Rock Bridge, Helias should shoot it out in NCMC swan song
During the final season of the NCMC in its present form, the two teams which will be leaving the loop should battle it out for the girls' soccer crown.
The league's first six seasons saw dominance by Rock Bridge, but Helias slipped past the Lady Bruins a year ago for its first championship. There's little to suggest that this pair won't remain at the top, although the Lady Crusaders -- after losing all-conference first-team defender Mandy Beck and Becky Young -- may have a hard time matching the stinginess which allowed league opponents to score just one goal against them in seven matches.
Rock Bridge (9-6-1, 6-1 NCMC), except for one match, was just as tenacious on defense -- allowing just two goals in conference play and only nine all season. Senior Kelly Simon and junior Meghan Coburn return to anchor the back line in front of senior goalkeeper Emily Schuenemeyer. Senior Ashley Tune and Anna Gross will try to make sure the Lady Bruins have enough offense.
The return of senior Kylie Ruprecht, the all-NCMC first-team 'keeper, will provide Helias (15-4-1, 7-0) with the support it needs. However, two fine midfielders -- Sarah Wilson and Margaret Thompson, formerly of Marshall -- and high-scoring forward Danielle Shannon have departed, attackers the Lady Crusaders will have a hard time replacing.
If either of the top two should stumble, Moberly (14-6, 5-2) may be able to step into the breach behind the talent of senior midfielder Casey Westhues. Junior Emmilee Farris is a solid defender, but no proven standout returns in the net -- although junior Maggie Brown has shown promise.
Fulton (8-13, 1-6) was a better team than it showed during league matches last year and should move up in the standings, especially with a defense which features all-NCMC senior Jenny Hoell moving from forward to sweeper and senior Kerry Luckett returning in the net.
Mexico (8-10, 2-5) has senior Liz Runnels back to provide some offensive punch, but has six starters to replace.
Hannibal (5-16-1, 1-4-1) has to find a substitute for goalie Ellie Meyer -- who was also their ace-in-the-hole when as a forward when a big goal was needed. The Lady Pirates struggled for points last year.
Senior Lindsey Robinson gives Kirksville (3-9, 1-5), coming off an above-average campaign, a reliable net-minder. Losing Leticia Mayberry in the middle will hurt, although junior Alex Kent may take up some of the slack.