WAXHAW – The Marvin Ridge girls soccer team has never had a losing season in its history, and despite some possible struggles early on, the Mavs plan on being right in the mix once again this year.
However, they do look different from the team that went 21-4, won the Southern Carolinas Conference and advanced to the fourth round of the 3A playoffs.
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First off, junior defender Maddy Baucom decided to play club soccer, leaving a big whole from the Virginia Tech commit. Then, would-be senior goalkeeper Logan Boggs, a Topdrawersoccer.com pre-season all-American watch list nominee, graduated early to leave for the University of Kentucky’s soccer program.
Coach Keith Koteles doesn’t blame either of them for their decisions, but now he’s had to scramble to fill the holes.
And this season he’s brought on six freshmen, the most he’s had in six years, to try to patch the holes until things start to gel.
But that’s not going to be easy either, as the first six games on the schedule are as tough as the Mavs may have ever faced.
“This is probably the toughest schedule we’ve put together.” Koteles said. “Straight across the board, we’re playing top-20 caliber teams. We’re playing the defending state champions (East Chapel Hill) this weekend, Cox Mill is a top-five team, Ardrey Kell is always tough and South Meck is always tough. Ashley High School is a top 15 team, so it has to be one of the toughest schedules we’ve had for sure.”
The Mavs lost the first two games, both by 1-0 scores, but there’s a long way to go until the end of the season and there is a lot of improvements to be had.
“Instead of letting these two games get to us, it’s the harder we work, the better we’ll get,” said junior defender Brooke Lavelle. “We need to figure out who works best where and it might take a little bit of time, but we’ll get the hang of it.”
One big strength of the Mavs this season is the defense, which returns mostly intact minus the large hole left in goal.
Koteles said around three years ago he noticed Lia Doohan at the middle school. She was playing a field position at the time, and the line of players in her way of becoming a varsity starter was long.
The coach suggested she think about becoming a goalkeeper, and Doohan was a quick study.
She spent the past couple of years on the Marvin Ridge JV team and now she’s the unquestioned starting goalkeeper as a freshman for a team that expects big things.
But, so far, she’s more than held her own.
“There have been some freshman jitters, but she’s come up with multiple big saves,” Koteles said. “That confidence is up there, and we need to keep it up there. She’s young and we realize she’s going to make mistakes, but it’s not based solely on her. It’s all 21 players, but she’s played really well.”
To allow just one goal each to Cox Mill, which was played in a cold rain, and South Meck says a lot about the potential of the defense and their new keeper.
The Mavs have had their chances on the other side of the field, too, but haven’t yet found the back of the net.
There’s no cause for concern just yet as the Mavs know the scoring will come.
“We’re getting to know the girls, and it’s a young team,” said senior forward Cameron Joffe. “We’re figuring out where some of the freshmen and even some of the sophomores are going to fit in.”
One freshman in particular, Ava McKee, has made an immediate impact in the midfield, which should help the offense as a whole.
“That girl can play wherever you need her, but right now she’s our holding midfielder,” Koteles said. “I knew she was going to be good, but the way she’s stepped in it’s almost like she’s been here two or three years. She knows the game. She just gets it, understands it, she’s a quick learner and she plays at a very high level. It’s hard to come by those who just get it.”
Lavelle (21 goals and 11 assists last season) and Madison Cobb (21 goals and five assists) were the leading scorers last year, but the Mavs need Lily Jones (12 goals and 12 assists), Joffe (nine goals, four assists) and Navy commit Lauren Huffstetler (seven goals and three assists) to get into rhythm.
Cobb said the team mostly is in a 4-4-2 formation, but better switching and communicating could lead to more chances.
“The wins will come, and it’s going to make those wins that much more meaningful,” Koteles said. “It’s all about patience. If we stay on track, we’re going to be OK. After our first six games, we could easily be 0-6, but we’re still going to be a good team. We may get knocked down in the preseason polls, but that doesn’t matter.”
The record may take some hits in the beginning of the year as long as they don’t panic, which is not an option for a team ripe with talent and possibility.
“We looked a lot better in the second half of both games and in game two,” Koteles said. “We’re very young and learning, so even with a 1-0 result, there were some positives with that. Both games were tieable or winnable games, we just need to learn to finish. There’s nothing to panic about. We’re two games in and we have a 21-game schedule, so I always tell the girls it’s not about winning, it’s about growing.”
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