The Saxony Lutheran girls soccer team had nowhere near the season it wanted to last spring after only managing to win four of its 19 games.
The Crusaders also only produced a total of 15 goals offensively as they failed to score in 12 contests, while their defense only recorded one shutout all year.
Arguably the biggest factor to Saxony’s 4-15 season is the lack of experience the Crusaders had since they primarily played first-year starters in 2021.
Most players were first-year starters because their 2020 campaign was taken away from them due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Saxony head coach Chris Crawford also started and played a number of freshman, who now enter this season with a full year of experience under their belt.
“We’re going to be playing between six and 12 sophomores that are really more like juniors who’ve had experience,” Coach Crawford said. “I’m excited to see what we can do. I know we’re going to have our lumps because we’re young, but I also think we’re going to catch some people by surprise and pull some wins in games that we maybe don’t belong in.
“The days of us getting rolled over by people are over.”
Saxony’s backline will consist of one junior Anna Mueller and the rest will be sophomores Payton Meier, Maci Hollis, Annie Adams and Mallory Kohlfield.
“I’ve always been more of a defensive-minded coach, so for me to put that many underclassmen back there is a testament to what they can do,” Crawford said. “Those girls have really stuck out as sophomores. Mueller had her freshman season taken away from her, but she is a phenomenal leader.”
Last year, Hollis and Meier played every position except for goalkeeper because Coach Crawford needed them to. Now that they’ll be able to focus on primarily playing defense, he’s looking forward to what they can do.
“Those two just had that ability to play everywhere, and they’re super mature and are super-high soccer I.Q. kids,” Crawford said. “They’ve played for a long time, and they’ve played together for quite a bit. Payton, Maci and Annie know how to play with each other, and they know where the other is going to be. They’ll be huge for us.”
Playing goalkeeper will be a combination of senior Lauren Barnes and sophomore Grace Ozark. “I feel comfortable right now putting either one of them in,” Crawford said.
Other sophomores who will play plenty for the Crusaders this season include midfielder Katie Swain and forward Kylie Peters. Another second-year player Coach Crawford is excited about to have on the pitch is Clara Brune.
“Our sophomore class is pretty fit,” Coach Crawford said. “We’ve got the youth — we’ve just got to put it all together.”
Joining Peters up top will be forwards like senior Anna Thomason and sophomore Callie King. Moving to the midfield, senior Savanna Sprengel will play there, while Kohlfield might see time there on top of her defensive duties. Senior Brynn Sprengel and junior Ava Perry will also factor in.
Another player Saxony will rely on in the midfield is freshman Camille Richey, whose two older brothers Garrett and Max have played for Coach Crawford. Crawford said that since Camille is the younger sister of two brothers, she’s not afraid of anyone.
“When Camille is on, she’s like her brothers — you can’t stop her,” Coach Crawford said. “I got to coach her in basketball, too, and she’s undersized as a guard. She’s probably undersized to be playing as our center attacking mid, but she is mean as heck. She plays like, ‘Don’t mess with me.’
“She’s fast, she’s mean and she’s physical. Even though she’s undersized, she doesn’t play like that.”