Lady Raiders forced to reshape team
Tamaqua head soccer coach Clem McCarroll, far right, sits with some of his players. The Lady Raiders were hit hard by graduation and must replace nearly the whole starting lineup. Senior players on this year's squad include, from left, Tanisha Farber, Kaleigh Rabenold, Rachel Jones and Mackenzie Heisler. Andrew Leibenguth/ TIMES NEWS
In high school sports, players come and players go.
As a longtime head coach, Tamaqua's Clem McCarroll is very familiar with that.
But in his tenure as the Lady Raiders' mentor never has he faced a situation like the one that presents itself this season.
Now in his 10th year, McCarroll ultimately must reshape his soccer program.
The Lady Raiders were very successful last season, earning an 11-6-1 record. But Coach McCarroll always knew that in order to be competitive again, much change was going to have to take place.
Tamaqua incredibly lost nine seniors, one of them Kailee Rottet. Soccer is the definition of "team sport" but it's hard to replace an all-state player who scored 100 career goals including 38 of the team's 61 last season.
"You're used to having most of the team come back," said McCarroll. "There are seasons where you lose four or five players, but we lost nine."
A majority of the girls that Tamaqua lost were starters last sesaon.
"It's a totally different team coming back," said McCarroll. "We're used to having one or two players that can carry the offense but that won't be the case this season. We're a very inexperienced team now."
Tamaqua's team consists of four seniors, five juniors, and a roster full of underclassmen.
The statistics prove that this team is very young. The girls on Tamaqua's have a combined 14 career goals between them. It's going to be a challenge to figure out where the new offense is going to come from.
"It seems that every year we have two or three girls that are scoring 20-plus goals," said McCarroll. "Since we don't have that this year we're going to be much more defensive. We have to try and shut the door on the other team and try and get a feel for our opponent."
McCarroll believes that goalkeeper Carly Sassaman having another year under her belt will significantly increase the efficiency of this defense. Sophomore Lynn Kistler will look to control the middle of the field and give this offense a shot. Kaleigh Rabenold is one of the seniors whose leadership will be of the utmost importance this season. She leads the team with six career goals.
Motivation can do unbelievable things in the sports world. Coach McCaroll believes that this could be a huge factor in the team's potential success this season.
"The team definitely has a chip on its shoulder," said McCarroll. "Rotett casted a large shadow and now everyone thinks Tamaqua is in trouble this season. We are preaching the importance of defense and working as a unit. The bottom line is that defense wins championships in soccer and every other team sport."
It sure sounds like McCaroll's team has bought into the "play as a team" mentality saying his team is very "close-knit".
"It's important to have your own identity as a team. The girls are working relentlessly to create their own," he said.
McCarroll clearly understands the personnel he has and what they're capable of. It's certainly intriguing to see how a team which is used to relying on offense to carry them will transitioin into a defensive based team.
"We'll fight to the end," said McCarroll.