FORTVILLE — On paper, Steve Williams can’t find a single flaw. Not one.
From top to bottom, Williams said he believes his 2017 Mt. Vernon girls soccer roster is the strongest, if not, the greatest he’s ever seen assembled in northern Hancock County.
Now imagine if they were at full health.
Without junior forward Cleo Mills, potentially for the entire season, due to an anterior cruciate ligament tear suffered in March, most team’s would be grasping in desperation.
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The Mt. Vernon Marauders, Williams said, while disheartened by seeing their 2016 leading scorer with 27 goals on the sideline, are more than equipped to overcome the setback.
“She tore her ACL in March, so our leading scorer is out, but I don’t feel that worried about it because all the other pieces we have returning are better than they were,” Williams said. “She expects to be back by sectional, but who knows?
“She plays defense on her club team, so she might come back there, and she’s a great kid and working really hard to get back. Obviously, that’s a loss.”
The absence of Mills will be compensated with depth as both senior forwards Nicole Ratts and Morgan Scruggs return after scoring 18 and 15 goals, respectively, last fall.
“We played Ratts out wide and up top and she scored five goals against Mississinewa (in our opener),” Williams said. “We went with three forwards last year, and we’ll probably just go with two this year.”
Ratts and the Marauders’ offense went ballistic against Mississinewa in the season opener this week, winning 14-0. The team fired and converted shots from various outlets, which will come into play as the season and the chase for the Hoosier Heritage Conference title unfold.
Along with Ratts and Scruggs, the Marauders bring back Alexi Hardie, a junior midfielder, who dished out a team-high 27 assists in 2016. This year, however, she will get some assistance from a familiar face.
Emma Langdon, who played for the Marauders as a freshman, returns following an ACL injury and a duration playing club ball.
“Emma’s signed with Valparaiso,” Williams said. “She’s come back, and we’re putting her next to Alexi (Hardie). That’s a nice addition. They’re double trouble in the midfield. They’ll be attacking mids.”
On defense, the graduation of Megan Gawrys was an impactful subtraction, but her younger sister Katie, a freshman, has filled the void.
“We have three or five freshmen come in and three to four are probably going to start,” Williams said. “Her sister has come in, and (Megan’s) sister is better than she is. We picked up Gawrys in the back and moved Riley Hurst up top.”
Hurst, a sophomore, had two goals last year. Junior Alaina Nelson also is back and defensive mid after posting four goals and 10 assists as a member of the Marauders’ 2016 HHC championship roster.
In the net, sophomore Angelina Metcalf and Jaici Wright will continue to split time similar to last season. Wright was 13-3 in goal in 2016, while Metcalf was 6-1.
The Marauders were 14-4 last year and 7-0 in the HHC, but they lost in the sectional finals to Greenfield-Central in a shootout. This year, they’re reloading to correct their postseason shortcoming.
“For us, technically, this is probably the best team Mt. Vernon has ever had for girls,” Williams said. “We’re pretty solid. The team as a whole, we’re as deep as we’ve ever been. We’re more talented than we’ve ever been. I’m not finding a lot of holes.”