playing those games.”

Nansel was hired last summer to succeed Chris Schacht as Hillsboro’s head coach for the boys and girls teams. Nansel played goalie for Hillsboro in his prep days and was the longtime assistant to Schacht, who is now the school’s activities director. Nansel said as an assistant he was the players’ “fun uncle,” but that role has necessarily changed somewhat.

“My expectations are simple: Win some games and have some fun,” Nansel said. “I have a good group of girls this year and I’m looking forward to this season. Our goal is to win the district championship, then go from there.”

The Hawks won the Class 3 District 2 championship in 2017 and 2018 before relinquishing it to Windsor 1-0 in the 2019 district final.

Hillsboro travels to Cape Girardeau for a tournament at Notre Dame this weekend. The Hawks will play 2019 district champions in the Bulldogs (Class 2) and the Cape Central Tigers (Class 3).

“This is one of the toughest schedules we’ve had in recent years,” Nansel said. “I enjoy playing a challenging schedule because it gives a true gauge of what we need to work on, and where we need to improve in order to get where we want to be at the end of the season. One of the challenges with playing tough teams is not losing focus on our goals through the ups and downs of the season.”

That is achievable if the last line of defense can make up for mistakes and steal goals with great saves. Senior MacKenzie Baker resumes her starting position in goal for the Hawks after being named all-JCAA honorable mention in 2019, when she posted nine shutouts and a 1.16 goals-against average. She was unable to play in last week’s opener because of a commitment to her club volleyball team.

“Her experience and winning mentality will be important for our more inexperienced players,” Nansel said. “When she was a freshman she had never played soccer in her life and was a blank canvas. I got to train her to play exactly the way I wanted and we grew a great bond.”

Center backs Nicole Evans (senior) and Miranda Gallaway (junior) will be counted on to keep Hillsboro’s back line organized in blunting opposing offenses.

Nansel said several sophomores are making an impact at the varsity level. Clubb, Carolyn Leonard and Mikaela Smith all will see plenty of action this season.

“I’m looking forward to their contributions and watching them grow,” Nansel said.

Several players are battling for starting roles in the Hawks’ double-pivot midfield. They include juniors Bella Stephens and Ashlynn Dean and seniors Emily Woodham and Alex Wick.

Outside midfielders Flynn Perry (junior) and Gracie Schmitt (senior) will be key to Hillsboro’s offensive success. Nansel said Schmitt stepped into a leadership role after coming to all of the offseason practices.

Clubb will play striker along with senior Zoe Wood, who is strong on the ball.

“Friday night was the first Hillsboro girls soccer game since May 8, 2019,” Nansel said. “It meant a lot to the girls and you could tell they were excited to get out there and play.

“The biggest strength of this team is their willingness to listen and learn,” he added. “The girls on this team are intelligent and learn from their mistakes.”

Dragons learning the game as they play it

 

The fortunes of De Soto’s girls soccer team appeared not to have improved much on March 19, when the Dragons took the field for the first time since May, 2019.

Coming off a long hiatus imposed by COVID-19, De Soto hosted Fredericktown and came out on the short end of a 9-1 score. The Blackcats had blown out the Dragons 9-0 early in the 2019 season.

So De Soto still has work to do to become competitive after finishing 3-16-2 two years ago. Head coach Nate Reiser is trying to teach the fine points of soccer to a team populated mostly by athletes who excel in other sports.

“My goals revolve around the love of the game,” said Reiser, who is starting his ninth season with the team. “Since our girls play multiple sports, my hope is that all players leave here excited about their soccer experience. Our girls will work hard in every game and challenge every team we play.”

Center midfielder Emma Tucker is the only Dragon who plays soccer year-round. Reiser called her the key to the team’s success.

“She has a lot of talent and desire,” he said. “She is a strong player and we are working to build stronger players around her.”

Midfielder Abby Pope played goalie before this season, but her talents in the field were needed more, Reiser said. “She has incredible field ability.”

Also in the midfield is Riley Coleman, who has raised her defensive game. She scored the Dragons’ lone goal against Fredericktown.

Reiser said he’s counting on Kamryn Pehle and Bailey Howard to anchor the defense. “(They) have been the strength of our back line for three years,” the coach said. “Now in their senior year, they have the maturity to lead the next generation of defenders.”

Shelby Kohler, another senior, got the start in goal against Fredericktown. Two years ago, she allowed 13 goals in 370 minutes and posted a record of 2-1-1 with one shutout.

“Having lost a year of soccer, we are still forming our style,” Reiser said. “Our girls are multi-sport athletes, so most of (them) have not played significant amounts of soccer for two years.”

Tigers hit reset button with new coaches

With a new coaching staff and players coming off a 2020 spring season voided by the coronavirus, the Festus girls soccer team is like a lump of clay, ready for molding.

Caleb Zustiak replaces Drew Clinton as the Tigers’ head coach, with Katelynn Penrod the new assistant coach, as Festus tries to boost a program that has struggled to compete against Jefferson County Activities Association stalwarts Perryville, Hillsboro and Windsor.

“We are a young team, we have a new coaching staff and the players missed an entire season due to the pandemic,” Zustiak said. “We are still experimenting with personnel and formations to discover our style of play. We are working toward a buildup style utilizing several (groups) of players. But that kind of play only happens with time and experience. 

“This will be a year of discovery for all of us. But we have a great group of athletes to work with, so it will happen sooner rather than later.”

Festus opened the season March 19 with a 4-0 loss at Hillsboro. The Hawks have shut out the Tigers in three straight season-openers.

Junior Alayna Erxleben starts in goal for Festus and Zustiak said she’s an essential part of the team because she commands the defense and helps mentor the newer players. Freshmen Mady Geiler and Zoe Erxleben are the backup keepers.

Some of the Tigers’ top offensive players are junior striker Emily Holt and midfielders Lillie Williams, a junior, and sophomore Jersey Moonier. The trio gives the Tigers an attacking threat from all parts of the field.

“They have played with each other, move the ball well, can shoot from the inside or outside and have great foot skills,” Zustiak said. “I believe all three would be starters on almost any area team. They lead by example on the field and at practices.”

Freshmen attackers Joselynn Yates and Caitlynn Johnson will be working alongside that trio and learning from them as they gain experience.

“Although they are freshmen, they bring experience from youth soccer and are already making a positive difference in our attack,” Zustiak said.

Seniors Ella Werner, a midfielder, and striker Lily Myers also will contribute additional versatility to the Festus offense.

Another pair of seniors, Gretchen Burkard and Emma Horsley, anchor the midfield and protect the back line. Neither player had soccer experience as freshmen, but as seniors they have developed into essential parts of the formation.

“They have a high work rate, look for intelligent passes, and break up attacking play from the opposing team,” Zustiak said.

Riley Vogel is another talented freshman who works hard on the back line, breaking up attacks from the wing, setting up counterattacks and making good runs into offensive areas.

“She and our other freshmen are an important part of our program’s future and worked together to win their first JV match this past (week),” Zustiak said.

Sophomore Summer Sansoucie and junior Maddie McHawes are the starting center backs. Sansoucie has a lot of club experience and reads the field well, anticipating passes. McHawes is newer to the game but already has made great strides in learning to read the field.

Danielle Dickerson has experience in the midfield and plays center back while Sansoucie deals with an injury. Seniors Hope Green, Mia Hansel and Franchesca Merlo and underclassmen Karleigh Bayer, Zoe Erxleben, and Marli McHawes provide added defensive depth.

“While we are a young team, that is a positive as these players will get a lot of experience on varsity that will serve them well in the program’s future,” Zustiak said.

Lancers open season with win

 

Two springs ago, Rosati-Kain shut out St. Pius X 5-0, one of eight shutout losses the Lancers suffered in their 8-12-1 season of 2019.

All that was far off in the rear-view mirror Monday night as St. Pius opened its 2021 season defeating the Kougars 2-1 in the Fox Invitational in Arnold. It was the Lancers’ first action in almost two years because of the COVID-19 shutdown of all spring sports in 2020.

“It was a pretty even game. Rosati has a good program,” St. Pius head coach Aaron Portell said. “We’re young. I have three seniors, but a lot of sophomores, freshmen and juniors.”

Both of his team’s goals came in the first half. Sophomore midfielder Bella Barbagallo scored the first when she ran to the post and redirected a kick.

Junior midfielder Colleen Flanagan scored the other Lancer tally on a nicely placed shot from 20 yards out. Flanagan, a three-year starter, made the 2019 all-Jefferson County Activities Association second team as a freshman.

“She controls the middle of the field, which is so important for soccer,” Portell said. “She’s (well) conditioned, going from basketball to soccer.”

Senior A.J. Agers began her soccer career as a forward but moved to the backfield out of necessity her sophomore year. Agers, who has scored 21 career goals and was an all-JCAA first-teamer two years ago, also earned honorable mention on the Class 1 all-state team that year. Sophomore Sophie Meyer is the starting goalkeeper this year, but Agers could play there, too, if the situation dictated it.

“A.J. came in her freshman year and was the best athlete in three sports (including softball and basketball),” Portell said. “Growing up, she played goalkeeper.

“She reads the game. When you’re up top, if you’re not strong defensively you’re waiting up there. She’s much more involved in the (flow) of the game in the backfield.”

Freshman Emily Vatterott, junior Summer Meyer and senior Molly Lewis join Agers in the backfield. Vatterott is a center back with club experience.

“She’s a tremendous player,” Portell said.

Sophomore Riley Capozzo plays in the midfield. Senior Hannah Schappe and her younger sister, sophomore Sophie, both play forward.

“It was really neat to see how nervous and excited the girls were to play against Rosati,” Portell said.

Class and district assignments are due out on March 31. The Lancers were in Class 1 in 2019, but last won a district title as a Class 2 team in 2015, the same year they completed a run of four consecutive state trophies: first place in 2012, second in 2013, third in 2014 (all in Class 1) and third in 2015.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Russell KorandoFor the Leader

It’s become an annual rite of spring. Since 2017, Festus and Hillsboro have opened the girls soccer season against each other. The Hawks have won each time against their Jefferson County Activities Association rivals. In their season-opener on March 19 in Hillsboro, the Hawks made it three opening-day shutouts in a row, this time 4-0, and showed no ill effects from the loss of the 2020 season to the coronavirus.Junior Colleen Theiss scored two goals and added an assist for Hillsboro. Seniors Gracie Schmitt and Zoe Wood also scored for the Hawks while Baylei Clubb started in goal and made eight saves for the shutout.“She had a great night,” Hillsboro head coach Sam Nansel said of Theiss, a center attacking midfielder. “All the girls did. I sent them a message the day after the win telling them how proud I was of how well we played. “Going into the season, I didn’t know what to expect. Chris (Schacht) and I were thinking last year was going to be rebuilding. Then they didn’t get that experience by not playing those games.”Nansel was hired last summer to succeed Chris Schacht as Hillsboro’s head coach for the boys and girls teams. Nansel played goalie for Hillsboro in his prep days and was the longtime assistant to Schacht, who is now the school’s activities director. Nansel said as an assistant he was the players’ “fun uncle,” but that role has necessarily changed somewhat.“My expectations are simple: Win some games and have some fun,” Nansel said. “I have a good group of girls this year and I’m looking forward to this season. Our goal is to win the district championship, then go from there.”The Hawks won the Class 3 District 2 championship in 2017 and 2018 before relinquishing it to Windsor 1-0 in the 2019 district final. Hillsboro travels to Cape Girardeau for a tournament at Notre Dame this weekend. The Hawks will play 2019 district champions in the Bulldogs (Class 2) and the Cape Central Tigers (Class 3). “This is one of the toughest schedules we’ve had in recent years,” Nansel said. “I enjoy playing a challenging schedule because it gives a true gauge of what we need to work on, and where we need to improve in order to get where we want to be at the end of the season. One of the challenges with playing tough teams is not losing focus on our goals through the ups and downs of the season.”That is achievable if the last line of defense can make up for mistakes and steal goals with great saves. Senior MacKenzie Baker resumes her starting position in goal for the Hawks after being named all-JCAA honorable mention in 2019, when she posted nine shutouts and a 1.16 goals-against average. She was unable to play in last week’s opener because of a commitment to her club volleyball team.“Her experience and winning mentality will be important for our more inexperienced players,” Nansel said. “When she was a freshman she had never played soccer in her life and was a blank canvas. I got to train her to play exactly the way I wanted and we grew a great bond.”Center backs Nicole Evans (senior) and Miranda Gallaway (junior) will be counted on to keep Hillsboro’s back line organized in blunting opposing offenses. Nansel said several sophomores are making an impact at the varsity level. Clubb, Carolyn Leonard and Mikaela Smith all will see plenty of action this season.“I’m looking forward to their contributions and watching them grow,” Nansel said.Several players are battling for starting roles in the Hawks’ double-pivot midfield. They include juniors Bella Stephens and Ashlynn Dean and seniors Emily Woodham and Alex Wick.Outside midfielders Flynn Perry (junior) and Gracie Schmitt (senior) will be key to Hillsboro’s offensive success. Nansel said Schmitt stepped into a leadership role after coming to all of the offseason practices.Clubb will play striker along with senior Zoe Wood, who is strong on the ball. “Friday night was the first Hillsboro girls soccer game since May 8, 2019,” Nansel said. “It meant a lot to the girls and you could tell they were excited to get out there and play.“The biggest strength of this team is their willingness to listen and learn,” he added. “The girls on this team are intelligent and learn from their mistakes.”

Dragons learning the game as they play itThe fortunes of De Soto’s girls soccer team appeared not to have improved much on March 19, when the Dragons took the field for the first time since May, 2019.Coming off a long hiatus imposed by COVID-19, De Soto hosted Fredericktown and came out on the short end of a 9-1 score. The Blackcats had blown out the Dragons 9-0 early in the 2019 season.So De Soto still has work to do to become competitive after finishing 3-16-2 two years ago. Head coach Nate Reiser is trying to teach the fine points of soccer to a team populated mostly by athletes who excel in other sports.“My goals revolve around the love of the game,” said Reiser, who is starting his ninth season with the team. “Since our girls play multiple sports, my hope is that all players leave here excited about their soccer experience. Our girls will work hard in every game and challenge every team we play.”Center midfielder Emma Tucker is the only Dragon who plays soccer year-round. Reiser called her the key to the team’s success.“She has a lot of talent and desire,” he said. “She is a strong player and we are working to build stronger players around her.”Midfielder Abby Pope played goalie before this season, but her talents in the field were needed more, Reiser said. “She has incredible field ability.”Also in the midfield is Riley Coleman, who has raised her defensive game. She scored the Dragons’ lone goal against Fredericktown.Reiser said he’s counting on Kamryn Pehle and Bailey Howard to anchor the defense. “(They) have been the strength of our back line for three years,” the coach said. “Now in their senior year, they have the maturity to lead the next generation of defenders.”Shelby Kohler, another senior, got the start in goal against Fredericktown. Two years ago, she allowed 13 goals in 370 minutes and posted a record of 2-1-1 with one shutout.“Having lost a year of soccer, we are still forming our style,” Reiser said. “Our girls are multi-sport athletes, so most of (them) have not played significant amounts of soccer for two years.”

Tigers hit reset button with new coachesWith a new coaching staff and players coming off a 2020 spring season voided by the coronavirus, the Festus girls soccer team is like a lump of clay, ready for molding.Caleb Zustiak replaces Drew Clinton as the Tigers’ head coach, with Katelynn Penrod the new assistant coach, as Festus tries to boost a program that has struggled to compete against Jefferson County Activities Association stalwarts Perryville, Hillsboro and Windsor.“We are a young team, we have a new coaching staff and the players missed an entire season due to the pandemic,” Zustiak said. “We are still experimenting with personnel and formations to discover our style of play. We are working toward a buildup style utilizing several (groups) of players. But that kind of play only happens with time and experience. “This will be a year of discovery for all of us. But we have a great group of athletes to work with, so it will happen sooner rather than later.”Festus opened the season March 19 with a 4-0 loss at Hillsboro. The Hawks have shut out the Tigers in three straight season-openers.Junior Alayna Erxleben starts in goal for Festus and Zustiak said she’s an essential part of the team because she commands the defense and helps mentor the newer players. Freshmen Mady Geiler and Zoe Erxleben are the backup keepers.Some of the Tigers’ top offensive players are junior striker Emily Holt and midfielders Lillie Williams, a junior, and sophomore Jersey Moonier. The trio gives the Tigers an attacking threat from all parts of the field.“They have played with each other, move the ball well, can shoot from the inside or outside and have great foot skills,” Zustiak said. “I believe all three would be starters on almost any area team. They lead by example on the field and at practices.”Freshmen attackers Joselynn Yates and Caitlynn Johnson will be working alongside that trio and learning from them as they gain experience.“Although they are freshmen, they bring experience from youth soccer and are already making a positive difference in our attack,” Zustiak said.Seniors Ella Werner, a midfielder, and striker Lily Myers also will contribute additional versatility to the Festus offense.Another pair of seniors, Gretchen Burkard and Emma Horsley, anchor the midfield and protect the back line. Neither player had soccer experience as freshmen, but as seniors they have developed into essential parts of the formation.“They have a high work rate, look for intelligent passes, and break up attacking play from the opposing team,” Zustiak said.Riley Vogel is another talented freshman who works hard on the back line, breaking up attacks from the wing, setting up counterattacks and making good runs into offensive areas.“She and our other freshmen are an important part of our program’s future and worked together to win their first JV match this past (week),” Zustiak said.Sophomore Summer Sansoucie and junior Maddie McHawes are the starting center backs. Sansoucie has a lot of club experience and reads the field well, anticipating passes. McHawes is newer to the game but already has made great strides in learning to read the field.Danielle Dickerson has experience in the midfield and plays center back while Sansoucie deals with an injury. Seniors Hope Green, Mia Hansel and Franchesca Merlo and underclassmen Karleigh Bayer, Zoe Erxleben, and Marli McHawes provide added defensive depth. “While we are a young team, that is a positive as these players will get a lot of experience on varsity that will serve them well in the program’s future,” Zustiak said.

Lancers open season with winTwo springs ago, Rosati-Kain shut out St. Pius X 5-0, one of eight shutout losses the Lancers suffered in their 8-12-1 season of 2019.All that was far off in the rear-view mirror Monday night as St. Pius opened its 2021 season defeating the Kougars 2-1 in the Fox Invitational in Arnold. It was the Lancers’ first action in almost two years because of the COVID-19 shutdown of all spring sports in 2020.“It was a pretty even game. Rosati has a good program,” St. Pius head coach Aaron Portell said. “We’re young. I have three seniors, but a lot of sophomores, freshmen and juniors.”Both of his team’s goals came in the first half. Sophomore midfielder Bella Barbagallo scored the first when she ran to the post and redirected a kick.Junior midfielder Colleen Flanagan scored the other Lancer tally on a nicely placed shot from 20 yards out. Flanagan, a three-year starter, made the 2019 all-Jefferson County Activities Association second team as a freshman.“She controls the middle of the field, which is so important for soccer,” Portell said. “She’s (well) conditioned, going from basketball to soccer.”Senior A.J. Agers began her soccer career as a forward but moved to the backfield out of necessity her sophomore year. Agers, who has scored 21 career goals and was an all-JCAA first-teamer two years ago, also earned honorable mention on the Class 1 all-state team that year. Sophomore Sophie Meyer is the starting goalkeeper this year, but Agers could play there, too, if the situation dictated it.“A.J. came in her freshman year and was the best athlete in three sports (including softball and basketball),” Portell said. “Growing up, she played goalkeeper.“She reads the game. When you’re up top, if you’re not strong defensively you’re waiting up there. She’s much more involved in the (flow) of the game in the backfield.”Freshman Emily Vatterott, junior Summer Meyer and senior Molly Lewis join Agers in the backfield. Vatterott is a center back with club experience.“She’s a tremendous player,” Portell said.Sophomore Riley Capozzo plays in the midfield. Senior Hannah Schappe and her younger sister, sophomore Sophie, both play forward.“It was really neat to see how nervous and excited the girls were to play against Rosati,” Portell said.Class and district assignments are due out on March 31. The Lancers were in Class 1 in 2019, but last won a district title as a Class 2 team in 2015, the same year they completed a run of four consecutive state trophies: first place in 2012, second in 2013, third in 2014 (all in Class 1) and third in 2015.   

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