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Retaining TRC girls' soccer title prime goal for North Miami

FOOTRACE: North Miami goalkeeper Madison France (L) beats an attacker to a ball during a passing and shooting drill at a recent practice. France solidified the spot between the sticks last season to help the Warriors take home the TRC girls’ soccer title, a crown the squad looks to defend in 2018.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

After being denied a TRC girls’ soccer title by a last-ditch Manchester comeback in 2016, North Miami finally cleared the Squire-shaped hurdle in front of them to win the conference in 2017.

Repeating as TRC champs will come down to how quickly the Warriors replace three departed seniors in defense and attack ahead of the 2018 season.

North Miami head coach Jason Faine said the team had a deeper roster than the previous year while retaining most of the conference-winning starting lineup.

“We have a few more numbers this year and we’re all-around a pretty good team,” Faine said. “We lost some speed up front and in the defense but we have several girls who can fill in those spots.”

The Warriors return three starting defenders in front of returning goalkeeper Madison France in Emily Bahney, Sarah Eckrote and Hannah Hall while the midfield returns intact in Katie Day, Bailey Keim and Paris Butler.

The frontline will be the biggest test as Michaela Stiver, who led the team in goals, and Kristin Jacobs depart with Josie Haskett the remaining forward.

Faine said having the framework of the 2017 squad made it easier to focus on filling in the gaps, particularly up front.

“Madison was someone we felt should have been All-TRC last season as a goalkeeper,” Faine said. “We won the conference on her save against Rochester and she did very well all season.

“Emily, Sarah and Hannah are all back in defense with Sarah being an All-TRC defender. Katie Day, Bailey Keim and Paris all return for us in the midfield, the latter two being all-conference players as well.

“Josie is good running on to lobs, though we expect some new faces to challenge for spots as we don’t really have our forwards locked down yet,” Faine added. “Several girls will be getting opportunities this year.”

After getting the forward line taken care of, Faine said filling in the gap left by Faith White at the back would be important to the continued success of the team.

“Like a lot of coaches, we feel that defense wins championships,” Faine said. “That’s kept us going the past few years, keeping the defense tight.

“Our goal is to make sure we get the defense right so we’re finding the right girls to play in defense and play multiple positions.”

Several other players return after seeing the field throughout 2017 in Jordan Moore, Bailey Golliher, Brittney Stroud, Carina Savage, Annika Oliver and Carly Gunter while the team has several newcomers in seniors Kate Cobler and Maggie Working, junior Shelby Walker, sophomores Candice Mosely and Lexi Amburgey and freshmen Amelia Mappin, Kayla Main and Tayrin Mygrant.

Faine said early practices were productive for the newcomers once they got used to the intensity of the sport.

“Often, you get two different types of freshmen, those who are super-talented and those that need work,” Faine said. “The girls coming in are pretty decent and have some good footwork already.

“I was worried a bit about some of the newcomers. One of them, on the first day, was running around tentatively to the point where we thought she might get hurt.

“We took her aside and told her about the game, how sometimes it might get rough, and the next day she turned the speed up, fleshed out what she was doing and looked like someone who could challenge for a starting spot,” Faine added.

North Miami adds two games to the schedule this season, one of which will take place Saturday against a potential sectional opponent, both challenges Faine said the team needed to face during the season.

“We start the year with Lakeland Christian Academy and towards the end of the season we play Marion,” Faine pointed out. “Marion is a big school but we’ll play whoever we need to play.

“We play teams like Argos and LaVille in the sectional, so we need to play good competition.”

With most of the team returning and a TRC title to defend, Faine said the girls were in a position to match or better their record from 2017, adding the girls were ready to take on the challenges of the new season.

“We sat down on the first day and asked everybody what they wanted to do, which everyone said was to repeat as TRC champs,” Faine said. “They want to beat our rivals, which are Manchester and Rochester, the teams we’ve battling for the title the past few years, while Peru, who didn’t win much last year, was definitely improved and played us tough.”

“We can be a team that is close to what we did last season.  We don’t know what Argos has this year and programs don’t stay on forever.

“Eastern used to dominate us and we’ve beaten them the past couple of years, so we’ll wait for the season to start up and see what everybody has.”