By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Mike Thach is entering Year Two at Aurora and he’s tasked with building a program that is relatively new to the soccer scene.
The Lady Dawgs are attempting to be the first group in program history to win double-digit games in a single-season. And, with nine starters and 11 letterwinners returning, the foundation is certainly set for Aurora.
“The senior ladies are going a long way towards changing the culture of our program,” said Thach. “We have 31 ladies out for soccer this season with a young core wanting to learn to play. We were competitive last year in most all games and that has inspired these ladies to become more competitive not only in games but also in practice. Starting positions are open to the best players regardless of grade level and I expect good competition for those spots.”
Led by Class 2 All-Region selection Lauren Wilhite, Aurora has not shortage of returning experience and talent. Thach is excited about his returning core.
“I will have two center backs that will be the stalwarts of the defense this year in junior Chloe Ryan and senior Amber Gorman,” said Thach. “The midfield will be led by senior Lauren Willhite and junior Aleah Pineda. Senior Abby Smith will be our main striker this year. These ladies will have experience and soccer intelligence that will impact their play.”
Smith and Wilhite led Aurora in scoring last year and are expected to do the same this season.
Thach is also excited about the play he’s seen from a few new faces, expecting a trio of juniors to make contributions this season on both sides of the field.
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“Newcomers that will be impactful to this team will be junior Cecelia Reyes (midfield), junior, and foreign exchange student, Airin Okada (striker), and junior defender/midfielder Madyson Wood. These three ladies have tremendous work rates,” said Thach.
A deeper roster will be pivotal this season.
With the COC Small and Big 8 joining to form an expanded Big 8, Aurora will see many of the same teams, but the pressure of those games will increase with a conference title being on the line.
The Ozarks continues to grow from a soccer standpoint and that depth and parity of the area overall will challenge everyone in conference and district championship races.
Thach believes his team can compete for both and continue to right the ship of the program.
“Our schedule will really change very little with the addition of the COC schools,” said Thach. “We were already playing them last year. It has been great competition. We now have enough teams playing soccer that we will be able to have a Conference Champion.
“For us to have a successful season, we must improve our skill level every day. These girls will have to out work the teams we will be playing. We can’t look at any team on our schedule as a sure thing. We finally have some depth and will not be hurt by injuries like we have in the past. This is an exciting season for us.”
Aurora will open the season on March 20, at home, against Fair Grove.
People-Tag: Abby Smith, Airin Okada, Amber Gorman, Cecelia Reyes, Chloe Ryan, Lauren Wilhite, Lauren Willhite, Madyson Wood, Mike Thach