With only a few key losses from last year’s squad, this year’s Lady Leaf soccer team will rely on its veteran experience to lead the way on the girls’ road to accomplishing their goals.

With only a few key losses from last year’s squad, this year’s Lady Leaf soccer team will rely on its veteran experience to lead the way on the girls’ road to accomplishing their goals.

“This year’s team is not a lot different from last year. Most of our girls are returners,”?said head coach Ian Kline. “We are picking up where we left off and are getting use to playing together again.”

Coach Kline said his expectations for this group is to win another conference title, regional title and he wants to see the girls move past sectionals.

“The girls know it and have been around the last few years,” he said. “They know what it takes.”

This year’s group of seniors who are looking to make a statement in their final season at GHS are: Monique Welch, Emily Bozzer, Jenny Ford, Chelsea Rahmus, Liz Peterson, Allison Brasche, Kelsey Nystrom, Alex Radue, Brittany Mielke and Jade Mariman.

“The seniors should pick up and lead by example both on and off the field,” said Kline.?“They need to take the reins and go with it. They have to put out the effort.”

The seniors will be joined by juniors Mallory Wirth, Dani Manna, Kylie Lembke and Rachel Morton, all who have varsity level experience.

“The majority of the juniors are returners and have had an active role for us,” said Kline.?“I will expect more out of them this year.”

The Lady Leafs will be joined by four sophomores this season who will be looking to make a contribution. The sophomores include: Kylie Gerhardt, Rachel Smith, Heather Setser and Darci Dietrich.

“We are a veteran group all around this year, but we still can have things go wrong,”?said Kline.

With the loss of McKenzie Carey in goal — she has spent the year playing hockey in Canada — the only spot on the field where the Lady Leafs will have some in experience is in the net.

“We have a senior goalie and sophomore goalie on the team, but there is not a lot of experience with them,” said Kline. “We are the most inexperienced at the spot, and we will have to grow there, however, we will have a solid defense.

“We should be a good team to watch, we just need to execute the way I know we can.”

Coach Kline said the team’s individual players’ strengths will be a big strength of this year’s squad.

“We have strength in individual players who have grown and have been putting the time in,” he said. “They are coming in way more fit than in the past. The preparation they did in the off season was good for them.

“We also have three very fast players and have some other good athletes, but a majority of our play will be ball-control oriented.”

Coach Kline stated the biggest obstacles they will have to overcome this year is the unknown challenges, but also the fear of the known.

“We have good skill, ability and leadership, but we also have seniority, which can also take over and screw things up,” said Kline. “I hope we can play like we should.”

The No. 1 goal for the Lady Leafs this season is to beat Peoria Notre Dame in sectionals.

“If we get there we have to get over the ‘curse of Notre Dame,’” said Kline. “We beat them early in the season last year, but they got us at the end last year. That is our goal to get them at the end of the season.”

The keys to the Lady Leafs’ success this year will be team chemistry and the ability for the younger players to have an opportunity to play, said Kline, who is expecting everyone to work hard.

The only thing coach Kline could say about the outlook of the conference this season is there will be some very good teams on the other side of the conference like DeKalb and Sycamore who will test the Lady Leafs.

“I want to see the girls go out and play and understand that we will make mistakes, which we will learn from, fix and get better,” said Kline.

Last season, the Lady Leafs fell in the sectional championship to Peoria Notre Dame, 1-0 to end the girls’ year. Geneseo previously defeated Dunlap, 5-1 in the sectional semifinals; Rock Island, 7-0 for the regional championship and Sterling, 7-0 in the first round of regionals. The Lady Leafs finished the year at 18-3-2 overall and 8-0-1 in the NIB 12 to win the conference title.

The Lady Leafs open the 2012 season this weekend on the road against Kaneland at 11 a.m. March 17.