In sports, similar to almost all aspects of life, the younger members of a team take a backseat role and develop by making the most of the time they are given. For the Dryden Girls Soccer team developing younger players is a key to the success of the program. For the two youngest players on the roster, the development into the varsity soccer squad has taken the path of crucial game minutes.
Throughout the 2018 season, Nicole Keator’s Lions have worked through the schedule with a young team consisting of 15 underclassmen. Despite the team's youth, the Lions have seen their share of success, finishing the regular season schedule with an 11-2 record.
Of the 15 underclassmen, two of the girls on Keator’s squad are in the eighth grade. On the roster, sorted by class year, Ally Deeley and Ava Wilder sit at the bottom of the list, but the two youngsters have played far above the bottom of the ranks. While the style of play of both girls may be vastly different, both have found a way to contribute to the Lions on the impressive run in 2018.
Deeley, a combination player splitting time between the attacking midfield and the forward line for Dryden, has proven to be a key contributing factor to an offense that outscored opponents 58-18 throughout the regular season.
“Deeley has a great amount of knowledge of the game and great soccer sense,” said Keator.
While smaller in stature, Deeley creates headaches for opposing defenses with her explosive speed. Working alongside sophomore Katie Daley, a pacey forward herself, Deeley has proven to be a goal scorer from the early start of her varsity career. “She makes herself a good target giving us opportunities and this helps to drive the offense,” said Keator. A helping hand from developing veterans like sophomore Alex Brotherton and junior Ashleigh Scheidweiler has contributed to the confidence, strong play, and mental development of Deeley into an up-and-coming midfielder and forward with four more seasons to play beyond this season. “I have a great, positive group of returners who naturally lead and help mentor the younger players,” said Keator about the upperclassmen playing alongside Deeley.
With Deeley contributing on the attacking side of the ball, Wilder provides one of the more impressive defensive skillsets in the area. Wilder makes her success as a composed back, who isn’t afraid to slow the pace of play out of the Dryden backfield. She uses veteran-like decision making to take the necessary time to allow for plays to develop and to accurately play the ball to an advantageous position for her midfield teammates. “Her composure and comfort level help the midfielders stay in position because they know they do not have to come back, keeping the players spread out because they can trust her and have a lot of confidence,” said Keator. “Her knowledge and skill help her easily make a good tackle on the opponent and then she makes the right decision with the ball helping us quickly transition back into offense and starting the movement back up the field.”
The contributions don’t end with defensive plays from Wilder, as she is not one to shy away from assisting with the Lion’s attacking pressure. “She becomes an offensive threat as well,” said Keator, “The midfielders are comfortable passing it back to her even in the middle third and offensive third of the field, giving us an opportunity to reset if we need to.”
With a varsity squad that leans heavily on the contributions of younger players, Keator feels confident in the day-in and day-out contribution of Deeley and Wilder. “The amount of time they get now just shows how much confidence I already have in them,” said Keator. “As they improve over the years, confidence in them will grow even more.” Keator’s confidence in her two eight graders has led to starting spots on the roster for both girls and numerous games of playing the full 80 minutes and beyond. “They are really hard-working players and are always looking for ways to improve,” said Keator. Even with the success of the Dryden Girls Soccer team this season, Keator knows that the contributions made by Deeley and Wilder will be beneficial in future seasons. “This means that the next wave of younger players will have peers they can look up to and for direction,” she said, “It should give them confidence too, knowing players their age were able to play at the high school level and hopefully show them that it is not as intimidating as they may think.” While Deeley and Wilder may be rookies by definition, their play and composure on the varsity squad has solidified their roles as veterans in the early stages of their careers.
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