Photo by Bill Roseberry
Marquette sophomore Annabelle Copeland looks to dribble the ball around Alton’s Sydney Schmidt on March 25 at Gordon Moore Park. The young Explorers are looking to reload in 2015 after advancing to the super-sectional round of the Class 1A playoffs a year ago.
Success definitely isn’t a foreign concept to the Marquette Catholic girls’ soccer program.
In the last six years, the Explorers have won a Class 1A state championship in ‘11, finished second in ‘09 and third in ‘13. Overall, Marquette owns five sectional crowns in the last six years and six straight regional titles.
The Explorers are coming off a 2014 season where they advanced to the super-sectional round of the playoffs, only to lose to Rochester 2-1. Rochester went on to take second in the state.
“We lost a lot of seniors from last year and we have a lot of spots to fill, but we just really want the state title,” junior Lauren Schmickley said after a 1-0 win over rival Alton on March 25. “And we just really want to beat — like Rochester is on our radar — we really want to beat them.”
That Rochester loss sticks in the craw of the Explorers, who were tied with the Rockets 0-0 after 80 minutes of regulation soccer in the super-sectional in Edwardsville. After each team scored in the first 10-minute overtime, Rochester scored in the last 4.7 seconds of the second overtime to crush Marquette’s state dreams and win 2-1. The Explorers ended the season at 18-6-1.
All-Stater Caroline Hoefert graduated and is now playing for the SIUE Cougars. Hoefert led a large contingent of seniors who graduated from the program.
Head coach Steve Mitchell said right now the Explorers, who were 3-1 at press time Wednesday, are trying to figure out their identity and discover that leadership.
“If they can play like we’ve trained, like they did the first 20 minutes (against Alton on March 25), it will be hard to beat us,” Mitchell said. “If we played like we did the last 30 or 40 minutes (against Alton) we’re not going to make it very far.
“It’s heart and hustle. You can have the best players on the field, but if you don’t have any heart or hustle all that talent goes right out the window. It’s a fact. We had a very talented team last year, but we just got out-hearted and out-hustled in the super-sectional and we ended up losing. If these kids come together and they heart and they hustle, we’ll be alright. It’s still early, so we’ve got a lot of changes to make.”
Schmickley, along with senior midfielder Kate Sanfilippo, who is bound for Northern Illinois to continue her soccer career next year, look to be two of the key cogs this year. Schmickley scored the lone goal in the rivalry win over Alton on March 25 and Sanfilippo fed her.
Schmickley thinks the leadership for 2015 is there; it just needs to rise to the forefront.
“We have some leaders who have stepped up and are filling those spots and we’re trying our best,” Schmickley said. “We just need to step it up and get in better shape and we have to want it as a team.”
Unlike last year, where Marquette was senior heavy, there are only four seniors this year with midfielders Sanfilippo and Nicole Grimaud and defensive backs Monica Neel and Kali Segieda.
There are also only four juniors in Schmickley, defensive backs Caitlyn Hanlon and Bailey Hartrich and forward Adriana Schindler. The rest of the roster is overflowing with freshmen and sophomores.
Both goalies for the Explorers are freshmen in Lauren Fischer and Sonorah Eldred. Fischer showed her talents with some athletic stops vs. the Redbirds in the March 25 win. Contribution from those younger players will be crucial if Marquette wants to make another deep playoff run.
“It’s finding a goal scorer and I’ve got four freshmen that play right now and they’re still figuring out varsity soccer,” Mitchell said. “It’s not like their select team, it’s a whole different ball game with the physicality of it. Some of them are smaller, but we’re learning.”
Schmickley grades her team out pretty well right now, but only time will tell where they end up.
“I think we’re doing great,” she said. “I think we’re really stepping up.”