For the past few seasons, the Newton girls soccer team hasn’t had to worry where its goals would come from thanks to Megan Wright.
With Wright now scoring goals at the collegiate level, however, the Cardinals will need to dig deeper to help replace her. Luckily for them, a majority of last year’s team will return to help fill that void.
An even bigger challenge than losing Wright was finding practice time due to the weather and Spring Break. Aside from an indoor tournament at William Penn University in February, the Cardinals haven’t had much practice time to help prepare for the upcoming season. But with a good base of returning players, the transition process might not be as bad as it could be.
“A lot of what we’ve done is get the girls in shape because we haven’t even played on grass yet,” Newton coach Sackda Viravong said. “Most of the girls probably haven’t touched a soccer ball in six or seven months, so we’re just trying to get them comfortable again.”
Helping fill the void left by Wright is a strong senior class and key returners from last year. Junior Amber Karsten is the team’s top returning goal scorer with nine last season, while seniors Stevi Eggers, Kaylie Rhoads and Kristin Samson combined for another 14. Five other returning players scored at least one goal, which is encouraging for a team that could be looking for some offense early in the year.
“We have to a replace a big goal scorer on our team,” Viravong said. “But we have a core of solid players that should help, especially if we’re shuffling people around.”
The returning cast that includes experienced seniors Katelyn McCarey and Jenny Johnson also features underclassmen like sophomores Madison Dlouhy, Rylie Udelhoven and Michaela Jacobsen, who saw plenty of time in the backfield last year.
Sophomore Anna Barr contributed two goals in her freshman campaign, while sophomore Macy Leonard and junior Bailey Beaderstadt each contributed one. Junior Paige Reed will be missed on the roster due to a knee injury, but Viravong says freshman Victoria Jordan could step in and make an impact.
Althought there is plenty of room for change and shifts in the Cardinals’ lineup, one area that is set is the goal with goalkeeper Emily Forsyth. Forsyth started every one of Newton’s games last season, and will likely do the same this season as the lineups shift around her.
“It’ll be the same as this year because we’ll have a lot of new players in new positions,” Viravong said. “There might be a few underclassmen as well, so I could see a few players step in ready to play, although they need to get in shape first.”
It won’t be an easy go right out the gate for the Cards, as their season unofficially begins with a scrimmage against Prairie City-Monroe at H.A. Lynn Stadium tonight at 6 p.m. From there, the Cardinals will host Ballard on Thursday and travel to a tournament at Southeast Polk on Saturday, where they will face Indianola and PCM once again.