GODFREY – The L&C women’s soccer team has had a fairly non-eventful summer with captain-led workouts and coach-prescribed individual conditioning. Running, dribbling, passing and scrimmaging on their own with no coaches in sight.
That all changes at 7:15 a.m. Saturday when preseason practice officially gets under way.
“I think they’ll be in pretty good shape coming in,” L&C coach Tim Rooney said. “They’ve been doing stuff on their own, since coaches aren’t allowed contact before preseason practice starts.”
Last season, the Trailblazers went 19-1 with yet another national tournament berth. And while that may be satisfying for most, Rooney and his players feel there’s work to be finished.
L&C is a two-time national women’s soccer champion, finished third, fourth and sixth and has qualified for the national tournament eight times. The Trailblazers won the national championship in 1999 and 2008.
“You have to replace about half your team every year,” Rooney said, “and you have to make sure you leave yourself in decent shape when your new recruits are the second-year players on the team.”
Rooney’s Trailblazers will be on the clock beginning Aug. 3 when they begin preseason practice in earnest. They’ll be using Glazebrook Park as well as a portion of the LC baseball/softball complex for conditioning. For scrimmaging and drills, they’ll use their home field at Tim Rooney Stadium on the L&C campus.
“It works out really well,” Rooney said. “Between us and the (L&C) men, we have good facilities for practice without a lot of wear and tear on our game field.”
That game field will get put to use beginning Aug. 10 when the annual Trailblazers alumni games will take place. The women’s game will start at 11 a.m. and the men’s game at 12:30 p.m.
Following the alumni games, the L&C women will play four preseason games beginning with a home game Aug. 20 against McKendree University, followed by home games Aug 23 and Aug. 25 against Allen county and Iowa Lakes and ending with a match Aug. 27 at Greenville college.
Then come the games that count. And the Trailblazers will start with a pair of tough ones. Their season opener Aug. 31 in the Wichita Tournament against Laramie, Wyoming and Butler, Kansas.
Butler went 18-6 last season and saw its season end at the hands of L&C in pool play at the national tournament, 3-2 in overtime.
“They’re both usually really good and we’ll have to be ready,” Rooney said. “Once we get through the preseason, we should be ready.”
New on the Trailblazers’ schedule will be first-year programs Lincoln Trail College of Robinson, Illinois and Wabash Valley of Mount Carmel. John wood college of Quincy, which joined Division I last season, is also on the schedule.
Rooney needs to retool his team’s offense, which suffered graduation losses on offense to the tune of 81 goals scored by sophomores in 2018. In all, the Trailblazers scored 123 goals.
“We lost a lot of goals to graduation,” Rooney said. “I think our defense is still going to be solid, but we need to make sure we have players who will score goals. I don’t know if we’ll have 123 goals in us, but I think we’ve got the players who can score.”
The Trailblazers lost to graduation Kassidy Louvall (20 goals), Megan Pierce (14) Audrey Andrezejewski (13), Senate Letsie (13), as well as a host of players in single-digit goal scoring.
Andrezejewski will play at Southern Indiana next fall, Letsie will play at McKendree University, Louvall at Eastern Illinois and Alexandra Smith at Fontbonne.
Rooney said there are goal scorers returning and some new ones coming in.
Back will be midfielder Boitumelo Rabale, who scored 21 goals (25th in the nation) and had 29 assists (second in the nation). And Rooney said he’s anticipating a breakout season from Emma Lucas, a sophomore from Roxana. She scored eight goals and had six assists as a freshman.
“Emma can definitely be dangerous,” Rooney said. “It was an adjustment for her last year, but I think she can score a lot of goals for us.”
The Trailblazers will also look to freshman Maitumeb Bosija, who hails from Lesotho, which also is the home country of Rabale and the graduated Letsie.
“(Bosija) is 6-foot-3 and can definitely score goals,” Rooney said. “And Candice Parziani will be an attacking player too.”
And incoming freshman, Parziani is from Australia. “She’s similar to (Andrezejewski). She’ll be hard to move off the ball and can find the goal.”
Defensively, I think we’re in good shape.”
Among the returning defensive players will be Sydney Schmidt, Jocelynn Wagner, Cassie Hall, Nicole Grellner and goalie Mercedes King and Braeden Lackey.
Other newcomers will include goalie Sabrina Burns from Southwestern, Kara Crutchley from East Alton-Wood River, Chelsea Riden from Triad, Jenna Robinson from Civic Memorial and Alexandra Smith’s sister, Carolynn Smith, from Chatham Glenwood.
“We always set a goal of finishing first in Region 24 and getting home-field advantage,” Rooney said. “We want to go to the national tournament every year, but there are a lot of things that we have to take care of.
“That all starts in the preseason.“
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