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Veteran Lady Crusaders set to start soccer season

Becky Roberts of Helias heads a corner kick for a goal during a game last season against Visitation Academy at the 179 Soccer Park. Roberts is one of eight returning starters for the Lady Crusaders.

Becky Roberts of Helias heads a corner kick for a goal during a game last season against Visitation Academy at the 179 Soccer Park. Roberts is one of eight returning starters for the Lady Crusaders. Photo by Kris Wilson.

All the lofty talk of a state championship can wait. There’s a long way to go until then.

So while the Helias Lady Crusaders return eight starters from the 2013 team that finished as the state runner-up in Class 2, head coach Brad Dempsey is keeping the focus on the present.

“Our whole theme is have faith in the process,” he said. “We have to be very careful because this year’s team is not last year’s team. It’s a totally different team and we don’t want to measure last year’s success with this year’s team.

“It’s a whole new team. We have different pieces, we have different players, we have players who will play in different positions. We’re just going in with a blank slate.

“We don’t want to talk about expectations. We just want to do everything it takes, work as hard as we can and do everything we can to put ourselves in a position when it comes time to enter the playoffs for our time to be prepared. … As far as the going to state and getting back there, we can’t think about that.”

The main reason for that mindset? Helias’ daunting regular-season schedule. The list includes four defending state champions. There’s the road game at St. Dominic, the defending Class 2 state champion and end-of-season No. 1 in the nation; a home game with defending Illinois state champion Quincy Notre Dame; a contest with Class 1 champion Duchesne; and a tournament game in the Heart of America Invitational against four-time defending Kansas champion St. Thomas Aquinas.

“I would say it’s one of the tougher schedules outside the St. Louis area,” Dempsey said.

But the schedule is similar to last year’s, which prepared Helias for that deep postseason run.

“They found out we can play with these teams,” Dempsey said.

And that could lead to a repeat run in 2014.

“This is a team that has the potential to do special things,” Dempsey said. “We have to be very careful because anything can happen. There’s upsets all the time. We would like to put ourselves in a position where we become good enough and we gel well enough as a team to where we don’t get upset.”

The journey starts against Waynesville at 6:45 p.m. today at the 179 Soccer Park.

“I hope to get grounded in that game,” Dempsey said. “I hope to see our players come out, shake the nerves right away and play. We’re going to have to play smart. I want to control the game, control the possession and attack. I think the result of that game will be indicative of how we play. If we play well, I feel comfortable with it.”

The Lady Crusaders certainly have the personnel capable of putting together a magical season. Those eight returning starters from the state title game — Jordan Poire, Meghan Nappier, Tiffany Weaver, Abby Rockers, Becky Roberts, Katlyn Cowell, Maddison Lammers and Emma Wyrick — are joined by four reserves who played in that contest — Kendall Smith, Janie McCurren, Morgan Rundle and Kaysie Scheuler.

The three losses? Taylor Hagenhoff, Haley Bax and goalie Liz Czarnecki.

“It’s just about filling that spot and moving on,” Dempsey said. “That’s what excites us.”

Some names could see find themselves playing significant roles include Julie Harris, Casey Linsenbardt and Abby Farrow.

“There’s just so many different players,” Dempsey said. “They’re going to get an opportunity every day in practice to come in and see who’s playing well. If somebody’s not playing well we’ll give others an opportunity.”

Sydney Kliethermes will step in as the starting goalie.

“She’s a very good athlete,” Dempsey said.

Poire, Roberts, Scheuler and Weaver figure to lead the attack.

“They’re dangerous players,” Dempsey said. “Last year we didn’t feel like we were dangerous. We did dominate play in a lot of different games, but we lost them. … This year we want to be dangerous. We’re going to put our best players who can attack in the attack.”

Rockers, Cowell, Nappier and Wyrick look to be favorites to start on the back line.

“We feel good about our defense,” Dempsey said. “The center midfield area is where we’re going to need players to step up. They’re probably going to have to be some young players. We don’t need a special player, we need a player that understands and can just play balls. There are multiple players we feel can do it.”

But they’ll be plenty of time to figure everything out.

“We don’t worry about winning and losing, we lost (nine) games last year,” Dempsey said. “We’re not going to focus on that. We’re going to focus on the process of getting to where we need to be for the end of the season.”

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