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Lady Vols battling in soccer campaign

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By Dylan Knight

KERSHAW – For the Andrew Jackson High School girls soccer team, the injuries began just over a month ago and it’s been a battle this spring.

AJ junior Sommer Zusin sprained her leg as the injury bug began to land its hard bite. Then, freshman Rebecca Johnson bruised her hip, sophomore Katherine Killingsworth hurt her leg and junior Brooke Watts sprained her ankle.

Then, sophomore Allison Kelly limped off the field during a tournament match against Blue Ridge.

AJ girls soccer coach Ronnie Wall said he knew he had to make a decision.

“At that point, I was thinking, ‘We’re going to have to play with 10 players,’ ” Wall said.

Kelly was the fifth injured player on the team – the fourth in two days – and the season hadn’t even started yet.

Wall decided to put one injured player – Johnson – in at goalie and move junior veteran Sydney Hinson to the field.

“We put Rebecca in goal simply because she could stand still there,” Wall said.

The Lady Vols lost that match. Then, they had to postpone their first regular-season match because they didn’t have enough players to compete.

But the injuries were only half the problem. Wall only has one senior player this season, Amanda Williams.

“Ever since I started soccer, I’ve been the only one in my class (playing),” Williams said.

Wall realized he had a senior shortage before the season began and tried to recruit players in lower classes to compensate.

His starting lineup shows it – almost half of his starters are sophomores and freshmen.

“We’ve tried to get freshmen to come out who haven’t played soccer,” Wall said. “Those along with the incoming junior varsity players.”

Starting on offense are two sophomores, Jamie Johnson and Ashley Beavers.

“Our goal is to have a more consistent offense,” Wall said, “If we do that, the wins will come for this team.”

At midfield, Williams is a starter alongside junior Joanna Croxton, sophomore Sara Parker and Johnson.

They are assisted by Kelly, Watts and freshman Jordan Truesdale.

Kelly earned the Lady Vols’ Most Improved Player Award last season.

On defense, junior Rachael Dippel, who is also a captain, starts at sweeper. She was named the team’s Best New Player last season. Sophomore Brandy Ellis starts at sweeper and freshmen Ashleigh Aiello and Killingsworth start at fullbacks. They are backed Zusin and sophomore Emily Albrecht.

At goalie, Hinson, the team’s 2007 MVP who is also a captain, anchors the defense. Hinson is assisted by sophomore Shelby Mosher.

“Winning isn’t our goal, but winning comes from achieving our goals,” said Wall, who is assisted by Carla Faulkenberry.