COVENTRY TWP. Nothing kicks off a soccer season quite like some successful hurdling.
No, the Coventry girls soccer team hasn’t incorporated new, track and field elements into its training. The Comets simply started their season by getting over a major obstacle that has haunted them the past two seasons.
Cloverleaf has been a dominant force in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division girls soccer world since entering the league, so when the Colts appeared on the schedule for the second game of the season, Coventry knew it was in for an early test.
“It was huge … there was definitely a playoff atmosphere there around the game being in August,” Coventry head coach Greg Kulick said. “Our juniors and seniors have been on teams that have been dominated versus Cloverleaf the past two years. I think our goal differential was 11-0 to them last two years.”
This time around, Coventry and Cloverleaf traded early goals and a high-scoring first half left the two sides tied 2-2 at intermission. The second half proved to be all Coventry as the Comets ripped off four straight goals for a 6-2 win, pushing themselves to 2-0 on the season and securing a 1-0 league start.
In the process, Coventry showed off its capabilities on the defensive end of the field, where a group of defenders who don’t fit the typical mold for a soccer defender are working the way the coaching staff hoped they would.
“We feel like we have a strong defense … Haile Stevens and Brooke Wightman are our center backs and they’re fast, talented players. We put most of our speed in the back so we can man mark more,” Kulick said. “Big hats off to our four girls defensively who have been playing well. They’re short, small, fast girls, not the typically bigger, more aggressive players you usually see back there.
Kulick noted that Stevens might be “the fastest girl in our school” and believes that despite giving up size to opponents, the defense can continue forming a wall backed by goalie Sandra Northup.
Northup shared time in goal last season, but the coaching staff believed she would earn the position full-time as a junior. Northup tallied six saves in the win over Cloverleaf and Kulick has seen progress from the junior in building on her natural abilities to become an all-around goalie capable of shutting down opponents.
The offense has been strong in the early going as well, with Ashley Rafferty and Amy Quitter topping the stat sheet. Rafferty registered a hat trick in the season opener and with two goals against Cloverleaf, posted five goals in the first two games. Quitter had a combined three goals in the two contests and having multiple capable scorers would be a huge plus for the Comets as the season wears on.
Sustaining that strong start will hinge on several factors, including leadership from the squad’s veterans.
“We have a good senior class with a lot of leadership. Six starters on our team are seniors and we’ve also got some freshmen playing some big roles for us,” Kulick said.
The veteran leadership helped in the Cloverleaf game, when Kulick saw the team start with a lot of nervous energy but settle in after a few minutes. The end result was a big win that may only count for one tally in the win column, but getting past a hurdle that had tripped them up every time they’d faced it before could still clear the way for more achievements this season for Coventry.
In the long-distance race that is the soccer season, the Comets are still on their first lap, looking to set the pace that will propel them toward a successful final result.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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