After graduating 11 seniors from last year’s roster, the Lady Panthers will have to adapt quickly to the varsity pace if they want to hang in the always tough Southwestern Conference. Luckily for head coach Craig Dippel and the Panthers, a number of experienced varsity starters are returning.
The Panther roster in 2016 will include seniors Sydney Brake, Catie Mitchell, Amber Brunner, Jennifer Craddick, Makenna Baxter, Stephanie Kalteis, and KK Voelker. O’Fallon’s seven seniors will help lead through experience and a unique rotation of alternating captains. In recent years the Panthers have changed how they approached their leadership.
“By shifting captains between the seniors each game, it really gives ownership of the team to the players,” said head coach Craig Dippel. “The seniors know the program, know what’s expected of them, and are more comfortable than younger players in approaching me with ideas.”
Aside from their seniors, the Panthers will get offensive help from a number of underclassmen. Last year’s leading scorer for the Panthers, Sam Stutsman, is poised to have another explosive season. Stusman led OTHS in 2015 with seven goals as a freshman and was an honorable mention for the All-Sectional team. Supporting Stutsman are junior Gabby Goerke and sophomore Tamia Cash. Goerke and Cash combined for five goals, six assists, and 16 points last season. All three of Cash’s goals during the 2015 season were game winning goals and she earned All-Conference recognition.
Other Lady Panthers returning with varsity experience include juniors Andrea Wieman, Claire Hoover, Maggie Sheerin. Hoover is set to backup starting keeper and senior, Sydney Brake. Rounding out the varsity roster are Alyssa McMinn, Jessica Hoffer, Amy Muschler, Paige Black, and Lauren Cooper.
Last season O’Fallon fell to Collinsville in the regional final match by a close score of 2-1, and finished the season with a record of 10-7-5. In order to improve on last year’s results, coach Dippel doesn’t plan on changing up to much of the team’s strategy.
“It’s too early to really tell how things will go. The Southwestern conference is always very competitive and we could fall anywhere in the middle of the pack. The girls have shown how cohesive they are already and the team chemistry has been great but, it’s all dependent on our competition,” said Dippel.
Action for the Panthers this season will get underway on March 15th in the 2016 Metro Cup. The Lady Panthers are scheduled to face off against Waterloo in round one at 7:30 in Edwardsville. Later in the season O’Fallon will compete in the annual St. Dominic Shootout Tournament. As usual the shootout is stacked to the brim with tough competition.