A new coach and a kiddie corps of soccer players. That's the challenge ahead for first-year coach Kristen Porter. Having just three seniors on the roster for a new varsity coach is not always an insurmountable thing to overcome, but by most accounts it is a challenge.
Still, Porter maintains that the Redskins' glass is half full.
"We've got 36-37 girls out. It's more than I'd hoped for," Porter said. "Last year when I coached softball, the numbers were so little. I'm not used to having this many kids to pick from."
"I'm going to pick 20 girls to be on the varsity and we'll announce it (Friday). We'll pick the captains on Monday."
Not just a good number of girls, but quality also.
"We have such good players. I feel lucky that I have such a good batch of players," Porter said. "I didn't expect that. It's great."
And while the team is predominately underclassmen (22 of them), to this point it also has been viewed by Porter as a positive.
"I fell into a really good situation here. We're going to be having freshman who will be starting on the varsity this year. It's a pleasant surprise," she said. "There are sophomores right now that got playing time on the varsity last year as freshman. Sam Limbach is one of them. We have two goalies. Steph and Sam. Steph will probably start, but Sam's also really good and she's just a sophomore."
Steph is senior leader Steph Wiekert and Sam is sophomore Sam Limbach.
"We've got some forwards like Amanda Grant (freshman) who, in practice, I can't believe how she plays," Porter said. "Her scoring ability is incredible. I'm excited to see what happens."
A partial tentative starting lineup for Morris' opener at home on Tuesday against Hall includes: Wiekert, Emily Ashworth, Cara Cummings, Kirsten Galloway, Ashlee Tapia, Emily Burling, Katherine Gallick, Grant and Alexa Rain with the final two spots still up for grabs.
"There are a few girls that I can't tell who's the strongest yet," Porter admitted. "(Friday) we are going to have a defensive practice and that's what we are going to focus on. Hopefully then I'll have a better idea."
Much of the emphasis in the Morris camp to this point has been on the defense — which means a lot of it leans large on the keeper.
"We have a really strong defense with Cara Cummings as our center," Wiekert said. "She's good at talking to the girls and communicating where she is going to go. It's just about talking to each other."
Talking is something that Wiekert says comes with being a keeper at the varsity level, as well.
"You're always yelling and talking and directing them to be where you want them on the field. Positioning them where they need to be," Wiekert said. "When the ball is on the other half of the field, I'll direct them a little bit, but if there is a breakaway coming down, I'll yell more in order to get them exactly where I want them to be."
Which is important when it comes to running the defense Porter wants.
"I've been talking with Steph about it and asking her what she is the most comfortable with because she is the one that's going to be in the goal. I want her to be comfortable," Porter said. "I'm thinking this first game against Hall we're going to run both defenses and see what works. Probably open with the diamond defense first, but we're probably looking at running the four-flat down the road. Ultimately it's what Steph is the most comfortable with.
"Diamond is something that I'm more familiar with and right now I'd feel more secure running that. But we have such good players that are quick enough to run the four flat."
Regardless, everyone on the Redskins is hoping to cash in a few more victories this spring than last.
"We were 6-11-1 last year, but that does not surprise me considering how good the conference is," Porter said. "We want to be very competitive in conference and finish better than we did last year.
"We have a top-notch conference. A lot of the girls in this conference plays year round. DeKalb, Kaneland, Sycamore — they are all top notch. We're going to have to deal with it. We're going to have to find a way to beat them."
Wiekert thinks that making headway during the season, and specifically during the conference part of the schedule comes down to togetherness and team work.
"I think with this team, as long as we stay together I think we'll do better in conference this yea," she said. "We've always been decent, but if we keep our heads in the game, we can do it."
In terms of goals, it would seem that simple wins and losses could determine the success of this year's group of Redskins.
"We've sat down and talked about it a few times, but we haven't set specific goals, besides that we want more of a winning season than we had last year," Wiekert said. "Everyone wants to win a regional, which could happen, but think coming out with more wins and losses would make it a good season."