COVINGTON — The Lady Eagles are going to have to find a way to mature and grow really fast as they head into the unknowns of a new area without a lot of experienced players to rely on with 10 returning players and only six starters.
“It’s the least amount of returning players I’ve have had in a while. We’re going to be young as far as field experience in a lot of ways,” Eastside girls soccer head coach Joel Singleton said. “But one thing that has happened every year is that we’ve played better as the season went along.”
With a healthy mix of experienced and non-experienced players, Singleton is hoping that by finishing just as strong as they start will help put the team in a position to win at least 13 games this year. The last two seasons, the Lady Eagles have won 12 games, which ties the school record for a girls team.
“This year our motto is ‘Start strong, finish strong.’ I’m really preaching that to the girls because last year we’d start one or two goals behind then try to pick it up and that was brutal,” Singleton said. “When we played ahead last year we didn’t lose.”
While most teams like to set the tone for the game on offense, Singleton feels that this year the strongest and most experienced aspect of the team is defense.
“We need to let teams know that they’re going to have to find another way to beat us than come down the middle of the field,” Singleton said.
Helping make that happen is Carly Farrow, who is a fourth-year starter at keeper, and Kari Dylong, who was sidelined her sophomore year with a injury, in the middle with Victoria Reich and Haley Walden protecting the wings.
Offensively, Sarah Gaddis, who has started all three years at Eastside, is going to lead the young group. As a junior, Gaddis scored 27 goals from the midfield position and was named to the All-Area 4-AAA team. Some of the players Singleton is looking to provide the scoring include Morgan Green, Carly Travis and Sydney Gandy.
“I’m curious to see what they bring. A lot of other girls are a year older, a year stronger and hopefully a year faster,” Singleton said.
“We have one new player in Amberley Moseley who is new to Eastside. She’s been a good addition. I’m curious to see where she’s going to help us out. She’s very aggressive and I think has the potential to do a lot of good things for us.”
Moseley’s aggressive play should go well since Singleton wants to go out and play a more aggressive-style of soccer — especially since he has nothing more than an educated guess as to what to face while playing in a new area. With the new area, Singleton is hoping to return to the playoffs while eyeing a region championship.
“It seems like every year we’re changing regions. Just as you get to a comfort level of what your competition is, it changes. Being a new (area) I’m not real sure what to expect. I know that the Johnson, Gainsville and Walnut Grove girls are traditionally strong. That’s who I look to as the top two but I don’t underestimate anybody,” Singleton said. “The last few years we’ve had four really good teams then the others not very good. We’ll have good balance good years.”
As Singleton looks to start the season on Feb. 12 at home against Newton at 5:30 p.m. — all of the home games will be played at Homer Sharp Stadium — there are a few concerns that he is hoping to fix before they begin.
“Conditioning is a concern,” he said. “The girls know my philosophy: it’s not who can run the fastest but who can run the longest. If we still have our legs in the 75th and 80th minute, I think we’ll be OK.”