By PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON —
The Lady Rams soccer team will try to follow up a historic season starting today in the Metro East Cup.
A year ago Mt. Vernon set a record, finishing with 15 wins. Whitney Warner piled up 37 goals to pace the Lady Rams offense.
“Clearly I’m counting on her to be a big contributor again,” Mt. Vernon coach Jeff Harrison said. “Whitney is only going to be as good as everybody who plays behind her, and last year those girls played really well and were accommodating to Whitney getting those goals.”
The players helping create opportunities for Warner will be Sydney Crews, Chandler Scarbrough in the center of midfield. Another returning midfielder is Betsey Kueker. Taylor McGowen was a versatile midfielder for the Lady Rams last season and will play on the outside this season along with other areas on the field.
“I’m going to have her again all over the field this year,” Harrison said. “I’m counting on her to do a lot of different things for me.”
Madalina Overstreet returns as a sophomore this season and moves into the starting lineup after coming off the bench her freshman season.
On defense, Harrison has Molly Koester and Kirsten McGowen who will be in the starting lineup once they are healthy. Elizabeth and Annie Jones round out the Lady Rams defensive backs. In goal Paisley Stewart is back after starting a season ago.
“Paisley’s got a few years under her belt so I’m expecting good things out of her,” Harrison said.
The preseason has been a difficult one for the Lady Rams. Inclement weather has forced the team inside for most of their practices. The focus of the team’s early season practices have centered around conditioning and passing.
“We’re really working on our touches, working on a good first touch a lot of passing,” Harrison said.
The team’s opening tournament will be on a turf field at Edwardsville, and Harrison said the practice spent on a gymnasium floor could better prepare Mt. Vernon for the quicker pace of the field surface.
“So that might have been a slight blessing, I’ll see however that plays out once we get on their field,” Harrison said.
Mt. Vernon faces Edwardsville in the opening game of the cup today. The tournament continues with a game against O’Fallon before the Rams travel to Massac County for a regular season game. The week finishes with a Saturday matchup against Waterloo.
“Some of our toughest competition is right off the bat in this tournament with Edwardsville, O’Fallon,” Harrison said. “We get a little breather with Massac.”