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Berke new Decatur girls’ soccer team head coach

(Sept. 5, 2014) Maggie Berke was the head coach of Stephen Decatur’s girls’ JV team last year. At the end of her team’s season, she assisted Coach Misty Bunting with the varsity squad during the Lady Seahawks’ playoff run.

Having the opportunity to work with the girls and getting to know their strengths and weaknesses was beneficial as she has taken over the varsity program for 2014.

Berke said she built a relationship with the players last season, which made the transition smooth for both her and the girls as she stepped into the head coach position this year.

It also helps that of the 19 players on her roster, 15 are returning from 2013.

Berke will be assisted by Colbi Custis. Dale Krantz is coach of the JV team.

“I think we’re all very excited,” Berke said.

“Everyone’s working hard at practice and getting better every single day. That definitely comes directly from the coaching staff just really pushing us,” said senior captain Payton VanKirk. “We’re just lucky and fortunate to have such an awesome coaching staff and the transition has been easy for us and we can’t thank our school enough for hiring awesome coaches.”

Joining VanKirk, a forward/midfielder, as team captains are seniors Jenna Leitgeb and Ally Beck (2013 All-Bayside Conference Honorable Mention), who will play sweeper and stopper, respectively, and forward/midfielder Jillian Petito.

“I have three awesome captains with me–Jenna, Ally and Jillian. We get along so well and we understand what needs to be done and we all just work together to make it happen,” VanKirk said.

The girls have all been members of the varsity team since their freshman year.

“They’re natural leaders. They took on leadership roles before we even chose captains,” Berke said.

Petito earned First Team All-Conference distinction in 2013. She scored 18 goals for the Seahawks and logged eight assists last season, when the team went 8-5. She was a scoring factor in 10 of Decatur’s 13 matches. The Seahawks’ 2013 season ended with a 4-3 loss to Huntingtown in the 3A South Regional tournament Section I semifinal round.

“I think since me, Payton, Ally and Jenna have been on the team four years it’s kind of like a team effort (leading the Seahawks) and we’ve known each other for so long so the chemistry has always been there with us,” Petito said. “[The team has] been working on fitness a lot and on our footwork and I think we’re really going to do well. I think it will be a good year. I’m looking forward to it.”

With 15 veterans, Berke said “we’re starting right where we left off. We’re ready to get better and we’re ready to take this season by storm.”

“The girls came (into pre-season) prepared. They’re excited and optimistic. They have big dreams,” she said. “A shot at the Bayside Conference championship is the goal we’re working toward now.”

Stephen Decatur senior captain Jillian Petito is defended by teammate Peyton Townsend, a junior, during last Friday’s practice at the Berlin school.

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