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After being crowned district champs last year for the second straight season and third in the past four campaigns, Nelson County has high aspirations for a repeat, yet again.
“Our expectations are the same, year in and year out,” said head coach Mike Glass. “We have a wide range of experience, and we are looking for that team chemistry right now. But, just how good can we be when the season starts — well, that is too early to tell.”
The Cardinals defeated Bardstown 1-0 to claim the title last year, but fell to eventual champ Elizabethtown in the opening round of the 5th Region tournament.
“I would say we’re not truly rebuilding, but we are re-adjusting a little this year,” Glass said. “We have some seniors who know the game and our numbers are up, as we have about 29 kids on the team. We have a nice variety of talent and the kids have been working really hard.”
Although the squad lost six seniors, their recent soccer camp went well. Glass says his juniors and seniors are already taking charge and seem ready to lead this group when the season begins.
One of those juniors will be forward Lakin Walls, who led the team in goal scoring (17) and was tied for the team lead in assists with eight. She will be expected to show her leadership, with two previous district titles under her belt.
“I think we’ll do fine this year,” Walls said. “I have really worked on my technical skills during the offseason, and we will have to work hard if we want another district championship.”
Senior Hallie Hardin is a defensive anchor for the squad along with classmate Bailey Martinez.
“I must play at my best at all times; I have to help control field position,” Hardin said. “When the ball comes to me, I must select the right angle to pass the ball. It’s a lot of running and we all must be in shape.”
Other key returnees include a trio of juniors in Avery Krupp, Jordan Stallings and Olivia Willett, and senior Caitlin Hagan, who played extensively as a sophomore and returns to the rotation after sitting out last season.
Nelson County (15-7 overall last year) will also lean on returning goalkeeper Logan Spalding, who permitted just 16 goals in 15 games.
“It takes a lot to be a keeper,” the senior said. “You are faced with a lot of pressure, but I love it. We have some new teams on our schedule this year, but I think we can handle it, and hopefully win the district again. But, it will be tough as Bethlehem and TNHS look really strong. We must go out and play hard and give it our all and never give up.”
Glass says he is excited and also a little nervous at the same time, and he’ll have to wait and see how well this team comes together as a group.
The Cardinals’ season opens Monday at home against Spencer County.