The Middlesboro Lady Jacket soccer team is going through a new beginning of sorts this season.
New coach Mark Greene has inherited a roster made up mostly of freshmen and sophomores with several 8th graders rounding out the JV team.
“We’ve got a lot of freshmen and young players that came up from the middle school. We just don’t have a huge senior presence to provide leadership so it’s going to be a struggle until they get the experience they need,” he said. “It could be a slow start to the season, but they should finish well.”
The Lady Jackets dropped an 11-1 decision to Grainger, Tenn., in an exhibition match on Tuesday. For many of the girls it was their first taste of high school level competition.
One bright spot was the goal scored by senior forward Lauren Jackson in the first half. Greene said the team will be counting on her for some scoring this season.
“She’s a senior and one of my top leaders. She’s the glue of the team, very mature, very responsible, never misses practice. She doesn’t say a whole lot, but gives 110 percent every day,” he said.
The coach added that the young girls shouldn’t get discouraged by the outcome of Tuesday’s match because brighter days lie ahead.
“They’ve got the skills and they’ve got the knowledge, it’s just a matter of putting it in to play.”
Other members of the team include seniors Paige Rose, Kayci Howerton and Kris Reynolds; junior Amber Ray; sophomores Lindsey Johnson, Samantha Murrell, Mariah Parsons and Hannah Sorke; and freshmen Mackenzie Smith, Makayla Prater, Tori Lowrance and Olivia Carnes.
The Lady Jackets will open up the regular season next Tuesday against Cumberland Gap, Tenn. Greene said the team has scheduled most of their tougher district games for later in the season to give the young girls time to gain experience.
“Coach Sorke and I came in last year so we knew what was in front of us. We kind of look at this season as a new beginning,” he said. “We came in with open eyes in that we knew there would be a lot of freshmen and mentally we prepared to start as if it were a brand new program. You can’t develop a program overnight, it takes a strong middle school feeding a high school for three or four years before you get that team chemistry working at the level we want to be at.”