TERRE HAUTE —
As another high school soccer season kicks off this week, West Vigo is breaking in two new varsity coaches — Culley DeGroote for the boys and Scott McClain for the girls.
DeGroote replaced Juan Montanez, who stepped down to take a teaching job elsewhere. DeGroote accepted the job in late June, even though his soccer background is less than extensive.
“We have a great group of kids,” he pointed out. “We have a lot of leadership. We have a good senior class. We have 11 seniors. I took the job because I knew I had the best assistant coach around [in Cody Jones].”
DeGroote acknowledged this will be “a nice challenge.”
“We’re a work in progress,” he continued. “It’ll be fun to see how much better we can get throughout the course of the season, but we’re just so young and inexperienced. Even our returning players are in new positions, so it’s going to take a little time to get everybody’s roles figured out.”
Meanwhile, McClain replaced John Prochnow, who moved out of state. McClain, who accepted the position in July, also possesses limited soccer experience.
“I coach girls track, so I’ve got a good rapport with the girls,” he said. “They needed a soccer coach, so I stepped up. I’ve got Arnold Kump as a helper, too.”
Below is a look at how the Vigo County schools and Northview appear to stack up in 2012:
• Northview — Second-year coach Dustin Jorgensen, when asked what his squad’s record was last season, replied: “Not good enough.
“I’m trying to forget last year,” he explained.
Jorgensen estimated that about half his starters from last season are back in 2012, including junior defender Trey Boor and senior forward Zach Rodgers.
“The strengths of the team will be communication and chemistry,” Jorgensen noted. “We’ve been working on that all offseason … making sure we’re all on the same page. I think the chemistry is there.
“Our biggest concern is making sure we believe we can win games, going into games thinking we have a chance.”
The Knights will debut today at Terre Haute North.
• Terre Haute North — Beginning his 11th season at the helm, John Welch plans to rely heavily on the school’s all-time leading scorer — senior forward Jacob Parham.
The Patriots’ other team captains are senior forward Kaden Sloan, senior defender James Welch and senior midfielder Bradley Klingele.
“Those guys bring good leadership,” coach Welch said of the co-captains. “They’re good role models. Obviously, Jacob has the skills to score. Kaden has speed and strength. James and Bradley have very good technical ability.”
John Welch likes the speed and endurance he’s seen from his players in the preseason.
“We’ve got some people who will mix it up,” he added. “I think we did lose some of our technical ability with some of the seniors who graduated [in the spring].”
The veteran coach mentioned Carmel, Indianapolis North Central and Center Grove as favorites to emerge victorious in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference.
The Patriots, who ended up 10-5-4 last season, will play host to Northview today.
• Terre Haute South — Fifth-year coach Eric Graves will count on senior center midfielder Scout Wrin, center midfielder Rush Sommerville, junior left midfielder Forrest Pommier and senior right midfielder Ryan Abrams, among others, to keep the Braves in contention for another Class 2A sectional crown.
“Those guys together make a real good, solid core of the chemistry we had last year,” Graves said. “We’ll fill in other positions to accommodate the rest of the team.”
The Braves’ new starting goalkeeper is junior Carter Hall.
“He’s really stepped up.” Graves said of Hall. “He’s really developing quickly, quicker than I thought he would.”
Assessing the strengths of the team as a whole, Graves said, “I think we’re going to have to rely on the fact that we’re all on the same level. I’ve got 11 guys out there with pretty much the same skill level. So I think our strength is going to be our unity in moving the ball together. It’s nice not to have so many all-stars because nobody has a big head and we don’t have as many attitudes.”
The Braves’ first match will be today at home against Decatur Central.
• West Vigo — Some of the team’s key returnees are senior goalkeeper Nathan Augustus, junior midfielder Brady Cole, sophomore midfielder Justin Kump, senior forward Cody Romanelly, sophomore forward Austin Romanelly and senior defender Peyton Freeman.
“Midfield is our strength,” DeGroote mentioned. “Right now, our biggest concern is getting everybody healthy. If we can get everybody healthy and on the field at the same time, we’d be better off.”
The Vikings, who finished 9-5-1 and captured a Class A sectional championship in 2011, will open the season today at Cascade.
• Northview — Beginning her third season in charge, coach Lauren Trennel said she has about “eight or nine” returning starters from last season, giving her plenty of experience to build around in 2012.
“[Sophomore midfielder] Hannah Minor does a great job of being aggressive through the middle for us,” Trennel noted. “She gives direction well as she plays and really directs play in the moment.
“[Sophomore defender] Sydney Buell is our sweeper and she does well in holding down our back three. She is very aggressive. We can really count on her in the back… [Junior center midfielder/forward] Melissa Lummis is very versatile. We can put her anywhere on the field. She loves to play the game and she’s a hard worker out there.”
Trennel added that Lummis and sophomore Mannah Mace are likely to split time at goalkeeper until sophomore Haley Zadeii recovers from a hand injury. Zadeii is still able to play on the field.
Trennel admitted that defending Western Indiana Conference champion Sullivan’s Golden Arrows will be difficult to dethrone, but she plans on the Knights giving it their best shot.
“We’re really gunning for them this year,” she emphasized.
Northview will kick off its season today at home against Crawfordsville.
• Terre Haute North — The North girls have a first-year coach in Kyle Baker, who replaced Emily Knight. He assumed his duties in mid-June.
“She left the program in a really good place,” Baker said. “We’re just going to try to build off that and see where we can take it.”
Actually, Baker served as an assistant and varsity boys coach at North during most of the 1990s. This season, he’ll have nine seniors to help make his transition into the girls side smoother.
Seniors Emilee Pemberton, a back, Nicole Mikolajczyk, a forward, and Jordan Bray, a center midfielder, are some of the Patriots’ key returnees. Baker appreciates the leadership they offer to the rest of the squad.
“They bring an excitement to play the game,” he elaborated. “They’ve just got this burning desire to play the game.”
Junior Kaleigh Sutliff scored the Patriots’ only goal in Saturday’s jamboree at North. Baker said she played forward then, but she could be moved around to different positions this season.
Baker used four different goalkeepers Saturday.
North’s season opener is today at Sullivan.
• Terre Haute South — Coming off a Class 2A sectional title last year, veteran coach Dave Drake will depend on 10 returning starters to maintain the Braves’ chances of repeating.
Leading the way is All-Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference goalkeeper Kelli Buchanan, a senior.
“She’s probably the best goalkeeper in this area,” Drake assessed. “She’s probably one of the best we’ve ever had here. She’s been a four-year starter … She has a lot of experience over most of the kids.”
Also back are senior defensive midfielder Makenzie Mauriello, senior forward Courtney Hubbard (leading goal scorer last season), junior sweeper Abby Pigg and sophomore midfielder Eleanor Carre, among others.
“We also have about four or five pretty quality freshmen,” Drake added.
“North has got a really good team, so we definitely will not take things for granted. But these girls have a lot of pride… I’m expecting us to improve as the year goes on and try to peak around sectional time.”
The Braves will open their season Wednesday at Bloomington South.
• West Vigo — McClain inherits a program coming off a two-win campaign in 2011, but seven returning starters give him hope for an improved record.
Among them are junior Michaela Rollings at center midfield, junior Alexa Clingerman at goalkeeper, senior Taylor Atterson at defender, junior Kaitlyn Benefiel at midfielder and defender and speedy junior Shaelynn White.
“Michaela is awesome,” McClain insisted. “She’s also our captain of the team and she can play just about anywhere on the field.”
The Vikings were slated to get started Monday at South Knox.