Pine-Richland girls to lean on young, balanced lineup

Sunday, August 27, 2017 | 11:00 PM

The standard for what a successful season looks like has been set for the Pine-Richland girls soccer team, and it's not an easy mark to meet.

The program has posted seven consecutive seasons of 10 wins or more, four consecutive years with a playoff appearance and has won back-to-back Section 1-AAAA titles.

However, more then a few of the players who helped accomplish those feats are gone as the Rams graduated six senior starters from last year's team. Still, coach Jodi Chmielewski is confident in the young talent on her roster and their ability to pick up where the last class of girls left off.

“This is the most seniors we've graduated in terms of starters in a few years. So we definitely have some holes to fill, but we feel that we have a really strong incoming freshman class to help fill those holes,” Chmielewski said.

“We've been really impressed with how things are coming together. We're going to be a combination of some older, experienced players and some young players. But those young players have been playing at a high level in the offseason, so we're pretty confident that they're ready to step in and fill some of those roles.”

One of the more noticeable departures from last year's team is two-time all-state honoree Amanda Kalin, the team's leader in goals.

Senior Sami Kelly, an Akron commit, will fill a large portion of that void, along with two newcomers: sophomore Allie Malobicky and freshman Megan Donnelly.

“Sami, Allie and Megan are all similar in that they have great speed and they're dynamic and comfortable with the ball. They have excellent footwork, and they're willing to take players on, but they're also excellent distributors,” Chmielewski said.

“I think that balance will be key for us, and Sami will lead the way, being the veteran, returning player of the group.”

Caroline Swan, an all-section selection last season, will buoy the midfielder group with Indiana-Bloomington commit Alaina Kalin.

On defense, the Rams return another all-section performer from last season with Becca Libby.

The junior defender will spearhead a group trying to help lighten the workload for freshman goalkeeper Katherine Kelly.

Pine-Richland might be a little younger and a little more inexperienced than in recent years, but Chmielewski said, that doesn't mean the standards will change.

“I don't think you should change your standards just because you have some younger players stepping in. If they weren't ready to handle that then they shouldn't be in there. We're excited. We think they understand what we need to do,” Chmielewski said.

“We have great senior leadership and a balance throughout our lineup that we feel will be key for us this year.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.


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