The Smith-Cotton High School Girls soccer team is looking to continue its success from last season as the Lady Tigers kick off the 2016 season today at Moberly.
Last season, S-C split the West Central Conference championship with St. Pius X High School, finishing with a record of 14-8. The season ended abruptly with a loss to Jefferson City High School in the first round of the district tournament. Adam Murray enters his third season as the head coach and has 11 starters coming back, including All District and All Conference players Maddie Davidson, Jillian Vansell, Annie Guier and Brianna Pollitt.
S-C looks to rely on those players again this year, especially its senior captains, Davidson and Vansell. Davidson and Vansell both said that this year’s team has a lot of focus, but is a fun group to play with. They believe the team has improved from last season because of the players’ experience and how much depth the team has.
“I help the team out by doing everything at 100 percent … on and off the field,” Davidson said. She and Vansell expect the team to win the WCC title and compete for the district championship.
Murray has prepared his team this preseason by holding open gyms to get extra drill work in and focusing on fundamentals. The players have also independently prepared themselves for the season by getting in the weight room.
“We went to the gym to strengthen our muscles and work on speed and agility,” Vansell said, adding that the team has played indoor soccer and futsal games to improve their skills. The team has also started watching film and critiquing what they need to work on to make them as physically and mentally sound as they can be.
Murray said he has stressed “overall team defense, speed of play and our fitness as the three main points of emphasis for our team.” He wants more players getting more touches on the ball to set up more passes that will lead to goals. Murray also has set up a new formation that primarily focuses on the team defense, getting behind the ball to prevent teams from scoring more. The Lady Tigers also have been introduced to new drills that focus on their strategy of play. Conditioning has also been a major part in practices.
“The more conditioning we do, the faster we make decisions,” Murray said.
S-C recently played in a jamboree at Battle High School, where they faced Columbia Hickman, Rock Bridge and Battle. They fell to Rock Bridge and Hickman, both times by 2-0 scores, but tied Battle 0-0. Also this past Thursday, the team played in its annual Black and Gold Scrimmage. The scrimmage allowed the team to get some extra practice and experience. Murray said that he was pleased with his team’s play so far, but wants to continue to get better as the season continues.
The Lady Tigers open their season Tuesday at Moberly High School; JV starts at 5 p.m. with the varsity match following.
Jacob Kindle is a senior at Smith-Cotton High School.