The core of the Denison girls soccer team remains young entering the 2018 season. Paired with a new coach, the Lady Yellow Jackets hope to build a foundation of success for the years ahead.
After two campaigns that had a similar feel and results, Denison is hoping that Aaron Bach can mold a roster that was almost entirely made up of sophomores and freshmen into a group that can show improvement as it works towards a return to the postseason.
“Things are going really well. The girls are getting better,” Bach said. “It's been good to see a lot of things I didn't get to when I was with them for only an hour or two.”
The first step in that direction comes as Denison opens its season against Chapel Hill in the Terrell Tournament today at 12:45 p.m. The Lady Jackets will play five matches this week alone and should be well-versed in the new vision for the program by the start of district play.
The Lady Jackets went 2-18 last season and 1-11 in 5-5A action. Denison beat Greenville, 7-0, in non-district play to go with a 3-0 win against Denton Braswell in the third-to-last match of the season. The Lady Jackets tied Braswell for sixth in the district standings.
Out of the 21 players on that roster, only six were upperclassmen and there were just two seniors. This group has a similar makeup with four seniors and two juniors.
“It's still a young group. If I looked at our starting lineup right now, it's two seniors, two freshmen and the rest are sophomores,” Bach said. “Those freshmen last year got a lot of experience and that will help a lot. That sophomore group is going to be the core.”
At the forward spots, senior Brylie Maxson is hoping to avoid another injury-plagued season and sophomore Christina Hernandez was a first-team all-district selection in the midfield. Freshman Madeline Marr, along with Jackie Patterson and Ytzel Moreno are in a battle for minutes.
The Lady Jackets took a hit in the midfield as senior Aubyn Thompson, who was a second-team all-district choice, tore an ACL before practice started.
Senior Katy Bonham is making a move from defense, where she was second-team all-district, sophomore Katie Graham was honorable mention all-district and freshman Karson Ives will also be a starter. Senior Blakelee Stevens was an honorable mention all-district pick last season.
On defense, Denison is expecting to go with sophomores Rylee Joul, Zoey Moody, Delaney Butterworth and Daniela Sanchez with freshmen Rachel Citty and Micaiah Wetzold and sophomore Sara Mullens in the mix as well.
Both keepers from last season did not return, including Zoe Crisler, who was first-team all-district as a sophomore. The Lady Jackets will go with freshman keeper Ashlyn Creswell.
“I have the group I'm going to run with,” Bach said. “But I'm not against changing things and moving them around to find the right mix.”
Bach was named the head coach in April after serving as the middle school girls coordinator for the past three years and helping in a volunteer position at the high school level. He is the seventh Lady Jackets head coach since the program began in 2005 and none has made it past three seasons.
Since making the playoffs in 2014, Denison is 6-53-2.
The non-district schedule is made up of three tournaments: in addition to hosting the Varsity Cup, Denison will play at events hosted by Terrell and Melissa before starting 5-5A play on January 23.
“That's going to give us 14, 15 games before district play,” Bach said. “We are playing some really good teams so it will give us a chance to see where we're at. The result on the scoreboard is not always reflected in the effort on the field.”
The second-year of competition against Denton, Wichita Falls, Rider, Denton Ryan, Sherman and Braswell has the first four teams seeking a playoff return and everyone chasing Denton for the district title.