In 2018, Shelbyville High School’s girls soccer team posted its first winning season in more than a decade. Graduation stripped the program and it was rebuilt into a .500 squad with just one senior in 2020.
That is the motivation for head coach Chelsea Dourson to stick around for a seventh and final season with the Golden Bears. Dourson’s husband, Chris, took a job in Fort Wayne earlier this year and the family has relocated but the Shelbyville graduate and first grade teacher at Hendricks Elementary School is not quite 100 percent ready to cut ties with her hometown.
“A lot of my staying here, while we’ve moved up there, is because of this team,” said Dourson, the daughter of Shelbyville High School’s football program’s career wins leader Pat Parks. “My staying here is everything with being the coach of this team.
“Having played here my high school years and the influence my dad has had in my life, I always wanted to coach the Shelbyville High School girls soccer program. It’s been the best ride I could possibly imagine and (this season) is going to be really special for me.”
Any success this year will be bolstered by the program getting back to its normal routine after a rocky 2020 beleaguered by COVID-19.
“It’s been a difficult past season with the COVID struggles and protocols we had to follow, but we were so blessed to be able to have a full season,” explained Dourson. “If there was anything we missed last season, it was the bonding opportunity to do our team camp at Anderson (University). We didn’t get to do that.”
That time together in a competitive environment and the willingness of players to challenge themselves in club soccer matches should show on the field in 2021.
“We did get to (go to Anderson) this summer (photo above) and I feel like we have already seen how that time together has influenced how well we have meshed together,” said Dourson. “The connections with the girls are stronger than they’ve ever been. Pretty much over half of our squad has put in extra time and played for Columbus Express or for Greenfield’s Impact club teams, and because they put in that time, we’ve seen such tremendous growth of their skill and playing together.”
Chelsea Dourson, right, and her sister, Paige Wise, take a photo at Shelbyville High School's soccer alumni game Friday.
The Golden Bears return a trio of scorers that combined for 43 goals and 20 assists in 2020.
The next assist senior Sophie Parker records will make her the career leader at Shelbyville, breaking Amber Ross’ record of 29. And she is 23 goals away from another career record after scoring 18 last season.
“She is the general on our team and will lead us to our success,” said Dourson. “Rebecca Valdez is the same thing. They have that humility and skill level when put together is dangerous and exciting for a coach to watch.”
It should be no surprise that Parker and Valdez, also a senior, are Shelbyville’s captains this season.
Evelyn Kiefer, a junior, finished with 16 goals and two assists last season.
Sophomore Ava Wilson scored nine goals in her first varsity season.
Cyanne St. Bernard, another sophomore, should have increased scoring opportunities this season as well.
Sophomores Ava Mummert and Ella Johnson will be in the mix of midfielders where there is depth.
Three more sophomores – Ellie Simpson, Lilly Johnson and Lilly Marshall – are solid defenders.
“They’ve been playing together in the offseason,” said Dourson. “You can tell they are not freshmen anymore.”
The defense will be directed by Emma Sandman, a junior.
“Emma Sandman will lead a lot of our verbal communication on the team,” said Dourson. “She is that leader we need in the back to help communicate throughout the field.”
Sophomore Macy Cooley gets the starting call as goalkeeper.
“She is one of those that has put in the time in the offseason … played for Columbus Express. You can see the improvements she has made. I am excited for her,” said Dourson. “She is going to grow in her confidence a lot this season by being back there. I’m so pleased with the work she has put in. She will do a good job in the net for us.”
Brooke Byers, a junior, sophomores Sydney Baker and Kinsley Kirschbaum, and freshman Kincade Dorsey will be contributors off the bench this season.
In 12 of 18 matches in 2020, Triton Central did not score a goal.
Head coach Matt Roberts believes the Tigers’ offense will be much improved in 2021, a belief bolstered by a 3-goal performance in its season-opening win at Knightstown Monday.
“We had a rough stretch to start last season where we did not score a goal,” said Roberts. “So we have been working on finishing. You can’t win if you don’t get on the scoreboard.”
Lizzie Graham, a junior, returns after scoring 17 goals in 2020. The problem is no other Tiger scored more than two goals to support her.
“Lizzie will be in the midfield but she will see a lot of time at forward,” said Roberts. “She is pretty versatile.”
Lizzie Graham, right, was Triton Central's leading scorer in 2020. Graham is the daughter of Bryan Graham, left, the school's athletic director and girls basketball coach.
Graham will be joined in the midfield by sophomores Lucy Spall and Kennedy Brown, junior Olivia Reedy, and seniors Katie Spegal and Kaylee Bedwell.
Spegal and Bedwell are team captains this season along with fellow senior Emma Hutchinson.
Sophomore Vivian Blye will attack from the forward position along with Graham and Reedy.
Three-year starter Sophia Robertson, a junior, leads the defense along with junior Allegra Foley, sophomore Melody Dodds and junior Caitlyn Boylan.
Roberts expects to rotate sophomore Hope Smith and freshman Abby Polovitch in the net as goalkeeper.
Triton Central lost nine seniors to graduation from a team that finished 5-12-1.
“We have a lot of young players this year,” said Roberts.