Coventry girls soccer makes strides under first-year coach
COVENTRY TWP. Take a new head coach, add in a team where nearly half the starters and much of the roster is freshmen and add in a global pandemic and you have the recipe presented to the Coventry girls soccer program this season.
The Comets were taking team with a first-time head coach in Mallory Farrance and they made their way through the preseason and season dealing with the challenges COVID-19 brought to their sport.
"First and foremost, we'd been practicing since June and it was interesting to follow all of protocols along with having a team with a lot of young freshmen getting to play and get the experience they needed," Farrance said.
The season ended with a 7-0 loss to Bay Village in the first round of the sectional tournament and saw the Comets post a 3-11-2 record and a 1-5-1 mark in Metro Athletic Conference play.
Seniors Morgan Ross and Alexxis Wearstler, who have pulled double duty as place kickers for the football team this fall, captained the squad alongside fellow senior Emma Gaugler. Gaugler had to sit out the second half of the season due to health issues, but Farrance credited the trio with helping their younger teammates and trying to battle their way to wins.
"Those three girls were vocal on and off the field and they helped guide a lot of the freshmen and show them what to do," Farrance said.
Having Ross and Wearstler kick for the football team was "pretty amazing," Farrance noted, although she and football coach Mike Zografos had an agreement that the two girls would avoid contact on the football field at all costs since soccer was their first priority sports-wise.
Despite their record, the Comets made strides, according to their coach, and were able to lay a foundation for improvement going forward.
"The girls had a positive attitude, great sportsmanship and the confidence to learn to play the game," Farrance said. "We had good senior leaders to guide them through it and the culture of team has definitely changed."
One of the high points came early in the season, when a 5-0 win over a traditionally strong Alliance program showed the sort of results the Comets could produce when they were clicking as a unit.
As a first-time head coach, Farrance cited the support from the district, from parents and the players themselves as vital in the course of the campaign. She is a former youth coach in the district, so some of her current players were on her roster as 9-year-olds.
Having two of those younger players, freshmen Aubrey McCracken and Gwen Crockett, man the goalkeeper position was another challenge that presented itself this fall. Crockett took over when McCracken got injured after volunteering to play in goal despite being new to the position.
She was one of what was typically five freshman regularly in the starting lineup. For the entire team, those difficulties were constantly accompanied by the very real issues of staying safe in regards to coronavirus and being able to continue their season.
"It was more of the anxiety and disappointment to not know what was going to happen with our season, constantly making sure those protocols were followed, which they were, and that no one got COVID-19," Farrance said.
Although the pandemic did result in the cancellation of scheduled scrimmages prior to the season, overall the campaign went off smoothly for Coventry. Through 16 games of ups and downs, the Comets gathered as many lessons and as much experience as possible, keeping one eye on competing hard in the present and the other on trying to build for the future.