BY AARON PATTERSON firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — DANVILLE — One of the most promising aspects of this year’s Danville High girls soccer team is its depth. Head coach Katie Gremar has believed since the beginning of the season that her squad has tremendous potential, and much of that confidence has come with the inclusion of so many new athletes into the program.
The biggest question entering the season might have been how quickly that potential would be seen on game day. Defining and refining the skills of newcomers isn’t always an easy task, but the Vikings proved they were capable on Saturday.
Danville put on a show for the visiting Decatur Eisenhower Panthers and picked up its third win of the season when seven different Vikings found the back of the net in a 7-0 win.
“We have a really well-rounded team, and we have subs that can come in off the bench and can play really well and fill in for those varsity players,” Danville junior midfielder Taylor Ellis said. “I am a captain and a starter and I sat out like half the game and we still continued to win, and I know that was true of most of our starters. We just have a lot of talent on the bench, which we didn’t have last year. We had a smaller team.”
That smaller team produced only one win last season, so the team’s confidence level is on a new high. The Vikings (3-4-1 overall, 1-1 in the Big 12 Conference), however, realize there is still work to be done.
Danville picked up the win after playing to a tie with Mattoon earlier in the week, and suffering an 8-0 loss to the high-caliber Springfield Senators on Thursday. But their spirits weren’t crushed. Instead, they have continued playing with the confidence of a team that has already passed last season’s win total, and is seeking continual improvement and consistency.
“At this point, you just have to go out confident and try your hardest because everything is better than last season,” Ellis said. “We’re already kind of pumped up that we have chances to win this season, and we just go at it as hard as we can, even against the teams that we know are a lot stronger than us.”
Danville freshman Natalie Hummer got the Vikings on the board 12 minutes, 7 seconds into the game on an assist from Marissa McMillan. Sophomore Katie Henk put Danville up 2-0 (assisted by Kelsi Lichtenberger) at the 37:14 mark, and Ellis capped the first-half scoring 1:28 later on an assist from Kaitie Goodwin.
Eleven minutes into the second half, Gremar had so much confidence in her team’s depth that she subbed in all seven players that were on the bench. And despite replacing every midfielder and forward, the Vikings’ play and effort remained the same.
Danville went on to score four more goals in the second half by Joah Howland (assisted by sophomore Lexi Hoskins), Emily Cleveland, Goodwin (on a penalty kick), and Hoskins. Kyia Bryant stopped Eisenhower’s only shot on goal, and the Vikings outshot the Panthers 30-1.
“I think we’ve got a lot of potential there,” Gremar said. “Any of the girls on my team can score, it’s just a matter of getting that confidence that they can take that breakaway and go to the goal. It took us a while to get into this game, but once we finally did, I think they kind of warmed up to it. It’s good. There is a lot of potential on this team. I’m excited for it.”
Along with the team’s depth comes versatility, and leading the way is Hoskins who has already played multiple positions in only seven varsity games. Though she had nearly a decade of soccer experience prior to attending Danville High, the sophomore is playing her first season with the Vikings.
Hoskins admitted it was difficult leaving her friends on the track team, but said her role on the soccer team was clear from the beginning.
“(Gremar said) I am an all-around player and she likes my speed, so I am interchangeable,” Hoskins said. “I play different positions every game.
“If we are playing a super-good team, I would prefer to play defense, but if we are playing a team that doesn’t have as good of an offense, I would rather play forward.”
Regardless of where Hoskins plays, adding depth and speed to the team — along with, among others, freshman Dahaila Escobedo — depth will definitely be key as the Vikings progress through the season.
“I think the team as a whole has started to come together,” Gremar said. “They are starting to learn where to play with each other. I have talked a lot to the girls about compensating; if you’ve got a girl who is slower but has good foot skills, send them the ball right to their feet rather than leading them on so that they can use those foot skills.
“The more they practice together and the more they get game experience together, I think they are starting to anticipate those things better.”
The Vikings will once again be tested this week with a pair of road games against Mahomet-Seymour (on Tuesday), and Normal West (Saturday). The Vikings’ next home game will be April 21 when they host Bloomington.