Highlands girls varsity soccer team hit the road to a cold and windy Smoky Mountain for their season opener. However, it wasn’t meant to be for the Lady Highlanders losing 0-4, but Head Coach Jeff Weller said coming off the heels of basketball season and with limited practice time, the girls did a great job.
“Girls played very well,” said Weller. “The team has been working very hard, but we have not had a single practice on our soccer field yet this season. And we’ve only had one practice even on grass with all the girls since basketball ended. With the amount of rains we have had, outdoor practices are a luxury we haven’t had yet. So, based on that, I was extremely pleased with how the girls played.”
Temperatures were in the low 30s, but that didn’t seem to slow players down on the field as Highlands’ defense worked to keep pressure off first-time goalie Amy Council. Highlands Betty Garcia said with the lack of field time and Council starting a new position, they played great.
“Overall, we did well, to say the least,” said Garcia. “Most girls played positions they’ve never been assigned to. Plus, we had a new keeper (Council) and she did a phenomenal job. But we need to work on our defensive line, and working together as a team.”
And the defensive line had their hands full, but Highlands Kedra McCall said they still managed to get the ball up to the forwards.
“I think we did good,” said McCall. “We haven’t had a lot of time on the field together, but I was impressed at the work of the back line and the way they moved the ball up front.”
She added that the cold wasn’t a factor unless you stopped moving and what they needed was more time on the field as a team.
“We need to work on playing ball,” said McCall. “We haven’t had any time to play together, so just playing together will help us a lot.”
Sayla Roman said under the circumstances, Highlands came out and played their best.
“We haven’t been on the field at all,” said Roman. “Considering our situation, I think we did pretty dang well.”
She added it boils down to time on the field and playing together as a team.
“We have the basic idea down,” said Roman. “But we need to improve on all the basic skills, like ball handling, we definitely need to work on that. But we’re going to be a good team.”
Weller said Highlands has a lot of young players that played in their first High School soccer game on Monday and he was pleased with what he saw.
“Hard to learn tactics, positioning, help, etc. in a gym,” said Weller. “Getting in games and getting on the field will help us to improve. Athletically we are fine. Learning the game at this level is our main focus moving forward.”
Weller added that he started 4 first-year players on Monday and 5 first year players saw a lot of time. Those 4 starters played the entire game.
“We have a great group of returning players and a strong group of first year players that will continue to improve,” he said. “I expect very good things from this group.”
Highlands plays tonight at 6 p.m. away against Murphy.
Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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