Girls Varsity Soccer
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GIRLS PREP SOCCER: ‘Easy transition’ for Redbirds this preseason
Pete Hayes, email@example.com Published 1:02 pm, Friday, March 9, 2018
Alton Redbirds’ girls soccer coach Jeff Hayes and his team will open the season Monday at Belleville West in a pool game of the Metro Cup’s Nike Bracket. Photo: Billy Hurst | For The Telegraph
Billy Hurst | For The Telegraph
Alton Redbirds’ girls soccer coach Jeff Hayes and his team will open the season Monday at Belleville West in a pool game of the Metro Cup’s Nike Bracket.
GODFREY — Some preseasons go more smoothly than others. Case in point: The Alton High girls soccer team.
“This preseason has been an easy transition for us,” Redbirds coach Jeff Hayes said.” We’re only missing a few girls from last season. The girls understand my expectations of them so there are no surprises.”
Alton’s trio of Brianna Hatfield, Alaina Nasello and Katie Kercher form the nucleus for Alton, which will begin its season Monday in the Metro Cup Tournament’s Nike Bracket.
Hatfield, a Florida Gulf Coast recruit and a senior, figures to be heavily marked this season. The talented senior scored 20 goals and added three assists in 2017, when the Redbirds went 13-6-2.
Last season’s Telegraph Player of the Year, Hatfield was named to a pair of All-State teams. She was selected by the Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association and the ChicagolandSoccer.com. She was also a Southwestern Conference first team all-conference selection.
Just as important as her goals, Hatfield drew the attention of opposing teams so often that it affected the way other Alton players were defended.
“Bri is the kind of player who affects the flow of the game in a lot of ways,” Hayes said. “She’s a great leader on and off the field. The other players know she knows what she’s talking about. And the other teams know her talent and they sometimes shake things up on their end because of that.”
Kercher, a senior, scored nine goals and had 10 assists and Nasello, a junior, had four goals and six assists.
“(Hatfield, Nasello and Kercher) are going to draw a lot of attention this year, so our success will be determined by other players stepping up,” Hayes said. “Makayla Cox and Sydney Schmidt had solid seasons last year; Can they stay healthy?
“Taylor Imming and Calista Cox are returning defenders, so we have a couple holes to fill. Nora Steiner and Megan Zini could help us in the back, but they’re also capable of playing in the midfield. There are several other girls who will step up throughout the season as well.”
The Redbirds scare off some old bugaboos. They won three Southwestern Conference games and their 3-3 league mark was good for a fourth-place finish behind champion Collinsvile, which went 6-0- and Edwardsville and Belleville West, which were tied for second at 4-1-1.
The Redbirds outscored the opposition 45-33 last season. Hayes said a better result is needed.
“We need to do a better job defensively this year,” he said. “That’s on me to get the girls organized and confident on the backline with what we will be doing.”
Team smarts went a long way toward last season’s success and Hayes said there plenty of that to around this season.
“Our biggest strength is that we have a very intelligent group of young women,” Hayes said. “They’re coachable and pick up on things quickly. We just need to get on the same page as soon as possible and keep a positive attitude.“
With a large contingent returning, Hayes has set the bar a bit higher. Playing a stronger nonconference schedule is part of that.
“Our schedule is a lot more difficult this year,” he said. “Things won’t always go our way, so it’s important that we measure success by improving and not necessarily wins and losses.
“We moved up in the Metro Cup and open with Belleville West, Triad, and Springfield. Those are three tough games to begin the season. West has had our number the last few years and Triad is a returning (2A) state champ. I’m excited to be playing them early in the season.”
Alton will play in Pool B of the Nike bracket of the Metro Cup next week. The Redbirds will open with a game against the host Maroons at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Belleville West. They’ll play Triad at 7:30 Thursday at Edwardsville and will face Springfield at 5:30 Friday in their final pool game.
The seventh-, fifth- third-place and championship games will be played Saturday.
”This senior class is a talented bunch for all the teams in the metro east,” Hayes said. “Our conference has a lot of parity this year. We certainly have our work cut out for us.“