It was a summer of mysteries for Great Crossing girls’ soccer coach Stephen Brown, and we’re not talking about suspense novels that teachers might have time to read during their rare time off.
Brown didn’t really know who would be circled around him when the new program reported for practice Monday, July 15. Nor could he be certain where the Warhawks would train while their field was under final construction.
He finished Wednesday morning’s final workout at Lisle Road Soccer Complex, prior to the team’s transition to snazzy, new turf and its inaugural games next week, giving somewhat of a final “why not us?” pep talk to his all-varsity group of 18.
“Just trying to get the vision going, but our numbers are definitely small,” Brown said. “We’re really starting from young, but that’s OK. We’re not trying to use it as an excuse. Our goal this year is to be competitive right away.”
Great Crossing features only one senior, Kyrstin Tillman, and she sat out last season after playing as a sophomore at Scott County.
Of the not-much-heftier junior class, Elisabeth Keenan has been playing the sport since kindergarten, and Hannah Washburn saw some varsity time as a goalkeeper a year ago.
Otherwise, the Warhawks will count on nine freshmen and five sophomores, the latter group led by SCHS veteran Madisyn Dodge, to build for the present and immediate future.
“There’s no traditions or anything like that, so everybody starts on equal footing this year for us,” Brown said. “The great thing is we have freshmen on up that have the opportunity to be leaders, instead of having it just be seniors. We’ve got the ability to gel as a team without feeling we have cliques or things like that. So we’re looking forward to it.”
Will there be growing pains and all the requisite nerves when Great Crossing jumps up to play the likes of Scott County, George Rogers Clark and Franklin County in four of the season’s first seven games?
You bet, but Keenan believes the Warhawks’ tight-knit huddle and humble beginnings will pay dividends before long.
“Obviously everybody’s a little nervous for the season, just because we’re younger, and we’re new coming into it,” Keenan said. “We’re just trying to get to know each other and work together better. We’re a small group, so I think we’re going to get more stuff down and have better communication altogether.”
The weighty schedule wasn’t by design.
Brown said the primary limitation of year one is accepting whatever teams outside the 41st District are available and willing to play. Being part of the Frankfort group, instead of the Lexington conglomerate, could give Great Crossing a chance to challenge sooner than later.
“I think we have a shot this year, if we can stay healthy, to get to region. We have the core. We don’t have the subs. That’s the key thing,” Brown said. “We just have the expectation to compete and be the best we can, and kind of measure ourselves against any team we play in how we can get better and just go from there.”
Monday night’s game at Scott County could be Great Crossing’s second or third time on a turf field.
Due to construction and the related loss of two exhibition games, the Warhawks worked out at Georgetown Football Club’s grass field behind Lemons Mill Elemntary.
GCHS also tried different team bonding and conditioning activities, such as Jazzercise.
“A focus I wanted to bring into it this year, I want to bring fun back to it. Love of the sport, you know?” Brown said. “Some of the kids have talked to me, ‘I like that it’s a little more laid back, because sometimes the pressure causes anxiety that made me not want to play.’ I’m trying to get the love back in the game so we can build something here.”
Brown said he believes both county schools are feeling a numbers crunch in girls’ soccer.
“A lot of them play when they’re young, and then middle school coming into high school, a lot are just not playing anymore,” Brown said. ‘I think girls’ soccer right now is taking a hit in Scott County, where in Lexington and some of the cities it’s flourishing.”
Health of a sport is measured by participation, but everyone involved knows there is another bottom line, as well.
Be aware that nobody is giving up on the inaugural season, regardless of record, and even if it’s widely seen as a building block.
“I think we can still bring a lot just from this year. I’d like to build the program up, get it going and set the tone for the next several years,” Keenan said. “Even though this is the first year, I think we’re going to get some wins under our belt.”
Brown compared the project to the work of the heavy machinery that put together Great Crossing’s new digs down the street.
“It’s like building a house right now,” he said. ‘It’s brick by brick, and there are no shortcuts that we’re able to take. We’re not afforded that luxury.
‘Preseason started almost like a JV would start. There’s a lot of catching up with skill, and the big thing is going to be the speed of the game.
“I don’t know how we’ll fare. If we have injuries, that’s going to hit us 10 times as hard.”
Great Crossing girls’ soccer
12 at Scott County, 7:30 p.m.
14 at Lexington Christian, 7:30 p.m.
17 vs. Russell, 2 p.m.
19 at George Rogers Clark, 7:30 p.m.
21 vs. Scott County, 7:30 p.m.
4 vs. Madison Southern, 7:30 p.m.
9 at Franklin County, 6 p.m.
11 vs. Western Hills, 7:30 p.m.
16 at Lafayette, 7:30 p.m.
18 vs. Frankfort, 6:15 p.m.
23 at Madison Central, 6 p.m.
24 at Sayre, 6:30 p.m.
25 vs. Montgomery County, 7:30 p.m.
30 vs. Frederick Douglass, 7:30 p.m.
Great Crossing launches its program with 18 total players, nine of whom are freshmen, and no JV team. There will be a learning curve, but there are also some spots on a schedule that should furnish the Warhawks a shot at some wins.
“ I just had the (preseason) mentality we are who we are, and we’ll build with what we have.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.