Carrie Burken started planning for this season within days of last season ending.
But the Fort Madison High School girls soccer coach had to change those plans when she started losing players to injuries in other sports.
Natalie Randolph, the team’s top scorer last season with 19 goals, suffered a knee injury in preseason volleyball practice. Irelynd Sargent, one of the team’s top defenders last season, suffered a knee injury during basketball season.
“When last year ended, I was thinking about who we had coming back and who we had coming in, and I was like, ‘Oh, awesome,’” Burken said. “Then after Natalie got hurt and Irelynd got hurt, I realized I was going to have to make a different plan.”
Still, the Bloodhounds have plenty of talent coming off a 12-4 season that included a share of the Southeast Conference title and a trip to the regional semifinals.
“It’s an interesting group,” Burken said. “Even with the injuries, we have a lot of the same pieces as last year. Overall, our look is going to be similar.”
Sophomore Teagan Snaadt, who had 16 goals and 12 assists last season as a freshman, returns up front, as does junior Taegan Denning, who had four goals. Junior Mary Kate Bendlage and senior Camille Kruse anchor a strong defense that had three shutouts last season. Taylor Johnson is back as goalkeeper after a season of 114 saves.
“It’s really important, because with only two weeks of practice before our first game, we’re going to really rely on our chemistry,” Burken said of her team’s returning players. “Having that experience of working together last season, with a lot of the same pairings in positions this year, your skills might be a little rusty, but you still know what you’re doing and what your teammates are doing. That’s always helpful to have so many players returning.”
Johnson, a junior, was steady as a goalkeeper throughout the season and was at her best at the end of the year, and Burken likes the momentum she brings into this season.
“It’s going to be nice to have her back in goal for the next two seasons,” Burken said.
The Bloodhounds have posted postseason wins in the last two seasons, and last season’s loss to Clear Creek Amana on penalty kicks has provided motivation heading into this season.
“It’s important for the confidence,” Burken said. “Even with the injuries heading into this season, this group has had success. We know what it takes. We know what (teams) are going to be tough.
“(Last season) let us know how far we can go. And I think we know we can build on that.”