After year off, soccer Lady Hornets have familiar names on attack
Transfer junior steps into star goalkeeper’s shoes; midfielder Stimpson signs with Stephens Coillege
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
It undoubtedly was a long year for Chillicothe High School alumnus and veteran soccer assistant coach Jimmy Chapman.
Poised to take on a head coaching role for the first time last spring as work circumstances led to a flipping of the coaching roles between Shannon Grable, head coach the prior two years, and Chapman, assistant for both the boys’ and girls’ teams for a handful of years, he instead saw preseason practices halted and, ultimately, the entire 2020 season erased by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, with improvements on several fronts in relation to the pandemic – even if it remains a threat not to be ignored, his wait is nearly over and Chapman is within a couple of days of finally dispatching his first CHS squad to the pitch.
With a couple of scoring threats who earned a level of all-Midland Empire Conference recognition as ninth graders two years ago still around to call on and a promising transfer to fill what might have been a gaping hole at goalkeeper, the Lady Hornets booters are due to debut for 2021 Friday in a 5 p.m. home match against Sedalia: Smith-Cotton. The Lady Tigers continue to be coached by another CHS alum, Meredith Brick.
Based on what was seen during last Friday’s “jamboree” scrimmages at Chillicothe’s Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II, Sedalia will be a handful for the Lady Hornets’ defense.
The Lady Tigers showed a lot of speed, quickness, and anticipation, as well as shooting power, as they scored two or three times in their 35-minutes segment against Columbia: Father Tolton Regional during that scrimmage. Chillicothe held Sedalia scoreless for nearly 34 minutes before allowing a single goal in, effectively, one half of play.
The Lady Hornets did not score any goals in either scrimmage segment, although they did mount some threats. Against Father Tolton Regional, one long CHS shot from about 30 years did clank off the crossbar. The only goal Chillicothe surrendered was Sedalia’s late one, but the Lady Tigers had numerous other threatening opportunities.
As far as the 2021 season overall, speedy junior Lucy Reeter returns after scoring well as a freshman as part of the senior-laden 2019 district champions.
Also at forward after being a starting midfielder two years ago is Allison Ishmael, a senior. She went down with a knee injury during the season two years ago and likely would not have been fully recovered from that injury a year ago.
Reeter was voted second-team all-MEC at forward as a frosh and Ishmael did enough before her injury to get honorable mention.
Another likely starter is junior Sophia Luetticke, who missed all of the 2019 season with knee injury suffered the previous fall. She starred for CHS’ Midland Empire Conference-champion softball team last fall and seems to be fully recovered from her fall 2018 injury.
Also bringing experience from two years ago will be senior midfielder Julia Stimpson, who signed last week to play collegiately at Stephens College in Columbia next school year, and juniors Ellie Barnett, Hannah Dominique, and Makayla Vance.
In terms of personnel utilization within the 5-2-3 (backs-midfielders-forwards) system in which Chapman will deploy them, Ishmael shifts up to center forward, flanked by Reeter on the right and sophomore Juliann Gabrielson on the left. According to the coach, sophomore Hailee Williams and freshmen Avery Baxter and Delanie Kieffer are the likely subs up front. Baxter is a younger sister of 2019 honorable mention All-State back Sydney Baxter.
Of the starting trio, Chapman says the wing forwards “are skilled and have an eye for goal and can set teammates up, as well. At center forward, Ishmael is probably our best passer and can also score goals.”
The starting center midfielders will be Stimpson and Vance, with Londin Edds, Williams, and Kieffer as backups. The starters, the coach characterizes, are “very skilled in both offense and defense and can offer us goals and assists, as well as support on defense.”
The defensive backfield of two wing backs and three center backs sees the coach with a mix-and-match opportunity on the outside spots from a group including seniors Hallie Jones and Chloe Funk, sophomore Skyler Powers, and freshman Maci Johnson. None have started previously.
“They all have worked really hard and offer different things that, depending on the situation, can offer us different looks,” Chapman notes.
The interior trio will be somewhat-more-seasoned, but not as starters after the 2018 team’s 4-girls back line was all seniors until the season finale, when one was absent for the state tournament first-round match.
Dominique saw quite a bit of time as a reserve back two years ago, while Barnett played quite a bit, but usually at forward, where she actually scored the decisive goal in the Lady Hornets’ district-championship match against Kirksville. If healthy, Luetticke likely would have worked into significant minutes as a freshman and projects to be utilized some on the wing and in the midfield, Chapman anticipates. Also in the center back mix is another junior, Abby Burton.
Backstopping the squad will be move-in junior Allie Italiano, who fortuitously fills the void that would have been left by 6’ star goalkeeper Kennadie Kieffer, a second-team All-State choice as a 2019 senior.
Shares Chapman, Italiano “has a lot of experience and is a very good goalkeeper,” with athleticism, mobility, instincts, decent height, and quick reactions, even if not nearly as tall as her CHS predecessor.
In assessing his roster overall and its prospects this season, the new CHS head coach comments, “Our strengths should be our effort and energy, as well as having enough skill to really be a thorn in the side of teams more-skilled than us and the speed and endurance to run lesser-skilled teams into the ground.”
As with many teams this spring, given the absence of a 2020 season, gaining match experience will be a key aim.
“Just getting game time,” Chapman confirms. “We have a lot of youth and talent that need to play games and understand how to play the sport and increase our soccer IQ.”
As for what challenges specific 2021 opponents will pose, the year’s lag in competition makes that much more uncertain than normal.
Kansas City: St. Pius X won the MEC title in undefeated fashion in its first year in the loop in 2019 with CHS and Maryville tying for second, “but both of them have lost some very good players,” the CHS coach notes.
St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond has some tradition and had a young 2019 team, he notes.
Among non-conference foes, in addition to Sedalia, the Lady Hornets will see Hannibal and possibly either Jefferson City’s second-year Capitol City High or Father Tolton or both.
“We have a great schedule with lots of unknowns, which is something that we can use to our advantage,” states Chapman.
“We can have a really strong team this year that can surprise some people and we hope to play for a long time.”