By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Although it’s a Class A school, Midland Trail seems to always have talented players within its ranks.
That’s evident by the Patriots having nine players invited to play in the annual North-South All-Star games in Fairmont the past two seasons.
Last year’s senior standouts — all-stater Hannah Legg, Mindy Sevy, Molly Sevy and Sierra Brewer — will be missed, but veteran Trail coach Scott Wilson is taking it all in stride.
“I have four fourth-year seniors who are back,” he said. “I think we can get pretty good, but it will take a while.”
He’s hoping the Patriots improve on last year’s 10-8 campaign, but he knows inexperience is a problem for now.
“We’re learning. We have a lot of new players who are pretty good, but we have to get them mixed in with our veterans and get the chemistry going,” Wilson said.
Much will be expected from the veterans, several of whom have started since they were freshmen.
Wilson expected second-team all-stater Summer Whipkey to start at forward, but has decided to play her 50-50 there and on defense.
“The problem is we have young people on defense, and I need Summer back there to settle them down,” he said.
Whipkey plays on travel teams and goes to a lot of camps. She does many good things on the pitch.
“Summer has pretty good speed and has a good shot. She usually shoots our penalty kicks,” Wilson said. “She started and scored the winning goal in her very first game as a freshman. She hasn’t slowed down much since.”
Marissa Workman was the playmaker last season for a lot of goals by Whipkey and Legg. She finished with 17 assists.
“Marissa is a great crosser. She does a really good job getting wide, and when she gets the ball, she’s dangerous on the cross,” Wilson said. “She could have had 13 or 14 assists more if we’d had people to finish.”
Savannah Skaggs will reprise her role as the team’s utility player — someone who can step in anywhere and give good minutes.
“Savannah can play sweeper when Summer’s not back there, and she can play wing and forward,” Wilson said. ‘She scored some big goals for us last season, even though she played goalkeeper a lot.”
Breanna Underwood will again come off the bench to give the Patriots a spark.
Wilson said, “She’s our cheerleader. Breanna always talks and tells players they’re doing good, and helps when they’re down.”
A fifth veteran, Kristen Fitzwater, is not able to play this year because of an illness in her family.
Sophomore goalkeeper Jill Gray learned the ropes last season. Only 5-foot-3, she’s a little small to play in the box, but she makes up for it with her aggressive play, good diving ability and great hands.
Midfielder Emily Carte and versatile Heaven Simms, both juniors, also return. Simms can play striker, wing or defender, while Carte gives great physical play and quickness in the middle. Sophomore defender Gracie Clendenin saw some action last season, but was hampered throughout by injuries.
Top newcomers include freshman defender Mallory Stonestreet, junior defender Payton Fisher and sophomore outside midfielder Abby Sevy.
Others expected to see action early are four sophomores — forward-wing Kylie Vredenburd, defender Erica Rider, midfielder Julie Gray and forward Brittany Moore.
“We have average speed, but we’ll probably be a good defending team,” Wilson said.
“At the beginning, we won’t be good because we’ve got girls who are new into the system. But once they get to the point where we know each other and can play well together, I think we’ll be pretty decent.
“It could be rough, but I think we’ll be OK.”
The Patriots open their season on Monday, Aug. 26, at home against Braxton County. It will be the Tigers’ first-ever varsity soccer match.
— E-mail: dstillwell