Girls soccer teams having different starts to season

Madelyne Juenger (left) moves the ball up the field against Edwardsville during a game last month. (Kermit Constantine photo)

The girls soccer season kicked off three weeks ago with all three area teams — Waterloo, Gibault, and Columbia — poised for success. Three weeks later, that still may be the case, though not all the records show it.

Waterloo has had by far the most success in the first few weeks, as the Bulldogs are off to a scintillating 5-1-1 start. Chad Holden’s team dropped its season opener to a good Althoff team, but hasn’t lost since, earning victories against Columbia (twice), Belleville East, Civic Memorial, and Highland. The Bulldogs played the Gibault Hawks to a 1-1 draw two weekends ago.

Holden says the strong start has been a whole team effort.

“Our strength has got to be our team chemistry,” he said. “The girls all know their roles and are playing very well together.”

We don’t really have any one particular girl who has stood out for us,” he continued. “We are just playing very well as a team and hopefully the trend continues.”

The stats back up Holden’s claim that the Bulldogs aren’t a one-woman show. Hope Elliott leads the team with six goals and two assists, but Erika Lloyd is right behind with four goals and five assists. Sydney Ratz, Jessica Chapman, and Darby Nugent have also been important offensive contributors, and the defense has also been stellar, led by goalkeeper Mia Reed.

Waterloo hopes to continue its hot streak against Mascoutah on Thursday.

Gibault, meanwhile, has hit a rough stretch, but the Hawks are still optimistic. Gibault’s 1-1 tie with Waterloo two weekends ago stands as the best result for the team in the last two weeks.

Since opening the season with two straight victories, Matt Reeb’s team has dropped contests to Edwardsville (twice), Notre Dame, Collinsville and O’Fallon.

Health has been a major part of the problem. The Hawks have been bitten badly by the injury bug, as several players have already suffered season-ending injuries and several other starters have missed various games as well. All of the injuries have made it challenging for the Hawks to develop good team chemistry, according to Reeb.

“We unfortunately have been playing without five or six starters at a time which makes it really difficult to develop and kind of rhythm and consistent play,” he said. “So, it has definitely tested us to say the least.”

Add those health problems to Gibault’s already brutal schedule, and you get the Hawks’ 2-5-1 record.

Despite the early hardships, Reeb is still confident his team can turn things around. One consistency he has been able to count on are his three senior captains — Kendra Davis, Bree Hasenstab and Courtney Olson.

Davis has been “very solid” in goal, and Hasenstab and Olson are the team’s leading scorers.

Additionally, Gibault will get closer to full strength in the coming weeks as several starters look to rejoin the lineup.  The Hawks will look to get back on track Thursday at Mater Dei.

Columbia has also felt the impact of early-season injuries, but they too are confident they can get back on track.

Steve Ross’s team is 2-5 so far, having defeated Notre Dame on Monday to break a five-game losing streak. Throughout the streak, the Eagles were missing as many as four starters and their offense struggled, scoring just two goals.

Monday’s 3-0 victory put an emphatic end to the scoring drought, and with several injured players set to return throughout the next week, Ross thinks things are finally looking up for his team.

“We had a tough start to the season, but we weathered the storm pretty well,” he said. “We were competitive in every game, but just kept coming up short. Now we’re getting healthier, and we have a great opportunity to get some rhythm and confidence going.”

The Eagles will need to be confident in the coming weeks. Next week, Columbia will begin a “brutal” stretch of games, a demanding test that includes matches against St. Louis powerhouses Cor Jesu and Nerinx Hall.

“We have some really challenging games over the next few weeks,” Ross said. “We’re going to have to be ready.”

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