Athletic Lady Dragons pushing to be ready for the challenge

Amani Gonzalez goes through goalie drills at a recent Argos practice.
Rusty Nixon
Sports Editor

Argos girls soccer coach Joe Stone is - shall we say - cautiously optimistic.
Well aware of his graduation losses, he still has some pieces available for the coming season that give him some confidence.
"Alaura Stone was part of that duo in the back last year and she's going to be back," said Stone. "McKenna Burkholder can play about anywhere I need her. She's going to be a big part of what we do and Morgan Dunlap in that mid-field, forward position and Gabby Allen are my big keys to this year."
Along with his seniors the Lady Dragons defense remains intact for the season.
"I have three returning starters on defense too," said Stone. "I've got a good crew back with Payton Betz, Taylor Dowdle and Lauren Hampton in the back. We may struggle scoring goals. But I'm pleased right now with the way our defense is progressing."
The Lady Dragons find themselves in that strange position of having a multitude of players returning but without a wealth of varsity experience. The coach knows that early on that may present a challenge to his squad.
"We've got six or seven juniors coming back, that didn't play a lot on varsity last year so there isn't a lot of varsity experience, there are a lot of young players filling in spots for us," said Stone. "Coming from JV is a huge difference. It's the game speed, game knowledge, everything has to be faster, you have to get rid of the ball quicker, you have to make a harder, more crisp pass, and you have to be a lot more accurate with your shots."
Some of our girls are making a transition from junior high to JV or even varsity soccer that is a big, big jump. It takes a special girl to make that jump. When you play the bigger, talented schools the girls get their eyes wide open."
Stone is far from worried but is cautious in his assessment in the early going.
"I like what I'm seeing but I feel like we are a little bit behind where I'd really like to be right now," he said. "A lot of that has to do with inexperience. A lot of these girls had to jump into positions they aren't used to. I've put some girls in the midfield who've never been in the mid field before, I'm putting some girls up top trying to score that have never been there so the girls are kind of lost sometimes."
"We've been working on a lot of ball touches and agility and the physical part of the game which is really big for us, the physicality part," he said. "It might be a little tough at the beginning but it usually is at a small school."
Looking at the season schedule things don't get easier but Stone is far from intimidated.
"I like my schedule," he said. "If I could play teams like Warsaw and Northridge and Plymouth all year long I'd love that because it gets you ready for the sectional. LaVille is strong and our conference. I'd love to go undefeated every single year. We play some tough teams. Some big teams. We want to play the best we can and win our sectional."
"I think we are a very athletic team. We just aren't very soccer knowledgable yet and that's my job to get them ready for that."