Even before the start of the 2013 campaign, the Boonville Lady Pirates soccer team will have surpassed its all-time high for the number of participants in one season.
While the all-time high for the boys reached 33, head coach Tim Brown said 29 girls have participated in practice since February 25.
Of course Brown would probably like to see those numbers transition into wins this season as the Boonville Lady Pirates soccer program heads into its sixth season of competition.
The good news is that Boonville returns six starters and 10 returning letterwinners from last year’s team, which finished 10-11 overall and 6-6 in the North Central Missouri Conference.
“The number for the girls are the highest they have ever been, and we have some talented freshmen this year,” stated Brown. “In fact, the varsity has nine underclassmen on the roster of 16. It is difficult to say how they will perform against varsity-level competition, but it will be interesting to watch them grow as players. Over the past two years, we graduated some pretty prolific scorers (Allea Francis, Mackenzie Greis and Lindie Adair), so we now have fine/develop some new goal scorers to help our team outgun the opposition.”
With a total of 46 goals scored last year, the Lady Pirates will have to find someway to pick up the slack offensively with Mackenzie Greis accounting for 26 of those goals.
Brown said with the graduation of Greis, scoring goals is by far the biggest concern this season. He said the Lady Pirates should do well keeping the ball out of the goal but if they cannot score, they are going to be in for a plethora of close, nervous matches.
“Our back line might be the strongest it has ever been (Cassidy Renfrow second year starter at goalkeeper, and, from left to right), Cali Jo McAreavy, captain Allie Dowling, Katarina Xufuris and captain Katie Vest are extremely tough and hardworking),” Brown said. “We also have two out of three starting forwards returning in McKenna McAreavy and Brittany Perry and a starting mid-fielder who is moving up to forward in Bailey Pfeiffer, who played some forward last year. If we can maximize their potential, they might be hard for opposing defenses to handle.”
Goals could also be hard to come by in the conference this season. Brown said for mid-Missouri, the NCMC is relatively strong every year. He said typically, at least one team from the conference wins their district. Also in terms of district, he said at least on the girls side, a team has made the state quarterfinals every year Boonville has been eligible.
“On the boys side, a team from our district has made the state tournament Final Four every year but one,” Brown said. “Moberly will probably be the favorite, yet again, as they have had the bulk of the conference soccer talent for the past six years; in fact, their girl’s team has not lost a varsity conference match since Boonville has had a program. The fight for second place has been a regular battle between us, Fulton, Hannibal and Mexico. Mexico has probably been the overall second best team in the conference.”
Brown went on to comment that where Boonville falls in the conference will mostly be determined by two things: how well the underclassmen perform, and whether or not some players step up as finishers (goal scorers. Brown said the defense should be pretty solid, as it usually is, and if they can get the ball in the net from various players, they might finally challenge for that conference title. However, he said if the team struggles to score, they will probably end up in the middle of the pack.
The Lady Pirates have also set their sights high this season as the host for the district tournament in May. With only four teams making up the district (Boonville, Southern Boone, Fulton and Father Tolton), Brown said the Lady Pirates might be able to challenge for the title in Class 1.
“Specifically, we need to do two things season: we need to learn how to score as a team rather than relying on one individual to do all the heavy lifting, and we need to learn to keep the talented opponents at bat,” Brown said. “The second goal becomes all the more important if we cannot reach our first goal. Our main goals have always been to improve as a tea, improve as a program, and improve as individuals in preparation for the next level of play.”
Unfortunately for the Lady Pirates, they will have to wait for their season opener. According to Boonville Athletic Director Chris Shikles, the season opener on Monday, March 18th against the Stover Bulldogs has been moved to Friday, March 22nd at Stover starting at 5 p.m. That means the Lady Pirates won’t officially start the season until Thursday, March 22 at home against the Fulton Hornets starting at 5 p.m.
As for the starting lineup in the season opener against Fulton, Brown said junior Cassidy Renfrow will return as the goalie for the Lady Pirates. While appearing in all 21 games in 2012, Renfrow finished the season with 56 saves with four shutouts.
“Cassidy is tall and very coachable, and she is a excellent catcher of the ball,” Brown said.
Meanwhile, at the forward position, senior Bailey Pfeiffer returns after scoring seven goals with 12 assists last year along with senior McKenna McAreavy, who had three goals and four assists, and junior Brittany Perry, who added five goals and six assists.
Brown said all three players are the most creative players, and they have a lot riding on them to get the ball to and in the opponents’ net.
At the attacking mid position, Brown will go with first-year varsity player Sophie Taube. While playing the most mentally demanding position on the pitch, Brown said Taube has been used as a more defensive role on her club team but has excellent vision and could be an eventual standout in the conference and district if all things go according to plan.
The holding mids position will include senior Sammy Dorman and sophomore Alexanderia Rinehart. As the first line of defense, Brown said Dorman, who will be playing collegiately at Stephens College in Columbia next year, and Rinehart will marshal the space between the front and back lines.
The wing backs will also play a key role for the Lady Pirates this spring. As a utility player last year, Brown said senior Katie Vest will do well in the most physically demanding position in their system.  Freshman Cali Jo McAreavy, Brown said, may find herself at various positions throughout the season. “Wing back is where we feel she will be the most effective to start,” Brown said. “Cali and Katie both have very good work ethic.”
The last line of defense will come down to senior captain Allie Dowling, who will play at Hannibal LeGrange, and sophomore Kat Xufuris at the center backs position. A four-year starter for the Lady Pirates, Brown said Dowling has been a rock on the back line since day one. As for Xufuris, Brown said Kat, a utility player last year, should fill the center back role nicely.