VHS soccer season kicks off Saturday By Parker Knox
Sportswriter A Saturday varsity doubleheader at Cotton Park will kick off the Vermillion High School soccer teams' season. Groton will provide the opposition, starting with an 11 a.m. boys' varsity match and concluding with the girls' varsity game at 1 p.m. As Dave LaCombe begins his third year at the helm of the girls' varsity, the nagging thought that has been with them since last fall was the fact that for the first time they failed to qualify for the state tournament in Aberdeen. "It was disappointing, but it allowed the team to look ahead and to challenge them to not repeat the same season," LaCombe said. "The goal is now to go from worst to first." The Lady Tanagers will have to do that without a pair of graduated veterans, midfielder Sara Kjose and defender Angela Christensen, but they were a very young team a year ago and hope to translate those growing pains into a good season in 2009. "This season we are going to be leaning on the leadership from our returning juniors who are now seniors," the coach stated. "They will instill into the younger players what we will need to become a winning and successful team, a trait so hard to find in a team." LaCombe will rely on the speed of senior Megan Bottolfson, junior Morgan Erickson and sophomore Ashley Brunick to come up with the bulk of the team's scoring. Senior sisters Hannah and Sophie Nehlich-Arobba bring their ball-controlling expertise to Vermillion's midfield. Seniors Tasha Donnelly and Lacey Leichtnam, sophomores Shelby Gregoire and Tracy Howe and freshman Kelsey Meadows were either young players or were put into starting roles last year, and LaCombe expects that forced experience to translate into skill and smarter play this fall. Back in goal for VHS will be sophomore Katie Wasley. "I expect great things out of her this season," LaCombe said. Also back for the Lady Tanagers is sophomore Jordyn Mockler, joined by first-year players Alexis Reich, Teddie Settles, Tori Shelby, Cheyenne Steenken, Kortni Walker and Megan Zimiga. Leadership is by far, in LaCombe's opinion, the most important thing his team needs to emerge from the upcoming season successfully. "Our seniors are going to have to step forward and lead this team on the field," he said. The importance of having the numbers of athletes available is also crucial, according to LaCombe. Last fall he played with only 12 or 13 players due to other commitments and injuries. He cited a good positive attitude as another key to a great year in 2009. "The game becomes much more fun with a great attitude," he said. LaCombe and his Lady Tanagers won't have long to dwell on the outcome of Saturday's opener. They return to action Tuesday against West Central in a 6 p.m. game at Yankton Trails Park in Sioux Falls. Next weekend the girls will be back at Cotton Park against Mitchell in a 1 p.m. game Saturday. Carlos Telleria returns as boys varsity coach. He and his Tanagers, after tangling with Groton Saturday, will get their longest road trip of the season out of the way next week when Vermillion plays at Hot Springs Friday night and at Custer Saturday.