Riders Ready To Defend WBL Crown

St. Marys’ Jewel Niekamp battles with a Bluffton defender before recording an assist on a goal in a girls soccer scrimmage on Tuesday.
Sports Editor

A day after the St. Marys Roughriders boys soccer team looked ready for the start of the 2019 fall regular season, so too were the Roughriders girls team after beating Bluffton 6-1 in the final scrimmage of the summer.

The St. Marys boys team blanked Liberty-Benton in its final tune-up before the season on Monday and Riders girls coach Nick Wilson saw plenty of offense to know that his team is ready to defend their 2018 Western Buckeye League crown.

“It went well,” Wilson said of Tuesday’s scrimmage. “We are starting to fully appreciate what the game plan is and where our strengths are. Again, it’s early with a scrimmage, but it was a nice build up as the last scrimmage and to get us where we are going.”

In Tuesday’s final scrimmage, Emma Wibbeler and Lilly Ankerman — two of the team’s leading scorers from a year ago — each recorded a pair of goals, while Macy Miller connected on a crosser and Jewel Niekamp scored a goal. The Riders junior varsity team also came away with a win, beating the Pirates 2-1.

“It was what we would expect to see in the last scrimmage,” Wilson said. “We still have a few things to work on, but we are starting to click a bit more.”

Wilson said heading into his second year as the Roughriders head coach with the talent he has, it is nice to have interchangeable parts and have a number of players who are nipping at the heels of others for varsity playing time, which Wilson said will create more competition.

Although Wilson pointed out the luxury to use players as interchangeable parts with his line changes, something he used regularly last season, he added that that might not be the case as much this season because of the confidence he has in some girls being able to play 80 minutes in a game.

“We have players who are two years of conditioning and are able to go — they probably could have been 80-minute players last year — but when you have the opportunity to put others in and reduce injury risk and things like that — you can still make those changes,” he added.

The lone goal St. Marys allowed was on a communication breakdown in what Wilson described as bad marking and a bad pass out of the backfield. Nevertheless, Wilson praised his three main defenders going into the season with senior Ally Will — returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury that forced her to miss all of the previous fall — Emma Birt and Katie Lucas — who stepped into Will’s role last year and excelled.

“Ally had been the center bad prior to her injury and as a senior leader, she wants to play,” Wilson said. “Between the three of them, they are all incredibly vocal, which is what you need in the backfield. They are not afraid to call out players or tell them to get back.”