(David Jenkins, Staff)
"We have a lot of young girls this season," Sikeston head coach Doyle Noe said. "So it may take a little while to gel together and get things going. We're going to make a lot of mistakes early on, but we have a good nucleus and I think toward the end of the year we can be playing pretty well."
Though the Lady Bulldogs only lost three seniors to graduation in Sarah Hopson, Sydney Davied and Blair Kelley, each of those girls played an important role in last year's run to the Class 2, District 1 semifinals. It was there that Sikeston's season came to close with a 3-1 loss to Perryville.
"All three of those girls were leaders on and off the field," Noe said of last season's seniors. "They were solid players and the other girls looked up to them, especially in practice and they just kept things going and everything. It's going to be hard to replace them."
Hoping to step up to fill the void, both in terms of production and leadership, will be junior Madison Chaney and senior Kelsey Jenkins who each have been solid contributors since they entered high school.
"My captains this year are going to be Madison Chaney and Kelsey Jenkins," Noe said. "Those will definitely be the leadership roles on the field. Madison had started varsity since she was a freshman and she's continued to improve. She's looked really good early on in the year and lot of those younger look up to her.
"With Kelsey Jenkins it's the same thing. She's started varsity all four years. She plays sweeper for me back in the back on defense. She plays quite a bit so a lot of the girls look to her as well."
Another void that the Lady Bulldogs didn't expect will be the absence of senior Keyonna Blissett early in the season. After being one of the team's best playmakers last year, Blissett will miss a good portion of the season as she rehabs a knee injury suffered late in basketball season.
"We have a lot of variables to see how things go, like how we react to not having Keyonna out on the field obviously," said Noe. "Everybody looked to her last year to do a lot of things by herself sometimes."
While the loss of so many starters from last year may leave a void in experience at many key positions, Noe said filling those holes from a talent standpoint shouldn't be a problem.
"Sophomore Kameron Wilcox has really worked hard and she's really improved," Noe said. "She'll probably get a starting spot this year and may fill Keyonna's spot while she's out."
Also slated to help out is junior Kelsey Dial who got experience as a sophomore last season.
"(Kelsey) will step in to one of the roles that Sarah and Sydney played as an outside defender.," Noe said. "She'll be a key part in the defense this year. She matured and is coming along. Hopefully she steps up this year as well."
As for this year's goalie, Noe expects newcomer Annie Ramie will get a chance in goal after serving as the starting shortstop for Sikeston's softball team this past fall. Noe said it will be interesting to how quickly his new goalie and younger players can gel in the backfield.
"I think the key is going to be our defense," Noe said. "To see how Annie does in goal and how some of these other girls like Dial and Rachel Hopson are going to start on defense. To see if they can adapt and play solid and to what they're suppose to do to not give up any goals."
What his team may lack in experience this year, Noe hopes they can make up for in quickness.
"We have speed in different spots," Noe said. "Madison and Kameron are the two fastest girls out there. We have a ton of speed up top. I think we'll get a lot of breakaway chances, a lot of counterattack chances with our forwards. We've been working real hard on our midfield trying to possess the ball and move the ball around and make some passes.
"I think it's a key to get Madison off to a quick start. She's a really good player and she's really streaky sometimes. She can score goals in bunches so obviously if we can get her going the younger girls can see her having success and scoring goals it's going to give them confidence. Hopefully we can get off to a quick start."
Sikeston opens the season on Wednesday when they host Harrisburg, Ill., at 5 p.m.