CHURCH HILL – Volunteer’s 2019 girls soccer team is in a bit of a rebuilding mode this year, having lost 15 players over the past two seasons, including Chloe Salyer, who graduated last year and signed with Mars Hill University.
“She was kind of the stabilizing force,” said Lady Falcons soccer coach Jeff Lukens. “I’ve got some leaders, but they’re silent leaders. I need someone to step up. I’ve got a really young squad.”
Lukens has plugged in some holes with some athletes from other sports.
“I had to go to some different places to get players. We were short on girls. We graduated 15 seniors in the last two years,” Lukens said.
Although from different sports, the new additions are blending in well with their athleticism and attitude.
“We’ve got a couple of track kids, couple of cheerleaders, and basketball kids,” Lukens said. “They’re doing great. We’re coming together a lot.
“They’ve exceeded my expectations. I thought it would take maybe 10 games in before we really started to shape up. But we’re starting to get it. There’s a lot to learn,” Lukens said.
It’s not a complete turnover on the roster, however. Some holdovers with experience and talent remain.
“We’ve got a lot of the same faces out there. We’ve got Alyssa Chappell at center forward, Emma Lukens at left mid and Makenzy Smith. She mostly plays left defensive mid,” said Lukens.
Back as goalkeeper is Erin Smallwood.
“This will be her third year in goal,” Lukens said. “She started the majority of her freshman year.”
One senior is a track and cross country standout, Megan Christian.
“She plays defense. She’s a solid little player. She had never played soccer but has been with us since her sophomore year. This is her third year. She’s a track girl. She’s a tough little cookie. She’ll run right through you,” Lukens said.
“I’ve got Riley Dobbs. She’s back. She’ll play a center-mid or right defensive mid, one of those two,” Lukens said.
Christian, Dobbs and newcomer Kiley Trent, former basketball player, are Volunteer’s only seniors.
“Kiley’s played and has done great,” Lukens said.
“A couple of the basketball girls are super fast. Sara Winegar is a new one. She’ll make a mistake, but she’s got that basketball mentality: go get the ball. She has a fast first step, really explosive,” Lukens said.
“We’ve got Sarah Gonce. She’s returning from last year’s team. She’s on defense, too. And Lauren Grevelle. She’s starting to play a little bit more. She was a first-year player last year. She’s a junior but she’s starting to figure it out.
“Like I said, we have a lot of inexperience. I’ve got a lot of girls who may make bad touches, but they make up for it with speed,” he said. “They’re all starting to figure it out. When you go up steps, sometimes you fall back down a few.”
Lukens is in his third year at the helm of the Lady Falcons soccer team.
“We kind of have the same goal every year,” he said. “My biggest dream is to win a couple of conference matches and get a playoff game at Volunteer High School. There’s never been one, boys or girls. Of course, that dream manifests into getting our first playoff win there, because if you’re playing at home, you’re supposed to be playing a team you beat before,” Lukens said.
“We beat South, 2-0. It was a real good match. So if we can hang in there with South, and hang in there with Unicoi County, Elizabethton, we’ll get a few wins,” he said.
“I’m excited. It’s a great group of girls with great attitudes. I love their attitude. This year it’s a bunch of girls who want to learn. They’re good to each other. There’s no meanness out there. So it’s kind of fun. It makes it a lot easier, less stressful,” he said.