Injuries have kept the Andover Central girls soccer team from filling out its best possible lineup once this season, although the Jaguars have done well navigating through the adversity with a 6-3-1 record entering Thursday’s showdown against Andover.
The shuffling hasn’t allowed Andover Central to reach its full potential, at least in the mind of coach Stephanie Garcia, but that’s a good thing.
To escape this stretch with a winning record, including a crucial 1-0 league victory over Valley Center, gives Garcia hope that the Jaguars will be a battle-tested side once regional play arrives.
“We have to take things game-by-game with as many injuries as we’ve had,” Garcia said. “We’ve been down a little bit missing some starters, but some of my second-string players have really stepped up and I think that’s only going to make our team better later in the season.”
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Division II of the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League figures to once again be one of the most competitively-balanced leagues around, which makes battles like the one against Andover so important for the Jaguars.
They will be riding the momentum from a 7-0 victory over Rose Hill earlier in the week, a game in which striker Paris Vincze recorded her second hat trick of the season. Garcia likes how her team is beginning to play the ball out wide more, which allows players like Vincze more room to use her speed and skill to attack.
“She’s a finesse players and just very smooth to watch,” Garcia said. “She can get around people and she reads the game so well, so she knows when and where to make runs.”
Giving the offense more leeway is the senior duo of Masen Stamp and Gaby Gentzler, who have teamed to limit the opposition to just eight goals through 10 games.
Newton growing — Starting seven freshmen and sophomores can sometimes mean a shift toward building for the future, but not in Newton.
The Railers have a youth movement underway and are still winning games, most recently a 4-0 result over Salina Central earlier this week to push their season record to 8-3-1.
It is the best start under coach Scott Jantzi and has him excited not only for the future, but for what this season’s team can accomplish behind the leadership of seniors Ashley Akers and Kate Zinn.
“We’re finally getting club players that come in with the technical skill we’ve been looking for,” Jantzi said. “We’re still working on the tactical part of it, but it’s always nice to work with girls who have been playing for a long time.”
Last season Newton began to shift toward a winning side behind the dazzling scoring ability of Brooklyn Entz. She has avoided the sophomore slump and has scored 17 of Newton’s 28 goals this season.
That’s a number Jantzi actually hopes to be more spread out, as he knows teams in the postseason will likely key on Entz and force the rest of Newton’s attackers to beat them.
Jantzi figures next Tuesday’s game against Derby, which is 9-2, will be a good test to see where the Railers are with the postseason looming.
“We need to start moving the ball quickly and getting our outside backs involved,” Jantzi said. “We can’t just go up the middle with things, we’ve got to get down the flanks and be able to cross the ball and see if we can start generating offense that way.”