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Lady Cyclones have youth and enthusiasm

BY ALLEN LAMOUNTAIN
STAR CORRESPONDENT
Losing six seniors to graduation following an 11-5 girls soccer season that was cut short with a 3-1 loss to Sullivan Central in the district AA tournament the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones start the 2020 season with a roster dominated by freshmen.
Out of 17 players on the roster, eight of them are freshmen with just three seniors – Sianna Robey, Tessa Lamb and McKendra Norris – but head coach Bill McClay sees a silver lining for his young squad.
“We have a great group of freshmen and if they stay together as last year’s group did, we can see good things down the road,” McClay said. “They really seem to like each other and I think they will grow into their roles. Everything so far has been up in the air, but the enthusiasm is good and by midseason, they aren’t freshmen anymore.”
McClay likes to use his veterans on the backline and that will not change this season as Robey and Norris will occupy the center defender positions in front of sophomore goalkeeper Morgan Heaton who was outstanding as a freshman posting seven shutouts.
“Last season we knew something about the team, that we could score goals,” McClay said. “This year we go into the season without a scrimmage so we have no clue, but athletically we have seen some good things. We know what we have at keeper and she is getting nothing but better.”
The eight freshmen on the squad are Kaylee Cranford, Cadie Digby who will be the backup goalkeeper, Mollie Johnson, Emily Little, Bella Moore, Emma O’Quinn, Shayla Orellana and Kayla Simmons.
McClay sees at least three of these youngsters playing significant roles saying, “I can see three of that group having significant starting time and playing a role in the offense. Right now everything is sorting itself out, but I have been encouraged this week in some of the things we were able to do against opposition.
“We have some speed and I would say that to a player, skill levels are what they are, but we saw good pace. Danny (Birkner) and I were surprised by what we saw out of a few of the girls as far as pace.”
Joining Robey and Norris on the backline are juniors Reagan Curde and possibly Dana Holsclaw with Emma and Maddie O’Quinn as primary strikers on the front line.
Speedy freshman Johnson could have a spot as center midfielder along with Lamb, Kayla Simmons, Madelyn Outland, Chloe Moore and Lacey Simerly all seeing playing time.
The schedule – as usual – is tough with several large schools such as Jefferson County, Morristown East, Dobyns-Bennett, Tennessee High and a conference match with Greeneville on the slate.
Eight of the first 10 games are road clashes but the August 25 conference match at Volunteer could be switched to Citizen’s Bank Stadium.
The conference slate also includes Sullivan Central, Unicoi County, and Sullivan South and the Cyclones will have home-and-away games against David Crockett and Providence Academy.
With 2020 being the COVID 19 year, there are no guarantees that a season will happen, but optimism is high among the players.
“I am very excited about the season, and playing with the young players,” Robey said.
When asked how much leadership the seniors will have to provide with so many young players on the team Norris said, “We are going to have to provide a bunch because middle school and high school soccer are two completely different games in terms of pace and skill.
“Being on the backline will give us more chances to show leadership because everything is right in front of us. I am excited about the season, we play a lot of big schools which will challenge us and we’ll see where we lay.”