A returning player with Hawkeye 10 Conference recognition and several others showing improvement from off-season work has Kim Lauffer encouraged as she enters her second year as Creston girls soccer coach.
All but four players return from last year’s inexperienced team that completed an 0-13 season, including 0-5 against conference opponents. However, many of those matches were competitive, such as a 1-0 regional loss to Atlantic, and Lauffer hopes the improvement she’s seeing will turn the corner in some of those close contests.
“Last year, we just couldn’t seem to finish,” Lauffer said. “This year, I told the girls we have to be in shape to finish the end of games. It’s going well. I feel so much more organized. It is easier this year, having gone through it once.”
Lauffer is again assisted by Jerry Hartman, whose daughter Savannah returns as the key offensive threat in the lineup. She returns to the forward position along with sophomore Abbie Cook. Others who could play up front include Jenna Hayes, Toni VanScoy and Selena Sampson.
“Savannah has made significant improvement,” Lauffer said. “She can think tactically and make good runs. Savannah went with Michelle Powers, Sadie Jones and Corissa Kinkade on a U16 or U18 team with the boys that Bob Irr had last fall. It was a good experience for them.”
Jones returns for her senior campaign as the goalkeeper after earning team MVP honors a year ago. Her efforts kept many matches close last year, Lauffer said.
“Sadie had some wonderful saves last year,” Lauffer said. “It’s key for her to be a leader and stay positive, so the rest of the defense can follow her lead. Becca Ross is also working at keeper, and both of them can play on the field if needed. Becca can help us on defense when Sadie is in goal.”
This year’s defense is missing one-half of the duo that gained Hawkeye 10 honorable mention a year ago. Junior Brenna Baker underwent knee surgery during the basketball season and will miss the entire season.
However, junior Hanna Luther is back and will anchor the middle of the defense.
“I see Hanna in a primary defensive position,” Lauffer said. “We might try a flat four instead of a diamond formation this year, but she will be in the center. We’re not sure who the other center back will be yet.”
Sophomore Maddie Travis gained defensive experience last year. Itzayanna Rubio and Ryan Vasquez saw time at midfield, but could help on defense as well.
The Panthers lost three seniors from last year’s team — Emily Lange, Mackenzie Andreasen and McKenna Thatcher — but three new players could figure into key varsity roles right away.
Junior Carolina Ibarra recently moved to the district from Chicago, where she had experience playing soccer. Sophomores Shelby Palser and Alyssa Higgins also show promise in their first season of soccer.
“Carolina will definitely help us somewhere, because she has some good technique,” Lauffer said. “I just don’t know where yet. Shelby Palser and Alyssa Higgins also show potential. We’re just working on them catching up on some of the techniques. They are definitely athletic enough to help.”
Senior Michelle Powers — one of three co-captains along with Luther and Jones — leads the corps of midfielders. Kinkade, Vasquez, Hayes, Sampson and Ashley Knipfer are also solid candidates.
“I really feel like this is a good group in terms of their mentality and approach,” Lauffer said.
The Panthers open their season in a girl-boy home doubleheader against Council Bluffs St. Albert Monday, starting at 5 p.m. The team travels to Harlan Tuesday before returning home Thursday against Valley (Nodaway Valley/West Central Valley/Adair-Casey).
Based on last year, Lauffer expects Lewis Central, Glenwood and Denison-Schleswig to be top Hawkeye 10 contenders this season.
The Panther Tournament will be held May 10, also involving Centerville and Underwood.
(* — Returning letterwinner)
Seniors — Ryan Vasquez*, Michelle Powers*, Sadie Jones*, Itzayanna Rubio*.
Juniors — Savannah Hartman*, Carolina Ibarra, Jenna Hayes, Ashley Knipfer, Toni VanScoy, Megan Wilker, Hanna Luther*, Angelica Clayton.
Sophomores — Abbie Cook*, Micah McCutchan, Maddie Travis*, Corissa Kinkade*, Shelby Palser, Selena Sampson*, Alyssa Higgins, Crystal Zamora, Becca Ross.
Freshmen — Sabrina Lapcheske, Katie Powers, Mackenzie Norton, Logan Pettit, Livi Hartman, Bretta Shawler.
Managers — Parker VanPelt and Ashley Eblen.
April 7 — vs. C.B. St. Albert, 5 p.m.
April 8 — at Harlan, 6 p.m.
April 10 — vs. Valley (NV-A-C/WCV), 6:30 p.m.
April 15 — at Carroll Kuemper Catholic, 5 p.m.
April 17 — vs. Denison-Schleswig, 4:30 p.m.
April 22 — at Chariton, 6:30 p.m.
April 29 — at Lewis Central, 4:30 p.m.
May 5 — vs. Chariton, 6:30 p.m.
May 10 — Creston tournament (Centerville, Underwood), 9 a.m.
May 13 — at Atlantic, 6:30 p.m.
May 15 — vs. Glenwood, 6:30 p.m.
May 20 — vs. Winterset, 6:30 p.m.
May 27 — at Carlisle, 7 p.m.
June 3 — Regional match