Girls varsity soccer looks to construct yet another impressive resumé in the 2021 season

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After a year filled with uncertainty when it comes to high school sports, the spring season has been announced, and the girls varsity soccer team is ready to get rolling. After a canceled season last year, the girls are prepared for the season, as they still return multiple one and two-year varsity players. This roster of impressive returners is made up of key seniors such as Autumn Burns, Whitney Currie, Lilly VanSkiver, Megan Clayton, and Elisha Strawser. With many of the team’s returning core being seniors, the girls will have an upper hand over many of the opponents thanks to their strong core of returning varsity players.

“There are definitely more distractions this year than ever before,” head coach Ashley Ludtke said. “It is important for us to focus on the right things and control what we can control. Especially after not having a season last spring, we are going to show up every day with a certain level of gratitude and be thankful for the opportunity to play together as a team for our school.”

The girls found a lot of success through their now-senior players in the 2019 season and made it as far as the state semifinals before falling to a very impressive Novi Wildcats team 3-2 in PKs. Despite the tough finish, the girls went 21-3 on the season, with impressive wins over teams like FHN and Grand Ledge. Despite all odds, coach Ludtke led this team to both an outstanding regular season run-through, as well as an outstanding playoff run.

“Playing together as a team has always contributed to our past success,” coach Ludtke said. “Thinking back to our last game in the 2019 season at the state semifinals has us excited and motivated to begin and continue the level of play where we left off.”

Many of the team’s players and aspects remain the same and carry on from the season prior; the defensive core headed by Autumn and Whitney will prove to be a tough wall to break through the entirety of the season. At the helm is junior goalie Ava Wilberding, who has proved in the past to be a force to reckon with. At midfield, Lilly VanSkiver will bring both her athleticism and knowledge of the game to the field and will be key to the speed and tempo of the offensive and defensive cores for the Rangers. Megan and Elisha will be a lethal duo at midfield as well, as their skill and togetherness will bring a whole new level to the team on both sides of the field. As for the offensive side of the ball, junior Ruthie VanSkiver will be a key asset and will be crucial for the scoring side of the Rangers’ dangerous skillset.

“A few of our goals for the season would be to win our conference games and become conference champs,” Whitney said. “I think the keys for success will definitely be just appreciating the fact that we get a season despite everything going on, then using that to bring all of our energy and work ethic onto the field with us every day.”

The Rangers have a big task ahead as they take on the Falcons of East Kentwood in their very first game on Friday, March 26 at 7. After that, the Rangers face off in their first OK White conference game against Northview on March 30. Based on the last few years, the girls have had very competitive conference games, as the OK White has always been incredibly close. With the season in full swing just days after tryouts, the girls have had limited time putting together a full roster along with practice, so the first game will inevitably be a bit sloppy. The girls also play a tough Grand Haven team towards the middle of the season, along with a non-conference battle against the girls varsity soccer rival in Gull Lake. Towards the end, the girls compete against Portage Central, Jenison, and Grandville, where they hope to find success against more rival, non-conference teams.

“I think the conference will be extremely competitive this season, but one that we can definitely find a lot of success in,” Autumn said. “Once we start practicing as a team and finding out our strengths and weaknesses, we can get started and really do some damage in our schedule.”