By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal

Whitehall girls soccer coach Dan Nichols knows from experience how graduations can affect a coach’s scheme.

He has the unenviable task of filling two huge holes left by the graduation of defender Jonna Johnson and midfielder Morgan Kellis. And though it is just two spots on the roster, their departures mean Nichols will have to accept a considerable amount of variability on the pitch.

“We had to realign the entire field,” admitted Nichols.

No need to fret, however, because the Vikings aren’t without plenty of talent to keep things moving forward.

The team sports 11 seniors, but several underclassmen will play a big role as well, led by sophomore keeper Sophia Stevens, who returns in goal a year older and more skilled. Defenders Jessica Friend, Allison Potter, and Morgen Myers will assist Stevens.

The midfield will be anchored by Samatha Huebler, Miranda Jacobs and sophomore Lauren Lopez.

Strikers this year will be headed by Sarah Schmiedeknecht and Kelsey Gensler. Gensler led the team in goals the last two seasons, but Nichols said senior Jordan Loudermilk and freshman Hanna Evens may surprise some teams.

“They are skilled and smart,” said Nichols.

Then there is a young and unproven cast of players on the bench, which Nichols said would on another strength of the team.

“The bench is deep and skilled and can fill in on a moment’s notice,” said Nichols.

Nichols expects Oakridge to be tough again in the West Michigan Conference, with Shelby and Hart keeping the Eagles busy. But there aren’t very many pushovers left in the league.

“All the teams in our conference have improved since I have been at Whitehall,” said Nichols.

Last year, fans got a glimmer of the team’s future with a strong Viking start, only to fall apart as the season drew on.

“This season,” said Nichols, we expect to finish stronger and have a good season. The team expects to keep its focus and compete every game.”