Small roster not dimming enthusiasm for Knoch girls soccer

Saturday, August 24, 2019 | 8:22 PM

Knoch girls soccer already was low on players, but three season-ending injuries before the first practice made the roster even thinner.

The Knights have only 14 healthy players going into the season, but the player shortage hasn’t dampened spirits around the team. Players say it brought them closer together, and they plan to compete and improve as the season rolls along.

“We are all one united front,” senior defender Tori Greenawalt said. “There aren’t any separated groups, which is a lot better than having groups. We don’t have starters and subs because we’re all starters. We have a lot of team bonding, and we get along really well.”

The Knights have a new coach, Greg Hess, a guidance counselor at Knoch, who previously coached the junior varsity boys soccer team. Hess takes over for Kevin Wood, who resigned for work-related reasons after three seasons.

“I’ve always wanted to coach at the varsity level, and when this opened up it all worked out,” Hess said. “This is a good group of girls to have for a first-year coach.”

Hess has a couple of plans to counteract having a thin roster.

One of the main focuses during games will be managing substitutes to keep everyone relatively fresh. The day after games, he plans on having lighter practices as another way ease the load on his team.

“The days after games are going to have more rest than there would be normally,” Hess said. “We’ll probably warm up, get in a few drills and then cool down. It’s mainly about keeping everyone healthy.”

Knoch graduated eight seniors, including Lindsie Galbreath, the program’s second all-time leading scorer behind Amanda Sharbaugh. Galbreath is at Cal (Pa.).

The Knights return some experience in Greenawalt, seniors Gabby Oskin (forward) and Lillie Leasure (midfield) along with juniors Ella Wilson (defense) and Jenna Vasas (midfield) and sophomore Madeline Boyer (midfield).

Six freshmen round out the roster.

“Everyone is capable of playing on the field, which is good,” Hess said. “We won’t put anyone in and be worried about them.”

Grace Foehlinger will be the goalie, and it’s her first time playing soccer. She plays goalie for the school’s lacrosse team.

Lauren Galbreath, Lindsie’s younger sister, is one of the three girls out for the season because of injury. She was scheduled to be the goalie but is doing her best to help Foehlinger. Natalie Brands and Rachel Delzer also are out for the season.

Galbreath and Greenawalt raved about Foehlinger’s play in her first action during Knoch’s scrimmage Tuesday against Apollo-Ridge. The score was tied 1-1 late before Apollo-Ridge scored twice in the final five minutes. The result gave the Knights some confidence.

“We were all so proud of how we played,” Greenawalt said. “Everybody worked hard and threw themselves in there. It was so exciting to see.”

Knoch plays in Section 1-AAA with three teams that won postseason games last year. Mars made it to the WPIAL finals, losing to Oakland Catholic. Hampton was a semifinalist, and Kiski Area made the quarterfinals.

Gateway, Indiana, Armstrong and Franklin Regional are also in the section.

Hess will measure his group by how it progresses against some stout competition.

“A lot of it is going to be how we play and how we look when we are playing,” Hess said. “It’s not necessarily about the score line but if we are getting better throughout the year. That’s key to me, because we’re trying to build up the program. It’ll be more about how we are competing and how we are playing together as a team.

“If we sneak in a win that maybe we aren’t expected to get, then that’ll be a bonus.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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