Back in August, it looked like defense would be Sevier County’s biggest strength.
The girls soccer team returned an All-District goalkeeper in Marah Herrell and the back four was full of experience. Bearettes coach Tim Bohanan was more concerned with how his team would score goals.
By last week, Herrell was playing the field. Injuries had sidelined Sevier County’s stopper and sweeper. One of the outside backs had never played defense before.
“We had so much success last year and coming into this season with so many returning players, we knew we had a couple holes to fill but we felt good about the direction we were moving,” Bohanan said. “The offseason was good. Then, all of a sudden, now we’re struggling a little bit. It is frustrating.”
It all started to blow up in the preseason when sweeper Shania Caldwell tore her ACL. Callie Deanda is out with a sprained MCL in a loss to Seymour on Aug. 29. Stopper Emily Lavoie is out for two weeks after suffering a concussion. Kayla Atchley is playing through lingering knee pain. Offensive star Savannah Stair also has been playing through leg issues.
Even Herrell was sidelined early in the season, forcing first-time keeper Katie Burkett into action.
“I’ve definitely been through the angry stage of getting hurt,” Caldwell said. “It’s really tough knowing I’m not out there to help them. Then my other teammates get hurt and they’re not out there to help them.”
But there may finally be some hope for Sevier County (6-5, 1-3 2-AAA). Herrell was back in goal in a 3-0 loss to South-Doyle last week and the keeper said she’s comfortable with her fast-maturing defense. Kathie O’Neill has moved over from outside back to sweeper and Bohanan has at times called her the “MVP” of the team, chasing down attacks at the back.
“I was a little panicked (at first), and I wasn’t sure what I was doing,” O’Neill said. “I tried to pick it up as fast I could.”
O’Neill’s been a fast learner, as have some of her backfield mates thrust into starting roles. Freshman Destiny Sutton, new to playing defense, has earned praise from both Bohanan and O’Neill for quickly adapting to her outside fullback role.
While the Bearettes have surrendered 34 goals, 21 of those came in back-to-back ugly losses to Powell and Morristown West. Bohanan said those were learning experiences.
But just when Sevier County seemed on the cusp of turning a corner, Lavoie suffered a concussion in a 3-0 win over Clinton. The Bearettes would need to throw someone new in at stopper.
“It’s hard going from having such a set defense and doing so well to everyone getting injured slowly,” Lavoie said. “It’s crazy. It’s like one injury after another. It stinks that I have to be one.”
Lavoie was stuck watching last week with Caldwell during a 3-0 loss to South-Doyle. Bohanan was excited — the Bearettes were within a goal until running out of gas in the second half. That’s progress with the district tournament looming next month. If only Sevier County can get — and stay — healthy.
“You’re standing there on the sideline and you see that you want to make a change. You look over and someone else is talking to the trainer,” Bohanan said. “It’s put us in a precarious position because we’ve had to rely on so many young people. I keep hoping and trying to keep reminding them — and reminding myself — that we’re going to be better for it down the road.”