August 18, 2009 9:33:00 AM
STEENS -- Just about everything will be new for the Immanuel Christian girls soccer program in 2009.
The hope for this season is that all of the new players who have joined the program will help the Lady Rams make a return trip to the playoffs.
Fifth-year coach Ray Campbell and the Lady Rams will kick off the season at 4 p.m. today when they play host to Indianola.
Immanuel enters the season with plenty of youth an inexperience. The Rams have only three seniors -- Nyki Baudoin, Elizabeth Cook, and Katherine Johnston -- on their 16-player roster. Ten of those players are in grades seven through nine.
Despite the youth, Campbell said the team has more soccer knowledge than in past years. He hopes that experience will help the team improve on its 8-4 showing in the North Division of Class A in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools.
"Even though we missed the playoffs last year, one of our bigger rivals, Indianola, who we always struggle with, we lost to them 3-2 in overtime," Campbell said. "I think that gives us a lot of confidence going into this season."
Campbell won''t use the inexperience as an excuse. He said beating Indianola and making the playoffs are goals his squad is shooting to accomplish.
He hopes freshman Taylor Kidder, who is in her first year as a goalkeeper, continues to show improvement to help stabilize the defense.
"I am looking for good things out of her this year," Campbell said.
Campbell also will look to Baudoin to take the leadership role up top and for Cook to take on that challenge with the defense.
He said sophomore Meghan Cooper and eighth-grader Taylor Baudoin will be counted on to play key roles in the midfield and to organize the attack.
Campbell said Johnston likely will play fullback but is versatile enough to be a "utility" type of player who capitalizes on her hustle.
Sophomore Bailey Edwards likely will play the top of the Lady Rams'' diamond defense.
Freshmen Rachel Strickland, Mary Katherine Good, and Katlyn Shriner, eighth-graders Kari Thomason, Blakney Clark, and Elelia Phillips, and seventh-graders Haley Good and Keri Hutcherson also will compete for playing time.
Cook said the Lady Rams won''t use their inexperience and youth be an excuse. In fact, she said it could be a strength.
"We have a lot of talent we didn''t have last year," Cook said. "I think this year we''re going to be really good and we''re going to go far."
Baudoin said all of the players want to be out here, which will help them succeed. She agreed the team does have a lot of talent and that it will do better than it did last season.
It''s not that an 8-4 record is too shabby, but the seniors want the program to have higher goals.
"No one clicked last year," Baudoin said. "It was more like you got the ball and you took it until someone took it from you."
The seniors said the team gets along much better than it last season and is excited about its potential, as is Campbell.
"This is probably the biggest team I have had," Campbell said. "I think last year we had 14, so every year we seem to be growing and growing and growing. Columbus Rec is doing a pretty good job of building that program, and I hope as that program grows I will move more and more players come out."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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