(Sept. 6, 2013) Coach Misty Bunting said the Stephen Decatur girls’ soccer team is “pretty young,” with only three seniors on her 20-player roster, but the squad is strong and has “more depth than in past years.”
“We can give the starting 11 a breather without losing a step on the field,” said Bunting, now in her seventh season at the helm. “I think we’re strongest down the middle of the field–that’s where we have experience–but we really don’t have any weak links on the field.”
Eleven Lady Seahawks are returning from last year, when the squad finished with an 11-2-1 record. Decatur lost 6-2 to Atholton in the semifinal round of the 3A East Regional tournament.
Five players graduated, four of whom were in the starting line-up. Seven of last year’s starters were underclassmen: one freshman, three sophomores and three juniors. Half of Bunting’s 2012 roster consisted of ninth and 10th graders.
Eleven girls who competed last season have returned to the field this year.
Bunting will look to her three senior captains–Rebecca Lederman, Liz Rougcher and Rebecca Haskell–to lead the 2013 squad.
“The seniors are great leaders and role models on and off the field,” Bunting said. “They’ve done an exceptional job. Most importantly, they’re leading by example.”
Rougcher (All-Bayside Conference First Team 2012) will control the midfield.
Lederman played in the back at the sweeper position for most of the 2012 season, but when the Seahawks struggled to put the ball in the net, Bunting moved her to the forward line to get the job done. This year, Lederman, who received All-Bayside Conference First Team honors in 2012, will play up top.
“I’ve either been playing forward or center back for my club team and travel team and since I am going to be playing forward in college…it’s going to help me get used to what I need to do,” said Lederman, a four-year player. “You don’t just play defense in the defense position, you play defense on [the] forward [line], so my experience in the back will help me play forward.”
Haskell had hip labrum surgery in the spring and she has recovered faster than expected. Bunting said Haskell will make a huge impact in the defensive end.
“I’m feeling good. I am practicing now and slowly getting back into playing,” said Haskell, a four-year player. “I’m definitely looking forward to the season, especially since I wasn’t expected to play as early as I am.”
Also back to compete is 2012 Second Team All-Conference player, sophomore Alexis McDonough (defense), and Honorable Mention recipients, juniors Jillian Petito (center midfield) and Allyson Beck, who will anchor the defense, with Jenna Leitgeb, a junior. Junior Payton VanKirk (midfield/forward) returns as well.
Rachel Bourne, a junior newcomer to the team, will contribute on the forward/midfield lines.
Bunting has six freshmen this season, the most she said she’s ever carried on varsity.
“These girls are definitely varsity-caliber players. They have good skills, they’re smart, they have good field sense and they’re very coachable,” Bunting said. “They can develop quicker into more mature soccer players playing at the varsity level.”
The Seahawks had a successful 2012 season and they hope to build on what they accomplished last year and advance further into the post-season.
“When we started the season this year, it was a lot more intense than last year, which is crucial,” Haskell said. “Practice makes perfect, so if you’re working hard at practice then you’re going to play [well] in the games.”
Added Lederman, “We’re a young team this year but they’re really driven and they want it. They all have heart so I think we’ll be good this year.”