Lady Jays have young team this soccer season

Becca Sturgess returns to start in goal for the Jefferson City Lady Jays.

Becca Sturgess returns to start in goal for the Jefferson City Lady Jays. Photo by News Tribune.

Girls soccer teams across the state have had to spend a majority of their practice time inside.

The Jefferson City Lady Jays are no different. What is different is the Lady Jays, who open the season today at Moberly, are trying to get their work in with nine underclassmen as projected starters.

Time outside would have been invaluable to the young squad.

“That’s plain and clear, I don’t think anybody can argue that,” Lady Jays coach Matt Stacey said. “I was stressing about it, but we’re not the only team that has been inside that much and we’ve dealt with it fairly well. The attitude as been spectacular.”

And while the preseason time hasn’t been ideal, it hasn’t been a waste.

“With so many young players, it’s going to take time for things to click,” Stacey said. “There are glimpses of good things, but we’re still trying to figure things out.”

And that will come with more practice time,

“When it comes to tactics, the big picture, you need to be outside,” Stacey said. “We’re still tinkering with ideas.”

The Lady Jays will have four freshman and five sophomores to go along with one junior and one senior in the starting lineup.

“Some people might think that is a problem, but I think it’s a good problem to have,” Stacey said. “The only way to go is up and we have a pretty high upside.”

Becca Sturgess, a sophomore, returns in goal.

“Last year, Becca was very good as a freshman,” Stacey said. “She has the ability to be a top-notch goalkeeper. When I look at the keepers in our area, I put her up there with the best of them.”

Megan Foster, a freshman, will be the reserve keeper.

Sturgess will have a relatively inexperienced group in front of her.

“The lack of experience does bring some concern,” Stacey said.

Courtney Kolb is the lone returning starter. But the junior has started the last two seasons.

“She’s vocal back there, she does a good job of directing traffic,” Stacey said.

The other center back is freshman Katie Tambke.

“She’s very athletic, very confident,” Stacey said. “She has a lot of club experience playing in the back.”

The wide backs will be freshman Tayler LePage and sophomore Alyssa Shouse.

“Tayler is very physical and aggressive,” Stacey said. “It’s a new role for Alyssa after playing in the midfield last year. But she can do a good job.”

Bailey Hall, the team’s lone senior starter, will be one of the center midfielders.

“Bailey is a solid player, she doesn’t make a lot of mistakes,” Stacey said.

Kaley Ruff, a sophomore, returns at the other spot.

“She played every minute of every game last year,” Stacey said. “She can attack, defend, she’s one of our best all-around players.”

Sarah Luebbert, a freshman, will also start at the midfield.

“She will be fun to watch,” Stacey said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she opens a lot of eyes this season.”

Natalie Vance, another freshman, will be the target player.

“She finds a way to get open,” Stacey said. “Opponents will lose sight of her and she’ll suddenly find herself open with the ball.”

The forwards will be sophomores Brianna Lock and Eden Hoogveld. Hoogveld, the team’s leading returning scorer with nine goals, is shifting from the midfield.

“She’s concentrated on soccer and her skills are ahead of last year,” Stacey said.

Among the other reserves include seniors Cassie Jobe and Abby VonConia, junior Megan Martens, sophomores Madi Hall and Kourtney Betts, and freshman Grace Haarman.

“There will be a learning curve, we might get a rude awakening every now and then,” Stacey said. “But by the end of the year, we should be ready for the postseason.”

The start of the postseason will have a different look for the Lady Jays. Jefferson City is now in a district with Lebanon, Waynesville and Camdenton.

“It’s a dangerous group, you’ll have to be ready for all of them,” Stacey said.

Jefferson City will play at Troy and at the Hazelwood Classic before opening its home schedule April 2 against Lebanon.

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