WEST JEFFERSON — Every season in every sport comes with new challenges, and for Ashe County Huskies soccer coach Paul Winteron, this season is one full of youth and change.
The Huskies headed into the season with a roster of 23. Of those 23, Julia Bassett is the only senior, and 18 players are sophomores or freshman.
“It’s a young team for sure,” Winterton said. “They’re still learning to communicate.”
Some will have to step into bigger roles almost immediately. The Huskies lost five seniors last season, including players such as Sam Woods and Haley Miller, regularly first names on the team sheet. The two combined for 47 goals in the 2019 season, but returning is Jernee Ashley, who led the team in assists and scored the third-most goals.
Also gone is all-action defender Gracie Fairchild, who will not play her senior season.
Winterton said sophomores Katie Woods and Jordan and Jayden Jones are among those who he will lean on for more minutes, with the coach already pleased with the early results. He also said he’s looking forward to the play of freshman Jezik Martin, who is coming off an all-conference track season and will fill into a central midfield role.
He noted the play of goalkeeper Sophia Kiser as an early bright spot despite the team’s 14 goals allowed in two games, as of press time. While the back line is being rebuilt, Kiser has faced 44 shots on goal in only two, tough non-conference games, making 30 saves.
While being outscored 14-0 in their first two games against Mt. Airy and Watauga, Winterton said the expectations when conference play starts should still be high.
“We should be second in the conference,” Winterton said. “I think Wilkes Central will be really tough and should win it, but with the girls we have we should be second.”
Play in the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference will start Tuesday, March 24. In the meantime, Winterton said he is planning to stick with the classic 4-4-2 formation.