GREENFIELD — Erin Clark isn’t living in the past, but she won’t forget it anytime soon either.
Watching her Greenfield-Central girls soccer team deflate with the loss of a their captain at the beginning of the 2016 season in Katie Helgason, the team struggled early on to find its identity.
Once they did, however, history was made.
Finding their game, the Cougars went on to win the program’s first sectional title since 2012, avenging their regular-season loss to Mt. Vernon, and nearly capturing a regional crown, falling just short to Franklin Central.
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“I’ve been thinking about that game every day since last year,” Clark said.
The same can be said of the six seniors lost due to graduation, including five starters, who came up through the program during Clark’s tenure.
Gone are Tiffany Richmond, Jenna Allen, Reagan Collins, Sydney Burkhart, Katie Helgason and Karoline Helgason.
“All those girls that graduated were all really four-year starters. They came in as freshmen and were a really strong group, but we have several freshmen that are stepping in,” said Clark, who is entering her fifth year.
The Cougars also have a wealth of experienced juniors and seniors to power their quest at a potential sectional repeat, which will entail a new look.
Moved up to Class 3A this season, Greenfield-Central will now contend with the likes of East Central, Franklin Central, Richmond, Warren Central and rival Mt. Vernon.
To open the season, the Cougars, who finished 10-5-2 in 2016, have already made their intentions clear, defeating Warren Central 2-0 in the season opener on Monday and Franklin Central 5-3 on Wednesday.
“We started the season with more confidence than we have in any other season, which is good. We also know we’re missing some key players from last year, but we have a lot of new players that are filling those roles,” Clark said.
The return of the team’s top scorers helps ease the transition as well with junior striker Trystan and junior forward/midfielder Jaeden Ailes back. Trystan had 15 goals last season, while Jaeden punched through with 10.
Highly-decorated center-midfielder Lucy Brand, a junior, is also back after being named All-HHC, All-District and All-State by the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association and the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association.
“Lucy is just phenomenal. She plays defense, center back on her travel team, but for us, we ask her to play center-mid because she just dominates the center of the field and controls the game for us,” Clark said. “It’s not definite that she won’t play some defense, but we feel we need her in the middle of the field to get us transitioning.”
The Cougars’ outside mids are led by junior Alex Rupley. Defensively, the Cougars return senior Riley Sexton, senior Maddie Trapp and sophomore Emily Davidson to give them three defenders from 2016.
“Jenna Allen was a huge player for us last year, and we’re going to miss her, but we do have three-fourths of them back which is good,” Clark said.
Allie Geswein, a senior, returns at striker, and Emma Sherman, a junior, is back as a defender. Anne Marie DeKeyser, a newcomer at striker, already has made an impact with a goal and three assists this week.
Freshmen twins Kennedy and Kambell Trapp, the younger sisters of Maddie, are filing in as key and versatile contributors. Kambell will see more time on the defensive side, while Kennedy will float in the midfield. Zuleny Caldron is another freshman with upside on defense.
The anchor on the team remains senior goalkeeper Kayla Enochs, who was named All-HHC last season.
“She’s looking strong,” Clark said of Enochs, who is committed to MacMurray College. “She’s just a natural leader. All offseason she was in the weight room. It’s amazing the kind of weight she throws around. She’s not a big girl. She’s our workhorse. It’s not often you have your goalkeeper almost finish first in a fitness test.”
Enochs will get an added boost this fall with Katie Peters joining the coaching staff. Peters was the goalkeeper for the Cougars during their sectional title run in 2012. She going to serve as the team’s keeper coach.
On Tuesday, the Cougars will face their third potential sectional foe in Mt. Vernon to open their HHC portion of the schedule. Greenfield-Central was third in the conference at 4-3 in 2016.
“Ultimately, we want to peak in October and ultimately we want to win sectional and go on in the tournament. But it would be nice to win conference, and sometimes for us, like last year, we did peak at the end of the season,” Clark said. “It took us awhile to figuring things out, so we lost some of those earlier games. We want to win conference, but again, ultimately our goal is still to go further in the tournament.”