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Reconfigured North Miami girls' soccer still aiming for big things

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

The offense was explosive. The defense was stout. The wins piled up.

There was just one thing that didn’t happen for the girls’ soccer team at North Miami last season: a win over Manchester.

The Warriors lost twice in 2016 and both defeats came at the hands of the Squires, one of which decided the TRC title and the other advancement to the sectional final.

To replicate the success the team had, winning 14 matches while scoring 74 goals and conceding only 10, North Miami will have to find a new mix of players to replace a large departing senior group.

Warrior head coach Jason Faine said the team had a great 2016, led by a great group of players.

“The girls went 14-2 last year but both loses were to the same team,” Faine said. “We had eight seniors on the team last year with five of them playing important roles, one in goal, two in defense and two in the midfield.

“We had a very good senior class and everyone of that group had played together since they were little. We lose a lot of leadership with them graduating.”

The departures of Adrianna Richie, Sammy Tims, Bella Borse, Celena Wagner, Adreanna Faine, Josie Knappen, Becca Knappen and Markie Butler leave a large hole in the team.

An equally large hole, however, will be up front with Riley Saddlemire no longer a North Miami student. The junior scored 31 goals last year for the Warriors.

To combat the losses, Faine said there would like be changes to both the team’s formation and where players will lineup.

“We’re probably going to switch our formation this year and in doing so, we’ll likely switch out all of the defense,” Faine said. “They might still get some opportunities back there but we have some younger girls that are tenacious and we can rely on them.

“Michaela (Stiver), Kristin (Jacobs) and Faith (White) will be relied on to keep things going this year as seniors.”

Along with the three seniors, the team has several returning juniors in Emily Bahney, Sarah Eckrote, Chrissy Knappen, Katie Day, Madison France, Paris Butler and Bailey Golliher, along with sophomores Josie Haskett, Jordan Moore, Carly Gunter and Bailey Keim.

New arrivals on the team include Hannah Hall, Britney Stroud, Carinna Savage, Hannah McVay and Annika Oliver, along with the return of Taylor Bean after a year away from the squad.

Faine said the team had been working hard on being more vocal on the pitch while trying to find ways to use their best assets better in matches.

“We have a lot of speed returning,” Faine noted. “A week in, the passing is sharper and the girls are talking a lot.

“Communication is going to be key for the team this year.”

With a formation change coming due to the number of departures, Faine said the group would be using their speed to create opportunities in different ways.

“We’re looking to probably play two forwards with more players in the midfield,” Faine said. “We’re working on the passing so that if we do get chances to break, we’ll be able to get the girls in behind.

“We’ll be fine in goal. Sammy was often bored in goal last year and we have three girls that have played in goal, so we’ll be fine there.”

Despite the changes, Faine said the team was working just as hard as ever, using the two losses to spur them on in practice.

“It’s like one of the old commercials where they talked to athletes and asked them what it took to get better,” Faine said. “A lot of the answers were bad things that were turned around into positives.

“The girls have those two losses from last year to use as motivation for this year.”

While getting a win over Manchester in TRC play is a goal, needing to do so to advance in sectional play is no longer on the table after the sectional realignment that occurred due to the IHSAA adding a third class in soccer.

North Miami remains a Class A team and joins a new sectional featuring Argos, Bremen, Culver Community and LaVille, along with TRC foe Rochester.

Faine said the team knew the changes had occurred but added the team needed focus more on their own work to get where it needed to go.

“Around here, everyone knows that Argos has a good team,” Faine pointed out. “Argos graduated some players but they’ll still be good and the same goes with Manchester.

“What we have to do is worry about the way we play, not others.”

With multiple changes to the starting lineup and a new sectional to face, Faine said it would be a challenge for the team to reach the same heights it had in 2016 but believed that the team had the potential to match, if not surpass, what it accomplished last season in 2017.

“If we reach our goals in communicating and passing, we have good defenders, good speed and we can be a really solid team,” Faine said. “We can’t say that we’ll win 14 games again but our goal is to make runs at the TRC and the sectional, even if both will be tough.”