Horn bringing changes to Lady Jays

Becca Sturgess returns at goalkeeper for the Jefferson City Lady Jays this season.

Becca Sturgess returns at goalkeeper for the Jefferson City Lady Jays this season. Photo by Kris Wilson.

The Jefferson City Lady Jays return 10 starters and another handful of letterwinners from a team that advanced to the Class 3 soccer quarterfinals last season.

But that was last year. With Eddie Horn taking over as head coach, there are changes on the way.

“I have very strong opinions on how I want the game to look, how I want to play,” Horn said as Jefferson City prepared to open the season today against Holt at the 179 Soccer Park. “Plus, there’s a style that I believe we need to play if we are going to challenge for what I call ‘meaningful’ things, like a state championship.

“I think I have a solid style of teaching that and we’re teaching that right now.”

This is Horn’s third stint as head coach of the Lady Jays. The longtime coach of the boys program last coached the girls team 10 years ago and likes what he has seen so far.

“We’ve got a nice team and have a lot of competition for varsity uniforms,” Horn said. “They are all extremely coachable and are accepting what I’m trying to teach them.”

And what he’s teaching first and foremost is picking up the pace.

“We need to improve our speed of play, both with the ball at our feet and our runs off the ball,” Horn said. “And we also need to pass the ball with a little more speed.

“I think the girls get frustrated because I tell them it needs to be faster, but we’re getting better at it, they’re understanding what I’m trying to accomplish. We’re still connecting the dots on a lot of things. It’s a little slow, but that’s to be expected.”

Along with improving the speed is becoming comfortable with the ball at their feet, Horn said.

“You need to be composed, to be able to find the next player,” he said. “And we’re making progress and getting better at it, but we’re not there yet because we need to see how we’re going to do against varsity teams in real games.”

There are still a few starting spots, along with reserve positions, to be decided.

“I don’t know that we’re going to finalize our starting lineup until maybe a quarter of the season is completed,” Horn said. “It takes time to see the qualities of the players and to get them into the correct spots on the field.”

The Lady Jays return a pair of strong goalkeepers in starter Becca Sturgess and reserve Megan Foster.

“We are lucky to have two quality ones in Becca and Megan,” Horn said. “Becca started last year and had a great season and Megan has had a great group of practices.”

The center back starting spots will be held down by Courtney Kolb, who has signed with Missouri State, and Katie Tambke.

“They both are getting better at the roles I’m asking them to embrace,” Horn said.

Horn said four players — Kourtney Betts, Alyssa Shouse, Brianna Lock and Alaina Allsbury — are in competition for the two starting spots at wide back.

“That’s a great problem to have because it shows we have a lot of ways we can go,” Horn said.

Tayler LePage and Eden Hoogveld will draw the starting spots at wide midfielders.

“They’ve both looked very good in training,” Horn said. “They can both do a lot of good things and they’re getting accustomed to our new system.”

Kaley Ruff will start at one of the center-midfield positions.

“She’s a great ball-striker and is coming into her own by moving the ball how I want her to move it,” Horn said.

Sarah Luebbert, a sophomore who is already drawing attention from NCAA Division I schools, will start at the other central-mid position. Luebbert, who will also see time at forward, is one of the most versatile players on the team.

“And there may be times she drops into the back when we’re ahead in a game because she’s such a versatile player,” Horn said. “With her background in club soccer, she’s accustomed to playing in pressure situations.

“She was outstanding as a freshman and I’m excited to see how she develops as a player.”

Natalie Vance will start at one forward position.

“She works with the other players very well and knows how to get herself open,” Horn said. “She can find a seam and we’re going to need her to score some goals for us.”

Karina Esquifal, a freshman, will start at the other forward spot.

“Her technical ability is good, she does a very good job of combining with players,” Horn said.

Others figuring to contribute is Grace Haarmann, Madi Hall, Megan Martens, Hannah Nikodym, Claudia Berchum, April Krumm and Amber Krumm.

It will be a busy start to the season. After today’s contest, Jefferson City will host Ursuline Academy at 12:45 p.m. Saturday, then play three games in four days next week at the Lee’s Summit Tournament.

Other key games on the schedule include a contest against Incarnate Word before an exhibition between Missouri and Iowa State in St. Louis, a trip to the Tournament of Champions in Burlington, Iowa, and contests against Helias, Hickman, Rock Bridge, Rolla, Waynesville and Kickapoo.

“We have some nice flavor to the schedule which should give us a solid opportunity to see what we need to work on looking toward the postseason,” Horn said.

Kelsey Hile and Corey Herchenroeder return as assistants.

“They’ve helped with some feedback about the players,” Horn said.

Today’s varsity and junior varsity contests are both slated for 5 p.m. starts.

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