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Defense BHS girls’ concern

Bearden High School girls soccer head coach Eric Turner is used to having an experienced defense to build his teams around, but this year is different.

With senior forward Mary Alex Rochester and senior midfielders Alex Meehan and Hannah Rudder returning to the Lady Bulldogs as the only starters from a year ago, Bearden’s biggest weakness is in an unfamiliar territory.

“Right now defense is our definite weakness which we aren’t used to, I’m not worried about it yet but in a month from now I don’t know,” Turner said. “Every year someone seems to step up and that’s going to be the position we are really going to be running a lot of people through until we get comfortable.”

Sophomore Sara Rochester is the only returning defender with varsity experience and is expected to get lots of playing time.

The biggest challenge Turner faces is finding a replacement for two-time All-State goalkeeper Sarah Himmelreich, who graduated last year.

“That’s really our number one priority,” said Turner, who is currently looking at freshmen Jasmine Thibou and Courtney Johnson along with junior Sarah Canter to fill the void. “Right now those three are the one’s vying for the keeper spot so we don’t know what is going to happen there.”

Despite the inexperienced players in the back, the Lady Bulldogs look to have a solid offense from which to build. Rochester, a two-time All-Region 2-AA player and Bearden’s leading scorer from a year ago, will lead the offense up top while sophomores Amanda Barton and Amy Porter look to be solid compliments.

“Amanda Barton had a great year last year as a freshman so we are expecting great things out of her, and we got in Amy Porter, a transfer from McMinn County,” Turner said. “Amy Porter was McMinn’s leading scorer last year so hopefully she will be able to play that way for us.

“From what we have seen from her in camp and what have seen from her in our first week of practice, she looks like someone that is really going to help out Mary Alex up top, so that should be pretty helpful.”

Meehan, who was All-State a year ago, leads the midfielders along with Rudder.\, who has been a two-time All-Region selection. Junior Lindsay Pompilio will add to the experienced midfield.

Turner expects sophomores Abbie Thumler and Emily Bithorn also to play key roles on this year’s squad.

“Abbie Thumler got some playing time last year so we expect some great things out of her,” Turner said. “Emily Bithorn is somebody who we think could be a great player and really help us out if she can get into that sophomore groove.”

Other than that, it’s a wait-and-see approach for Turner.

“We are really happy with the freshman right now,” Turner said. “We have some good players coming in and we will see a couple of them vying for playing time.

“We don’t know how much but definitely in some combination they will be getting on the field.”

Despite the inexperienced defenders, Rochester doesn’t seem too worried and likes the effort she has seen thus far from some of the young players.

“I feel very good about it,” Rochester said. “We lost eight starters from last year but we have a lot of freshman who have been really good during practice.”


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