Sterlington Lady Panthers Soccer Preview
Hoping to build on the momentum from the best season in their brief history, the Sterlington Lady Panthers soccer side is counting on a mixture of veteran returnees and promising newcomers.
Sterlington (16-6-1) shutout Houma Christian 1-0 for its first playoff victory, earned its highest playoff seed (No. 6), captured its first district championship and set program records for wins and goals scored during the memorable 2017-18 campaign.
Coach Lori Bruscato is looking to replace Division IV District 2 co-MVP Chandler Manning, the first college signee in program history, four-year starter Noor-Sheikh-Khalil and two-year letterman Raylee Butler. In addition to the trio of departed seniors, sisters Maddie and Kendal Merrell transferred to South Carolina.
"We definitely have some big shoes to fill," said sixth-year coach Lori Bruscato, who started the program six years ago. "I feel like with the depth we have coming back and some of the newcomers, we are going to be just fine. I'll say this for them — they enjoy being out here. They are a fun group to coach."
Sweeper Lauren Wright, who shared District MVP honors with Manning, and first-team All-District goalkeeper Ana Hodnett are among the key holdovers. Wright is a senior while Hodnett is a junior.
Also back are first-team All-District honorees Maddie Lawhon (so.) and Shelby Moore (jr.).
With the exception of Wright and Hodnett, Bruscato has yet to settle on positions.
"I told the girls there are pretty much two positions I know, and that's goalie and sweeper," Bruscato said. "We have some versatile players who can play offense and defense. We have players who were good on offense last year who are going to play defense this year, and we have players who were good on defense last year that are going to play offense this year.
"It's like trying to put the pieces of a puzzle together. Like I told the girls, they are just going to have to be patient while I figure out the best combination."
Wright and Gray Grunsky are the Lady Panthers' only two seniors. A third senior, Abigail Raley is out due to injury.
"Lauren has been on the field the last two years," Bruscato said. "Gray is a huge assert because of her leadership skills on and off the field."
Others who saw extensive action last season include juniors Emma Grace Brister, Madelyn Bozeman, Bel Coley, Kayla Dahlum and Madelyn Bozeman and sophomores Emarie Adams and Allison Guerriero.
Also vying for playing time are juniors Hannah Jerkins and Alyssa Tucker, sophomore Alli Whitlock and freshmen Mariam Azeez, Ella Coley, Andie Forbes, Isabel Robinson, Mollie Sims and Sarah Jane Sims.
Sterlington will see its first action in a pair of preseason scrimmages next week. The Lady Panthers visit Neville on Monday and host Ouachita Christian on Thursday. Starting time for both matches is 5:30 p.m.
9 Gray Grunsky
21 Abigail Raley
8 Lauren Wright
3 Madelyn Bozeman
12 Emma Grace Brister
18 Bel Coley
7 Kayla Dahlum
16 Ana Hodnett
25 Hannah Jerkins
23 Shelby Moore
16 Emarie Adams
1 Alyssa Tucker
19 Lillian Edens
14 Allison Guerriero
6 Maddie Lawhon
17 Alli Whitlock
10 Ella Coley
20 Andie Forbes
5 Isabel Robinson
2 Mollie Sims
13 Sarah Jane Sims
Coach: Lori Bruscato
Managers: Marie Parker (sr.), Katie Byrd (jr.), Maddie Whittington (so.)