By Robert Whitmire
The SPASH girls soccer team looks to put a young, yet experienced group on the field when it opens its 2016 campaign.
The team is coming off a 9-3 record, good for second place in the Wisconsin Valley Conference (12-4 overall) last season.
Five freshmen, six sophomores, five juniors and four seniors make up the roster of a Panther team with speed and the ability to light up the scoreboard.
SPASH Head Coach Don Peel, starting his ninth season at the helm, looks for a veteran group on the back line to pose a staunch defense versus opponents while speed and ball handling led by Senior Forward Justice Menge highlights the offense.
“We’re very excited about this season and this group of kids,” said Peel. “Losing only three players from last year we have a lot of returners who will be fast, dynamic and fun to watch.”
Menge finished the 2015 season with 11 goals and four assists, third in the WVC behind teammates Abby Bohanski and Autum Shurbert-Hetzel. Bohanski graduated at the end of the year and took her considerable soccer talents to Winona State University while Shurbert-Hetzel will spend this spring season with the SPASH Girls Track Team.
Leading the defense this season will be sophomore Courtney Milkowski, an Honorable Mention All-Wisconsin Valley Conference pick and the team’s defensive MVP last season and junior Erin Soucek, also awarded Honorable Mention in the conference. Senior Rachel Muenchow returns, as well, to anchor a strong defensive line that will make scoring a tough task for opponents.
Returning in net for the 2016 season will be senior goalkeeper Shayna Molski. Molski finished the 2015 season second in the WVC allowing just nine goals and recording 40 saves for a save percentage of .816 and a goals against average of 0.82.
“This season I expect us to play well as a team and to play hard and strong,” Molski said. “We have a good amount of returning players and a strong group of new players. SPASH is ready to go out onto the field and play our game and I see us making it far together as a team.”
The Panthers home opener will be April 14 when they host Wausau West at the Portage County Youth Soccer Complex. Game time is scheduled for 7:00 PM. The SPASH junior varsity will take the field at 5:00 PM.