Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Most Talented Ever,' but Competitors Seem to Get Better, Too

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Most Talented Ever,' but Competitors Seem to Get Better, Too

Article excerpt

Mike Gibbons has been in this position before. And quite frankly, it worries him.

"Without a doubt, this is the most talented team we've ever had," said Gibbons, the girls soccer coach at Francis Howell High. "But it seems like I say that every year and every year, the other teams in the area are just as improved. Each year, we're seeing more select-level players and because of that, the level of soccer played in the area improves."

The Vikings, who finished 5-12-1 overall and 2-5 in the Gateway At hletic Conference a year ago, figure to be particularly strong this season in the midfield, where they return an All-GACer in junior Julie Davidson (10 goals, three assists) as well as top sophomores Katie Thibodeau (six goals) and Valerie DeVerger (two goals, eight assists). Senior co-captain Stacey Mallinckrodt is the other midfield starter, with sophomore Michelle Brzezinski and senior Tracy Wotawa expected to add depth.

"Our strength is in the midfield, no doubt about that," Gibbons said. "We need the players there to come back and help on defense and also to step up and contribute to the offense.

"We graduated almost everyone on defense and scoring goals is the key to any soccer team. If we're going to be successful, the midfielders are going to have to lead the way."

Kate Newlin, a third-year starter, figures to start at one forward spot while fellow junior Maggie Vahey is the leading candidate at the other. Other forward prospects include juniors Nikki Chesser, Cheryl Mathenia and Leah Stefanko and sophomore Hillary Ricketson.

Junior Carrie Davidson will start in goal, with freshman Denery Watts expected to split time between the varsity and junior varsity.

Elizabeth Salih, a senior co-captain along with Mallinckrodt, will be looked to as the leader of the defense at stopper. Juniors Tina Kersting and Christy Fleming join sophomore Justine Cokley as likely starters in the backfield. Reserves there include senior Holly Kuznecoff, senior Carrie Sproull and junior Carrie Burbes. …

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