File photos by Kevin Nagle
The Bryant Lady Hornets soccer team, which will host a pre-season scrimmage against an alumni team on Sunday afternoon at 2, heads into the 2018 season with lofty expectations including those of their new head coach Nicole Inman.
“They’re very high,” she said of her designs on the season. “We have a group of girls that can take the State championship and I firmly believe that.
“We have drive, determination, skill, experience, and I have 12, 13, 14 players with real soccer skills, real soccer experience,” she continued. “I’m not just pulling players in, hoping I can teach them something. We’re going to play a system that everybody that’s out there knows how to play.
“I’ve seen the competition, just from playing club,” Inman related. “Obviously, there are always changes. You’ve got coaching and you’ve got different girls that are coming together and they’re going to develop too. So, I don’t live in La-La Land. But I am very confident in what the girls can do.”
Inman has back a number or returning starters but when she came in, she wiped the slate clean and every position was open.
“Our goal is to create the premier high school program in the state, regardless of the sport,” she declared. “To do that, part of it is that every player has to earn their spot. I want to be sure that I can go up to the other girls and say the reason she’s playing here is because of this.
“So, we have set up for them, a mission where we’re focusing on five specific words,” the coach continued. “They know the five things that we look for in every training practice. Those are the things that we hit on all the time because those are things that are going to make the difference. If they succeed in that and they capitalize on their opportunities, then they’re going to get to play more varsity time.
“All these girls are going to play, JV or varsity, because I’m looking at them and I say, ‘You are somebody I’m going to need next year, and I need you to develop.’ They were real stagnant last year,” she said. “This year, it’s night and day. Their touches, their thought processes, they’re moving without the ball, their intensity, their desire — they look like they’re playing soccer this year and last year they didn’t. I’m excited about that.”
Inman said her five terms are, “Intensity, speed of play, transition, decision making and what I call training on the edge, which is really just, are you willing to take some chances in practice and fail? It just means, when we do different things that — for instance, I’m a big believer in players being able to use both feet. I had a girl last year that I coached this year in club, she would not use her left foot to save her life. Couldn’t do it, wouldn’t do it. I said you will learn to use your left foot. Now she has a rocket of a left foot and she can use both feet.
“So, it’s me believing that they can try things and not getting mad at them because they fail but being able to say, ‘You’re going to fail and that’s okay. I want you to try it because, if you try it, eventually you’re going to succeed.’ I just give them opportunities to try things
“What I’m so excited about this year is, I think in the past and last year there was a huge defining line,” she said. “And, while there’s still a line, our JV girls — I think before, they had not developed the way they needed to develop. So, they struggled in training, struggled to keep up and there was a clear dividing line. This year, the JV girls have completely stepped up their play. The varsity girls — some of them have been around a long time — they look better than they’ve ever looked. And they’ve had good training. I’m just a firm believer in focusing on skills.”
The team includes seniors Brittney Warner, Jasmine Sauers, Jessica Butler, Jad’n Nichols and Kathryn Vivar.
Juniors include Mary Catherine Selig, Rachel Studdard, Madison Humbard, Ashlyn Thompson, Alyssa Fason, Abbie Patton, Chelsey Alarcon and Stefany Roman.
The sophomores on the team include Grace Carmack, Kinley Oholendt, Lauren Heath, Hailee Denton, Elaine Qualls, Isabel Longneker, Maddie Stukenborg, Maggie Murray and Alexis Brown.
The freshmen are Kamryn Ray, Addison Funk, Madison Williams, MaKayla Chandler, Ellie O’Gary, Abbey Inman, Caroline Pelton, Rachel Buck, Jillian Colclasure, Ashton Inman and Melinda Hernandez.
“The girls voted Jad’n Nichols and Mary Catherine Selig as our captains,” Coach Inman said. “So they’re going to lead us on the field and, off the field, they’re very good. We have five seniors that are here. A lot of them are going to get good playing time. We have a couple that have had some injuries. So, we’re kind of nursing those back and we’ll see where they are when they come back. They’re not just going to come back and start playing. And I’m not someone who says you’re a senior, so you get to play. You still have to earn your spot.
“Jad’n will anchor the back line,” she said. “Mary Catherine will kind of be the anchor to our midfield. Alyssa Fason and Madison Humbard, they’ll be helping us out attacking.
“The lineup remains to be seen,” she asserted. “You’re going to see Lauren Heath has really come along this year. We have four keepers and I have three that have good experience. So, we’re not going to be a one-keeper team. Brittney Warner, Addison Funk and Alexis Brown, then Kamryn Ray. They’ve all come along really well.”
On the defensive end, Inman said, “We have Rachel Studdard, Ashlyn Thompson, then we have Abbey Inman back there some and Jillian Colclasure and I’ve got a bunch of sophomores. I’ve had Jasmine Sauers back there, but she’s hurt.
“I have a lot of options and that’s good,” she related. “It’s hard when you’re putting freshmen in there to see how they’re going to click. Who’s clicking? I know they can do it but it’s just a matter of proving it.
“Midfield is M.C. Selig, Maddie Humbard, who will play more of an attacking mid; Melinda Hernandez, who’s a freshman. I also have Kathy Vivar when she gets better. Ashton Inman will be in there some then I will have Jessica Butler, who can play more of a wide player. I have Abbey Patton and Lauren (Heath). And there will be some of the sophomores in.
“My starting 11 or 12 are going to physically be able to play the entire game,” the coach noted. “And that’s my expectation. So, I only want to sub if there’s a necessity to do so.
“We’ve got to see how we do once we get out and play,” she allowed, looking ahead to the season opener on Tuesday against Little Rock Hall. “I expect a little bit of jitters working through the system, but they know that they’re better than they were last year. They can see it and they feel it. Individually, they know they’ve all improved.”