Defending sectional champion Dragons ready to take next step

Normally when a team loses seven seniors, a rebuilding year can be expected. Not so with the 2015 New Palestine Dragons. Despite losing those seven seniors, Hancock County Player of the year Katie Villiger returns to lead a group of eight seniors in seeking a sectional three-peat.

“Our four senior captains have all been great leaders throughout the summer,” third-year head coach Gina Fannin said. “Katie Villiger is really looking forward to improving on her accomplishments from last year, and Gabbi Pierson wants to improve on her 11 shutouts from last year.”

Along with Villiger and Pierson, seniors Molly Carpenter and Courtney Smith will serve as captains for this year’s team. Overall, the Dragons will turn to eight seniors for leadership.

“All four of these girls are excited to make it a memorable season for the younger girls on the team,” said Fannin.

Speaking of the roster’s youth, Fannin is expecting sophomores Hannah Taggart and Olivia McKilligan and freshman Olivia Lamddin to step into the starting lineup to help replace some of the talent lost to graduation (seven seniors in all).

The new talent has even led New Palestine to consider some formation changes for the upcoming season. “We’re toying around with some ideas right now,” Fannin said. “Last year we played a defensive diamond, but this year we may play a flat defense and play with five midfielders and only one forward.”

One goal New Palestine has yet to achieve under Fannin’s leadership is a conference championship, which they will be shooting for this season. “Mt. Vernon and Greenfield are always tough on us,” Fannin said. “New Castle took us by surprise as a new member of the conference last year, so it will be interesting to see them again this year.”

Despite winning back-to-back sectionals, New Palestine has not yet taken the next step by advancing in the regional tournament, losing to Center Grove and Perry Meridian the last two seasons.

As for the teams goals of winning sectional and performing at regional, Fannin stated, “We truly do think it’s an honor to play there against bigger schools. We’d love to take it a step further this year though.”

Kickoff: New Palestine hosted Perry Meridian on Monday.