ROCHELLE — A much larger roster that includes both returning players and new faces has Rochelle head coach Chris Blevins and his staff more than excited for the start of the Lady Hubs varsity soccer season.
“We have some good numbers this year,” Blevins said. “We have talent on both levels, and we have enough talent where we can bring players up from the junior varsity level if we need to and that’s a nice relief… We’re pretty excited and we have a good group of girls who worked really hard all winter.”
Rochelle will enter the spring with more than double the number of players it had last season, and the Lady Hubs will carry their junior varsity squad for the first time in roughly five years. The girls have been conditioning themselves since the fall, and with the team’s first game in less than two weeks, Blevins is ready to get the ball rolling once again.
“Last year was interesting because we had some talent, but we had a lot of new girls,” Blevins said. “We struggled up front and we’re hoping to have some girls with a little better touch up front who can get the ball into the goal. We’re going to work on our attack and we’re looking to limit the number of touches to try and maintain possession of the ball.”
Inexperience and a short-handed roster made games tough for the Lady Hubs in 2017, but Blevins is confident Rochelle’s varsity group can rebound from last season. Notable returning players in the midfield include senior Rhylie Erdman and junior Olivia Piloni, who played defense most of last year but could see more time at center midfielder this spring.
“Olivia was rock solid last year,” Blevins said. “Rhylie will be back at the outside midfielder spot… I’d like to see our midfielders control the field and maintain possession more this year. They need to watch the field and get the ball to our outside midfielders. We want to get into more one-touch scoring options.”
Rochelle lost nearly its entire defensive wall to graduation, while former goalkeeper Holli Drew moved away before the start of this season, leaving holes to fill on the back side. Blevins said Rochelle’s early candidates for goalkeeper include sophomore Viviana Belmonte and junior Emily Engelkes.
Blevins said both girls could also see time on defense, along with junior Anne Hickey and newcomers Citlaly Villalobos and Andrea Lopez. Two girls who could split time on defense and in the midfield are Lopez, senior Sally Infante and junior Sarah Craven.
“Maintaining our line and moving as a unit will be important for us,” Blevins said. “Moving front-to-back and side-to-side and not leaving any gaps in the back. We need to fill space where it’s needed and we need to clear balls when we need to. We need to make sure we don’t get turned on.”
Freshman Vianey Perusquia’s touch with the soccer ball could land her a starting spot at forward this season, but Blevins said the other attacking positions will be open for competition in practice. The Lady Hubs open their season at Mendota on Monday, March 19.
“Hopefully we can be in more of an attack mode throughout each game this year,” Blevins said.