LOGAN — There are numbers and there is chemistry — as well as experience, high expectations and excitement — as the Logan Lady Chiefs prepare to begin their 2019 soccer season.
“We want to make some progress,” second-year coach Brandy Ball said recently as the Lady Chiefs prepared for Tuesday’s season opener at Lancaster. “These girls have very high expectations for this year.
“The girls have been working hard and practicing hard and have been conditioning since the beginning of June,” she continued. “They know there are big, big things happening for the soccer team. In all, (it could) possibly be one of the best seasons that Logan girls soccer has seen in a long time.”
There are plenty of reasons for such optimism.
Logan has a total of 28 girls (six seniors, eight juniors, five sophomores and nine freshmen) on a roster that boasts 15 ladies with at least one letter’s worth of varsity experience.
And as a result of those numbers, Logan will field a junior varsity team for the first time since 2015. A reserve schedule that is still under construction thus far includes at least 10 contests.
Coming off a 5-12 season, which included a 2-2 slate in the first year of the Mid-Ohio Valley Soccer League, girls who scored 19 of the Lady Chiefs’ 22 total goals are back.
Sophomore Brooklin Harris (10 goals) led the team in scoring as a freshman, with Maya Burggraf tallying four, Madison Turner three and Mollie Gabriel two.
Those 15 returning letter-winners bring 29 total varsity letters’ worth of experience with them.
Seniors Gabriel, Izzy Ireton, Aaliyah Lewis, Mackenzie Maynard and Emily McGreevy return with three letters apiece and senior Abby Burggraf and juniors Turner, Maya Burggraf and Dani Wolfe all have two.
Junior Jaden Border and sophomores Harris, Alivia Magdich, Abrei Ellinger, Blair Kline and Emilee Kessler all have one letter.
Logan graduated four-year letterman Josie Riggs as well as letter-winner Hannah Copley, who accounted for the other three goals last season.
“The coolest thing about this new season is the chemistry between our girls,” said Ball, a former Lady Chiefs soccer standout in her own right. “We have a lot of athletic girls and a lot of girls who have played soccer for a long time.
“And we have a lot of girls who don’t have a lot of soccer experience,” she added, “but because their chemistry is so good this year and they’ve taken the time to get to know each other on a personal level, it’s really making a difference in how our girls practice and how they play.”
Logan’s success likely starts with Lewis, who enters her third season as the Lady Chiefs’ goalkeeper.
“Aaliyah being in goal is a huge asset,” Ball said. “Last year we started dropping the ball to the keeper. The girls were very hesitant at first, but this year they’ve all become more comfortable with it and it’s made a huge difference in how we play (and in) slowing down the game, being able to give it to Aaliyah and look for our options. She’s a great leader too, which also helps.
“We switched up our defensive line,” she continued. “Everybody’s used to seeing Maya Burggraf play midfield and forward and we actually have her playing in the center along with Dani Wolfe. We have Emilee Kessler and (freshman) Josie Rimkus playing on both sides” as well as junior and school newcomer Caroline Osburn in the defensive midfield.
Harris, playing off the right wing, had a terrific first season for the Purple & White and should lead the offensive attack.
“Our offense has a great amount of experience,” Ball revealed. “Two of our highest scorers are going to be playing up there together, which I think gives us an opportunity to have higher-scoring games. In general, (with) the offensive support system that we have, a lot of girls are very good at feeding the ball and sending the ball to the outsides or down the middle. They know how to do that job really, really well.”
Ball says the Lady Chiefs should be a good-passing team with good communication skills to go with that aforementioned chemistry.
“We expect the girls to communicate with each other because of that chemistry,” she pointed out. “That’s going to make a big difference. A lot of these girls play together on club teams in off-seasons, so they have that chemistry. We’re really expecting the leaders of this team to step up and show the girls what works and what doesn’t and to be motivational and encouraging.
“We have a really good passing system,” Ball continued. “Our girls have learned their positions really, really well. Some of the girls are being put into new positions and understand that (knowing multiple positions) will benefit them and benefit the team.”
The school record for victories in a single season is 10, set in 2011 (10-7). The’19 Lady Chiefs would certainly like to make a run at that mark.
“Our girls are really motivated to push one another and bring out the best in each player on the field every time we play,” Ball said. “There’s a lot of pressure on these girls, but they’re ready for it. They all work really, really hard and work really well together. This group of girls is an encouraging group of kids and I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls to coach.”