2023 season preview: LHS girls are looking to progress in year two under coach Callahan
Published 9:15 am Thursday, February 2, 2023
In the first year under head coach Jon Callahan, the LaGrange girls soccer program experienced a tremendous level of success. The girls fell just short of winning a region championship and made the second round of the state playoffs. Now, Callahan wants to raise the bar even higher for his team.
“We are still going to have games where we are going to be the favorite, but we are going to have a lot where we aren’t,” Callahan said. “We have to scrap and fight for everything in front of us. We don’t just want to challenge for a regional title, our goal is to win it.”
A new year also brought with it a new region. The Grangers will be playing in an all new region with rivals LaGrange the only carryover from the previous region.
“This new region is more top heavy but I don’t feel like any of the teams can play us off the park,” Callahan said.
Despite the youth of the team, the Grangers are chasing an even deeper playoff run in 2023.
“We have a pretty young group and I need to temper my expectations sometime,” Callahan said. “We have to be practical enough and pragmatic enough to make the best choices for our team.”
Emma Maradik got the starting nod as just a freshman last year and will fill the spot once again this year. She was named second team all-region in her first year as a starter and will look to build on that success in 2023.
“I want to see Emma be more consistent this year and as a former goalkeeper myself, it’s something I try to make sure we have a steady keeper at the back,” Callahan said. “I think Emma is going to be improved and more consistent. I also expect her to be more of a leader at the back.”
The Grangers have a new no. 2 keepers this year in freshman Hazel Chavez who will provide some depth at the position while also challenging for minutes in the lineup. She will be the starter on JV to get some valuable experience.
Junior Morgan Faucett is likely going to be one of the starters at centre-back this season. She was a quality depth piece a season ago but will have a larger role in 2023. Slotting alongside her at centre-back will be senior Maddi Gay.
“Maddi played a more attacking role for us last year, but I think with some of her chronic injuries this is the best spot for her,” Callahan said. “We want her not to put so much stress on her legs running on the wings. She will be a captain and a leader for us, and I know she will excel in her role. It’s just a matter of time.”
Sophomore Ava Arrington impressed last year as a freshman and will get the nod as one of the team’s starting full-backs this season. She has a year of experience under her belt and Callahan is expecting her to take another step forward this season as the starting left-back.
Starting on the opposite flank at right full-back will be Carlee Roland. She — like Arrington — is a key piece of what the Grangers do defensively and in attack. Roland is one of the team’s best dead ball specialists and often delivers corner and free kicks with deadly accuracy in the box.
“I hope we can be as stingy in the back as I’d like us to be as that’s where most of the focus has been through training camp,” Callahan said.
The center of the park will be anchored by senior and captain Tatum Fritchley, who offers the team a lot in defense and going forward.
“She is huge for our team,” Callahan said. “I’m very excited to see how she mentors the rest of the midfield.”
Reese Humphries is a name to watch in the middle of the park. She is just a freshman but her ability is already turning heads and could figure into the midfield equation this season.
“Reese is very much a spark plug and she wants to do everything,” Callahan said. “Tatum is going to help mentor her.”
Demi Russell is expected to be the defensive midfielder. Just a sophomore, Russell has shown a lot of potential.
“She played a lot last year but she will have a much larger role this year, and we will be asking a whole lot more out of her,” Callahan said.
Freshman Anna Poe can provide some cover at these positions despite it not being her favored position.
Sam Cottle and Karley Perry carved up defenses last season and finished as the Grangers two leading scorers last year. Cottle is in her junior season and will likely lead the lines once again for the Grangers.
“I think Sam and Karley are going to both have great years,” Callahan said. “Finding the other piece of our front three is the rub of what we are trying to do.”
Cottle is one of the team’s captains this year and is the only player that is not a senior to earn that designation this season.
Perry is just a sophomore and after a tremendous freshman season, she will be expected to carry even more of the offensive load this year.
“Karley was just a freshman last year,” Callahan said. “I didn’t want to put too much on her shoulder last year, but she did everything I asked of her.”
LaGrange is still a bit of a question mark. Callahan believes Kelsey Burks is the longtime solution as the third starting member up front but is unsure if she is the best fit right away.
“That feeling out segment is still going strong,” Callahan said. “I think Sam is best centrally even though she would be great out wide. Kelsey Burks is six foot and physical and can win everything in the air, but she doesn’t have the natural inclination for goal the way Sam does. I’m trying to feel that and figure out where Burks best fits.”
Burks could also see plenty of playing time in other parts of the field as well.
Senior Gabi Martinez can provide some cover for the forwards as well as play as a full-back. She is one of the team’s captains and an important vocal leader for the team. Freshman Amelia Rockwell could see some playing time up front as well.