FRANKLIN, Ind. – A new era is set to begin for the Franklin College women's soccer team this fall, with a new head coach and a slew of young Grizzlies ready to write their chapter of program history.
Under the guidance of first-year head coach Kim DeCesare, the Grizzlies welcome back an important core of veterans to shepherd along a class of 15 freshmen that will compete for playing time immediately. With so much new blood in the program, the transition has been an easy one for the first-time head coach as everyone came to camp ready to put in the work.
"Since camp started all the girls have been fantastic," DeCesare said, "Their work ethic has been great, and they are open to the challenge of getting better. It is a huge positive that the incoming class is so large, and I have been impressed by their maturity and coachability. I have to give huge amounts of credit to the upperclassmen with the examples that they have been setting and their efforts to get everyone new to the program moving in the same direction."
Heading up the list of veterans on the roster is the program's all-time leader in wins and shutouts, senior goalkeeper Lexi Short. Coming off a third straight all-conference season, the Avon, Ind.-native will be charged with steering the Franklin defense in the right direction this fall.
"Lexi has been an incredible asset to this team," DeCesare continued. "I quickly learned that she is a leader on and off the field, and on top of that a great goalkeeper. She is the anchor of the back line and is constantly giving specific instructions to her defenders to stay organized. I am excited to see the success that she leads the team to this season."
The back four welcomes back Mackenzie Yoder and Jessie Hearne to anchor the defense with Madison Short back in the holding midfield area. Junior Taylor Neely and freshmen Maddie Alexander, Kayelee Schneider, Dianna Rollag, Mackenzie Bergman and Mackenzie Wilhelm will also compete for time in the defensive end as the season take shape.
Up front, the most notable absence will be the loss of the program's all-time leading scorer in Maddie Fleet. Seniors Jalynn Gorman and Taylor McDaniel were second and third on the team in scoring a year ago and junior Cayla Crawford saw an increased role on the attack during her sophomore campaign, giving Franklin three veterans to lean on in the attacking half.
The veteran trio will have plenty of help with rookie forwards Ashton Wilson, Sarah Guy, Elaina Page and Erin Thomas joining the fun. Freshmen midfielders Lilly Haines, Abby Holmer, Hannah Warstler, Claire Hurley and Maddie Holmer give the Grizzlies plenty of depth up and down the lineup as they aim to replace the 22 goals from Fleet a year ago.
"It is imperative that other attacking players step up this season and have the courage to take chances and score goals," DeCesare added. "Jalynn is capable of being a solid contributor along the front line and has done a great job in setting the standard for competitiveness and willingness to attack. We are extremely fortunate to have multiple freshmen who will play a big role for us this season scoring and setting up scoring chances.
The Grizzlies won't have to wait long to put their hard work to good use. Franklin opens the 2019 season on Friday (Aug. 30) with a home match against the Trine Thunder. Kick-off from Faught Stadium is set for 5:00 p.m.