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Lady Fighting Irish
Knoxville Catholic High School

Knoxville Catholic’s youthful one-two scoring punch from last season’s Class AAA state semifinal team returns in 2011 among seven Lady Irish starters for head coach Mark Leader, who said his team is “particularly small, but they do have a lot of speed.”

This year, however, sophomore Molly Dwyer has been moved from forward to center-midfield, leaving senior All-Region 2-AAA forward Reece McKenzie to form new chemistry up top.

Leader said of the pair, “They were the two big players last year; they’re very valuable players, very talented. Great team players, and they help all the younger players. It’s a good fit for this team.”

Senior Shawn Breslin, a returning starter, joins McKenzie up top. “Once we get working together, we should be as good or better than last year,” McKenzie said of Breslin.

Though saying she was “very surprised … and little bit worried about” her switch to center-midfield, Dwyer added, “I think it’s good because I have to work on my skills a little bit more … learn how to get through the crowd easier.”

In addition, “I can give Reece balls so she can go run and through defenders like she does and score,” added Dwyer, coming back from a sprained MCL (right knee) last season, who has had surgery on both ankles during her soccer career. “She’s really good with the through-balls and overhead balls.”

McKenzie said, “Breakaways are what I do best. When I get a through ball I can just sprint on to it, [being] one-on-one with the goalie.”

McKenzie said her team should start doing more “through-balls … we need to be playing through-balls, because that’s the kind of team we should be this year. Through-and-breakaway team.”

Returning starter Abby Leake, a sophomore, will fortify an outside midfield spot.

“Melissa Vargas will step up, she’s new,” Leader said about his other center-midfielder, a junior.

Senior Claire Stauber returns as sweeper. “She’s a great player, also a great team player,” Leader said. “She should bring a lot to our team.”

Senior Megan Fisher is a returning starter on defense, and joins senior defender Megan Dwyer. Sophomore Brenna Zimmerman will help stabilize the defense.

One key position Leader said was “still up in the air” at deadline is starting goalkeeper.

Junior defender Kathryn Culhane has been lost for the season with an ACL (knee) tear, Leader said. “That’s going to be a big loss for us.”

As for the biggest key to success, “Building depth,” Leader said. “It’s going to take a few weeks, a few games, to get the younger ones to jell with the older ones.

“At goalkeeper, we’ll be OK, we just need to find which one will step up.”

Leader added about his team, “The biggest thing about this team is they’re a tight-knit group. They’re very close and work together as a team, which makes life a lot easier.

“We’re looking for another good year, depending on the depth. We did very well last year [18-4-3] and we hope to do the same this year.”

Despite some holes to be filled, McKenzie said, “We should be able to hang with everyone this year. We lost a couple [of players], but we still have most of our talent.”

About her weaknesses, McKenzie said, “I probably need to work on making runs, other than breakaways, to the outside,” McKenzie said. “And, like, getting open for people in there, dribbling down the line.”

A soccer player since pre-school, Molly said she wouldn’t rule out a professional soccer career “if the opportunity presents itself. I’d love to play.”

Having given up gymnastics at age 8, Molly added that soccer “has just been my life, really.”


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