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Peru girls' soccer ready to climb TRC ladder

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

Life in the TRC has not been smooth sailing for the girls’ soccer team at Peru since their arrival two years ago.

An 0-12 season was followed by a slight improvement to 2-10 with a first conference win over Maconaquah last year for the Tigers.

Coming into the 2017 campaign, there is a sense of optimism around the team with head coach Kelsey Lilla believing the team can kick on from last year.

“We’re going to raise expectations a lot this year,” Lilla said. “We started lifting in the winter, did workouts in the spring and during the summer, we had a girls’ lifting program along with open fields.

“We knew we had most of our players back and we’ve said from day one, we’re coming out stronger.”

Lilla’s first year saw Peru find its footing after some rocky seasons of play, with the second-year coach commending graduated seniors Brett Miller, Natalie Simmons, Rachel Campos and Jadelin Wolfe for their work during the 2016 season.

“The team did better than expected,” Lilla said. “They worked hard, they got after it, they challenged teams and they came ready to play.

“The seniors last year built the foundation. They taught the girls about what it means to work for the team.

“Some of them even come back, give them pointers and help them where they can, like giving them little pep-talks,” Lilla added.

Peru returns a host of players, primarily a large group of sophomores including Elsie Walters, Emily Campos, Claire Boyer, Faylena Stout, Jamey Guyer, Alex Jones, Starr Myers and Alexis Beall with many seeing time on the pitch as freshmen.

The Tigers have two returning seniors in Veronica Hamblin and Paris Forman, who returns in goal for the team, along with returning juniors Belen Flores and Kaitlyn Trexler.

Newcomers to the squad include junior Harmoni Stone, sophomores Kelsie Kelley and Peizleigh Avila and freshmen Abby Rogers, Molly Gray and Aleesha Zehring.

With most of the starters returning from last year, Lilla said the girls knew how things operated and were seeing an increase in intensity at practice.

“We have 18 girls out for the team this year with 10 of them sophomores,” Lilla noted. “The girls know what is expected of them this year.

“We challenge them to be better every practice. They know more of what to look for in games and show the leadership to the newcomers they need to have this season.”

Goals were one of the hardest things to come by for Peru last season as the squad only notched nine goals in 12 matches.

Lilla said to improve upon that number, the team was working on its ball control skills and would look to increase their shooting output in 2017.

“We’ve really been working on our passing,” Lilla said. “We start every practice with passing drills in different scenarios, whether it’s simple passing, passing on the run or setting their teammates up.

“Our key is that we want to challenge the goalie. We’re going to put a lot of shots on goal and have everyone crashing into the box.”

With a full schedule of games this season, Lilla expected the girls to build up confidence heading into the TRC matches and beyond.

“We’ve picked up a full schedule for this year,” Lilla pointed out. “After the first couple of games, the nerves will start to go away, especially for our newer players and freshmen.

“These girls can be a very good team and I have no doubt that we can beat a lot of teams on our schedule and be one of the top TRC teams this year.”