Fairfield hosts the eight conference teams –
Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
A warm summer day greeted the girls and boys soccer teams of the Southern Hills Athletic Conference on Saturday, Aug. 12 at Fairfield High School for the 2017 SHAC Soccer Preview. Fairfield is in the process of building a beautiful new soccer/track facility and they were given the honor of hosting this year’s preview, where the theme for the day seemed to be missing players, either injured or on vacation.
The format for the preview was simple, each match up was one 30-minute half with a running clock and the first two teams to take the pitch were the Peebles Lady Indians and the defending SHAC champion Lynchburg-Clay Lady Mustangs. The Lady Indians under coach Gus Denzik look to be much improved in 2017 and stayed right with the Lynchburg girls for 30 minutes.
The Lady Mustangs scored a goal in the first five minutes, but that was it as the Peebles defense and the work of keeper Harley Griffith kept any further shots from getting in the net. The Peebles offense struggled, unable to score, and the half ended with Lynchburg on top 1-0, but Coach Denzik was still optimistic about the upcoming season.
“Going into a match up like this with a Final Four team from last year, You just go in thinking that you don’t want to embarrass yourself,” said Coach Denzik. “We’ve had some rough seasons but we have some really good players coming into our system this year. We’ve had some scrimmage success already, beating Eastern Brown, West Union, and North Adams. We lost to Wheelersburg but they are a very strong team in the district.”
“We’re still not 100%, we have some injuries we are dealing with and our roster is not as big as it has been in recent years. The big thing for us before the start of the regular season will be trying to keep everyone healthy and we have got to put balls in the back of the net on offense. We are more dangerous in that area this year than we have ever been.”
Next up was Coach Brian Seaman and the Peebles boys, also battling Lynchburg-Clay, with the Mustangs coming out on top in the half by a count of 3-0, getting goals from Damin Pierson and Austin Hilt, and then a third when a perfect corner kick from Hilt was headed in by Mason Barrett.
“We had our Alumni Game last night and our boys played much better,” said Coach Seaman. “We were missing four starters today and coming from last year, we lost our number one goalkeeper, our number one scorer, and our number one defensive guy, so we have some holes to fill. We have 20 on our roster and today we came with 12.”
“Maybe the 80 minutes last night took a toll on their 30 minutes today, but we will be much better this year than what we showed today. We were probably playing the best team in the league here today, but Peebles will be very good this year and we will be ready to go when we are full strength.”
Coming on for the next match up were the North Adams Lady Devils and head coach Dave D’Avignon, facing off with the Ripley Lady Jays. Ripley scored first at the 18:10 mark, but less than two minutes later, a goal by North Adams’ Lakyn Hupp tied the scored. It remained at 1-1 the rest of the way, though Hupp came close to snapping the deadlock, hitting the top crossbar with a shot with nine minutes left.
“We kept the ball around their goal a lot, and we had a lot of shots, 15 or 16, but just one goal, and that has to change,” said Coach D’Avignon. “They had one shot, one goal, and we just can’t let up and let teams hang around. We have the pieces, we have the talent, and we’ll be ready when the bell rings.”
The North Adams boys’ squad, led by Coach Ike Wooten, followed and put on an impressive performance, downing Ripley 3-0 in the 30 minutes of action. The Devils got a goal from Duncan Hesler, then a second from Austin Lloyd, and finished with a Tray Brand goal at the 5:18 mark.
“We still wasted a few scoring opportunities and they got a couple of runs into our half, but nothing major possession wise,” said Coach Wooten. “Our defensive back line is really young and they held together very well given the pressure and Ripley’s physical play. It’s a process for us to just keep getting better.”
If we can always stay focused and execute our game plans, we will be fine.”
After two match ups between Eastern Brown and Fayetteville, it was time for Coach Kevin Hunter and the West Union Lady Dragons to make their appearance, facing the host Lady Lions, Fairfield scored first when freshman Alexia Sheppard got past the West Union defense and beat West Union keeper Caitlin Cooper for a 1-0 advantage. Sheppard scored again just three minutes later when Cooper came out of the goal to challenge and Sheppard slipped it past her and into the net. That as the end of the scoring in the half with Fairfield coming out on top 2-0.
“We have seven new girls on the team this year and we still have some things we need to work on,” said Coach Hunter. “We need to get in better shape, and we’re missing a couple of girls today, so it will eventually all come together. I’m excited to see what we can do and it might be mid-season before we hit our full potential.”
“I think we will be the underdog in most of our conference games, but we are looking for a good season once we get some game experience under our belts.”
Hunter is pulling double duty this fall, also coaching the West Union boys, and the Dragons closed out the preview facing host Fairfield. The West Union boys have a very athletic bunch in 2017 and they showed it at the preview, dominating field position and blanking the Lions 3-0, even with just 11 players available.
Conner Campbell got the scoring started with 16:25 to play, banging one in with the left foot from about 10 yards out. Five minutes later it was Nathan Music finding the back of the net for a 2-0 lead for West Union. The final goal of the preview came from the Dragons’ Brycen Staten who found the ball after a scramble in front and knocked it home.
“I think just having 11 guys helped us out because it kept us in the same dynamic for the whole 20 minutes, even though I kept moving people around,” said Hunter. “We worked the ball around real well tonight, but I don’t want them to get caught up so much in working the ball that they neglect shooting the ball. And we don’t want them to get caught up in shooting and forget the passing, there has to be a balance. It will be interesting to see what this season holds for us.”
After another week of practices and scrimmages, the Adams County squads are now ready to begin the regular season. North Adams opened on Saturday, Aug. 19 with girls and boys games at Albany Alexander, Peebles opens on Wednesday, Aug. 23, hosting Ripley, and also on Aug. 23, West Union opens with a trip across the Ohio River to battle Mason County.