Something new for the Southern Hills Athletic Conference came to Fayetteville High School on Saturday, Aug. 9 as the league hosted its first-ever Girls and Boys Soccer Preview. For many years the SHAC has hosted the annual Basketball Preview, but new for 2014 are the Soccer Preview and a Volleyball Preview, which will be held at North Adams High School on Friday, Aug. 15.
At the SHAC Soccer Preview, the first two squads from Adams County to take the field actually faced off with each other as the North Adams Lady Devils battled the Peebles Lady Indians in one 40-minute half of action, which was the format for the preview.
The Lady Devils have the opportunity to be quite an offensive powerhouse in 2014 and they showed that very quickly, getting a goal from Jordyn Kell three minutes into the half. It looked like North Adams was primed for a big half but the Peebles defense and the goaltending duo of Mary Fernandez and Shanien Swango had other ideas.
At the 23:00 mark, the Lady Indians forged a tie when Yuki Ireton was in the right place at the right time to poke a rebound home for the first Peebles score and for the next 20 minutes the two teams wrestled in a defensive struggle. The Lady Devils had a chance on an Ali England penalty kick with 14:40 left but Swango made a diving stop to keep the contest deadlocked. Swango later made another great stop on a point blank Cati Butler attempt.
Finally, with just 3:40 to play, the Lady Devils got the go-ahead score when Kitasha Mesmer made a perfect crossing pass to Butler who booted one into the upper right corner of the net making the final for the half 2-1 North Adams.
“Our girls looked really good in transition,” said North Adams head coach Dave D’Avignon after the half of play. “We looked good on defense and our first group was really outstanding. We have some new players this year that are fitting in well and we just have to work on finishing. We also can’t be giving goals away. Once we get that straightened out, we’ll be tough.”
Next on the field were the boys teams from North Adams and Peebles, an experienced Devils squad and a young and rebuilding Indians team. Two minutes into the half, the Devils jumped out in front when Aaron Pertuset beat Peebles goalie Jacob Vaughn in the left corner of the net for a 1-0 advantage. Less than five minutes later, the Devils were on the board again to go up by two goals.
The remainder of the half was a showcase for the defenses, with North Adams and goalkeeper Drew Coppock continually turning away rushes from the young but athletic Peebles front line. The Devils had one more golden opportunity with six minutes left when a penalty kick was awarded to Lee Hesler, but the kick was stopped by Vaughn and the half ended with North Adams up 2-0.
Even though they fell short in the preview, Peebles head coach Gus Denzik is still optimistic about his team.
“We have a lot of new faces out there (six freshmen),” said the Peebles head coach. “We’ve not been fed a lot from our youth program so we have a big senior group and a big freshman group and that’s going to be tough, having 14-year olds playing against 18-year olds, so it will be a rebuilding year for us in that regard.”
“The flip side of that is that our freshmen are very talented. Bostin Robinson and Tanner Arey had phenomenal seasons as eighth graders and Wade Shiveley as deep sweeper plays with speed and confidence. Fortunately, we don’t face the league’s tougher teams until later in the season which gives us time to build and we could still have a winning season and I’m excited for that.”
Coach Joe Kramer and his West Union Lady Dragons were next, facing the Fairfield Lions in half of play that was totally dominated by the Lady Lions’ ultra-athletic senior forward Kaitlin Evans. Evans sliced and diced through an inexperienced West Union defense to rack up five goals in the 40-minute half as the Lady Lions totaled seven overall to blank the Lady Dragons, 7-0.
It was a rough preview night for Coach Kramer and his troops, but on the plus side, the team is fielding 17 girls this season, 17 who haven’t had a great deal of practice time together.
“We have a lot of new girls this season,” said Coach Kramer at the preview. “A lot of them were in band camp last week which really cut into our practice time with them.”
The final Adams County squad to take the field on Preview Night brought a new face to the coaching ranks, as Kevin Hunter made his debut as the the head man of the West Union boys soccer program as the Dragons also faced Fairfield.
The Dragons look to be much more competitive in 2014 and if they can muster any offense at all, it will be tough for opponents to get shots past the Dragons’ goalie Brady Hinkle, whose wing span takes up a lot of room in the net. The Lions did manage to sneak one under Hinkle about midway through the half, but that was all the West Union keeper was going to give up.
At the 11:00 mark, the Dragons tied the game when senior Dodge Estle found the high portion of the net over the outstretched arms of the Fairfield goalie. No one found paydirt the rest of the way and the half of play ended in a 1-1 deadlock.
All of the county squads returned to the practice fields this week preparing for the start of the 2014 regular season. The first team to kick off the season will be the North Adams Lady Devils as they travel to Bethel-Tate High School this Saturday at 11 a.m.