Two-time defending champion Madison Southern returns a strong core of starters from last year’s soccer team and brings in a handful of new players that are expected to play key roles this season.
Last year the Lady Eagles went 11-5-2 overall and 5-0 against county foes.
Southern beat Central, 2-1, in the district championship game, before falling to Lexington Catholic, 4-0, in the Region 14 semifinals.
The Lady Eagles are undefeated in their past eight games against county teams, recording a 7-0-1 mark.
It’s been nearly two years since Southern lost to a county opponent, falling to Central, 1-0, on Sept., 2, 2010.
With another talented squad this year Southern is gunning for a third straight district title.
“I have really high expectations for this team,” said coach Katy Cress. “We seem to have really come together early at camp so hopefully we can keep that momentum going.”
Senior midfielder Dakota Gabb and senior forward McKenzie Bicknell lead an offense that scored 51 goals in 18 games last season.
Senior Lori Farmer helps anchor a defense that limited teams to 23 goals a season ago.
Southern does have a hole to fill at goalkeeper.
Sophomore Kristyn Murphy has moved from the field to the goal to take over that spot.
Cress said that several sophomores have stepped up during the preseason, including Rachel Ramey, Annie Ware, Rachel deRosset and Taylor Tripp.
“Winning district is one of our goals,” Cress said. “I think we have the talent to do that again this year, but some of the other teams in district will be good. It’s going to be exciting.”
Southern opens the season at 6 p.m. Thursday at home against East Jessamine.
The Lady Indians went 15-7 last season, beating Model, 1-0, in the semifinals of district, before falling to Southern, 2-1, in the final.
Central lost in the region tournament, 3-1, to final four team West Jessamine.
The Lady Indians return 13 varsity players this season, including junior forward Maryssa Stewart (19 goals, 12 assists) and junior midfielder Leeanne Ogle (13 goals, four assists).
Also back are senior forward Sarah Franklin (eight goals, six assists) and senior midfielder Kennedy Harden (six goals, five assists.)
“After last season we ended with a successful year and with most of the team returning we look to be just as strong,” said coach Chris Dunham. “We will work for another successful season, but it must end with a district championship.”
Central only lost four seniors and two starters to graduation, but one was forward Meredith White (15 goals, five assists) who is playing this year at Morehead State University.
The defense, though, is solid.
“I am looking for the back four to be our strong point,” Dunham said. “They need to work together and stay organized. We will have speed on the outside backs.”
Last year, Desiree Johnson and Samantha Shepherd split time in goal.
Johnson, a junior, and Shepherd, a senior, are back this season.
Defense will be key for the Lady Indians.
In their 15 wins last year Central allowed 18 goals, but in the seven losses surrendered 25 goals.
Central opens the season Tuesday at Sayre. The first home game is Aug. 22 against Western Hills.
Berea put together a successful campaign last season, going 14-7-1.
The Lady Pirates beat Estill County, 3-0, in the opening round of district, before falling to Madison Southern, 7-1, in the semifinals.
Berea returns the county’s top two scorers, seniors Sydney Sandefur and Tonya Renzenbrink.
Last year, Sandefur had 40 goals and 17 assists and Renzenbrink added 35 goals and 13 assists.
Also returning is senior goalkeeper Ashley Sizemore, who allowed two goals per game last year.
Overall, Berea had only two seniors on last year’s roster and sports an experienced line-up this season.
The Lady Pirates get the season underway at 6 p.m. Monday at home against Marion County.
The Lady Patriots return only three players from a team that won just five games last season.
“This is a rebuilding year,” Model coach Bill Kirk said. “We are basically a freshman team.”
Model has just a pair of seniors — defender Miriam Cahill and midfielder Ashlee Thornsberry — one junior and 11 freshman on the roster.
The Lady Patriots lost eight seniors from last season, including goalkeeper Kelsey Givens, who allowed 2.5 goals per game.
Junior Emily Johnson played in two games last season, allowing one goal. She is set to take over as the starter in net.
Model opens the season at 6:30 p.m. Monday at home against Corbin.