Lady Mavs look to build on last year’s success
After going undefeated in their division last year, Anderson County Girls Soccer is gearing up for another season with a larger team.
There will be 26 players for the Mavs this year, and head Coach Chris Curtin says they’re looking good.
“I feel really good about where we are,” he said. “We have 10 new freshmen, more than any other class. It’s a big roster. We have several freshmen and a couple other players that have just come on. I’m really excited about several of the freshmen coming in, and we got a senior that just started playing with us.”
The team graduated four seniors last year, and injuries kept some players out.
“We’ve got Morgan Irwin coming back from an ACL tear,” said Curtin. “And Madyson Haire coming back from a concussion that kept her out for most of the season. We’ve got a lot of experience on the field that’s nice and spread out. The real standout in the new class is Delaney Wade. She’s really athletic and has a strong work ethic, so we’re excited to have her. A lot of the freshmen are coming on really strong and picking things up really well.”
Allyssa Wetherington will be the primary goalkeeper this year, but spectators might see freshman Julia Vandagriff getting time in the goal as well. Curtin says the older Wetherington has been giving the freshman goalkeeping instruction, and Vandagriff taking over at the net will give Wetherington some time out on the field.
On the offensive side, Morgan and McKinley Irwin will be in the wings, along with Hayllynn Willis, a sophomore, and Tori Wetherington; while on defense, spectators will see Haire, Thelma Gudino, Wade, Caroline Spurling, and Anderson. Mid-field will have the likes of Karanna Bailey, a senior who has been an anchor for the Mavs, and Victoria Laster.
“We’ve got a solid crew,” Curtin said. “I don’t feel like there are any holes on the field that are weak points this year. We’ve got a lot of depth.”
As with all sports, COVID-19 has affected the Lady Mavs’ ability to practice effectively, and has been a challenge to the coaching staff.
“We’re finally back to a normal practice, but prior to that, it was very interesting and pushed us as coaches, especially our new assistant coach, Stephanie Stooksbury,” Curtin said. “It really pushed us to come up with practices that still were meaningful but kept up with the requirements.”
The pressure is especially on for the Mavs to be ready when the season starts, with the likes of Livingston Academy to start the season off. The Mavs fought Livingston Academy to a standstill last year, with neither team scoring even a single point until overtime. Ultimately that game was decided by penalty kicks. Curtin said that Oak Ridge will probably be the team’s hardest game, though.
Even with all of the uncertainty, Curtin said he thinks it might ultimately have helped the team.
“We’ve tried to work to build a solid passing program in the past few years and so obviously with the no contact, that really just enhanced that even more,” he said. “They weren’t able to play any other way really, so there was a lot of pass work. They moved the ball really well, and I’m excited to see what that looks like in the final third this year. Last year, typically our passing ratio was much higher in the first two-thirds and not too much in the final third, so I’m excited to see how that’s changed this year.
“In addition to the abilitiy to pass the ball well, and do so under pressure, I think there is depth across the field,” he said. “And I think a lot of that is a result of [having] lots more players playing year round and lots more players playing in feeder programs. And that makes a difference because if you don’t have players in feeder programs ... it makes it difficult to make a solid team.”
The Lady Mavs’ first game is 6:30 p.m. Aug. 18 vs. Livingston Academy at home.