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Girls Soccer Previews: Ferndale Lacks Depth, But Not Talent

Breaking down local OAA squads: Eagles varsity team counts on returning starters such as Lexie Brisson-Fast and Kelsey Wilson.

Ferndale Eagles

Coach: Mike Kuznair

Division: Oakland Activities Association White

Key Players: Lexie Brisson-Fast Senior; Kelsey Wilson, Senior; Molly Breen Bondie, Senior; Emma Whipple, Senior

The Ferndale varsity soccer team might not have a lot of depth compared to other teams in the OAA, but they certainly aren’t lacking top talent.

Lexie Brisson-Fast is off to an incredible start with 15 goals in nine games. She has more than 70 career goals, which is already a school record. She’ll be breaking her own record a few more times this season.

Kelsey Wilson signed a national letter of intent to play volleyball at Akron University in the fall, but coach Kuznair thinks that scholarship could’ve easily been for soccer. Wilson is another scoring threat and one of Ferndale’s team leaders.

Emma Whipple is the Eagles’ starting goaltender. Molly Breen Bondie is a player who Kuznair thinks flies under the radar a little bit, but he expects her to have a great year.

Biggest Question Mark: In a word; depth.

Kuznair is in his first-year as coach of the Eagles and one of his top priorities is getting the program’s numbers back up.

The varsity team this year has 24 players, but that’s only because Kuznair made the decision to cancel the junior varsity team. Kuznair had only 11 players set to play on the JV team.

“It’s impossible to have success at that level with only 11 players,” Kuznair said.

While the varsity team will be larger in size, the younger girls lack experience and are still working on their fundamentals.

“We are really working on eliminating mistakes,” Kuznair said. “A lot of the younger girls lack club experience and don’t learn some of the fundamentals at a young age. We’ve been doing things in practice like a 1,000 toe taps. People don’t want to do it, but you have to.”

Story So Far: The Eagles are 7-2 (5-0 Oakland Activities Association White) division) on the season. Ferndale has a challenging road ahead, including a showdown with Farmington.

Bloomfield Hills Andover Barons

Coach: Aaron Seaton

Division: Oakland Activities Association White

Key Players: Lynn Nef, Junior; Amanda Simpson, Junior; Emily Atkinson, Senior; Raquel Tabak, Junior

Andover didn’t have a lot of turnover in the off-season.

“We were very young last year, our average age was 10th graders and we had three freshmen,” Seaton said. “We did very well for our age. This year, our 11th grade class is huge. Most of the team is back.”

Nef, Simpson and Tabak are part of the Barons’ strong junior class. Tabak is the team’s leading scorer through the first three weeks of the season. Neef is one of Andover’s key defenders.

Atkinson, who Seaton said has made “unbelievable strides” at her position, is the Barons goaltender.

Biggest Question Mark: Andover is another team dealing with some key injuries.

The Barons leading goal scorer from last year Emma Grofsky is out for the season with a torn ACL. As a freshman, she was All-OAA. Grofsky’s injury came in the opening minutes in Andover’s season-opener.

Seaton said the Barons are also missing two defenders due to injuries.

“We can’t replace the injured girls,” Seaton said. “The whole team just has to step up.”

Story So Far: Andover is 1-4-1 (1-3-1 OAA White) on the season. Even though the record might not be where Seaton wants it, he’s happy with how the Barons are playing. They tied a very good Oxford team 2-2 on Tuesday. Earlier in the season, Andover beat city-rival Lahser 1-0.

Troy Athens Red Hawks

Coach: Todd Heugh

Division: Oakland Activities Association Red

Key Players: Liz Abro, Junior; Gabby Mancini, Junior; Natalie Sabourin, Junior

The three juniors are Heugh’s trio of returning starters. All three are midfielders. Abro is committed to Western Michigan University and Mancini is committed to Eastern. Both Abro and Mancini are three-year starters.

Biggest Question Mark: “We are very inexperienced,” Heugh said.

Athens graduated 12 seniors last year, five of whom went on to play Division 1 soccer in college, and that’s a high number. The Red Hawks are only bringing back three girls with experience from last year.

This is Heugh’s first year at Athens, but he’s coached girls soccer for more than a decade and he said it is one of the lowest number of returning players he’s ever had. Most of the team is made up of first-year players.

Story So Far: Athens started the week at 2-2 on the season.

Heugh thought his team might struggle defensively to start the season with a new goalie and new group of starting defenders, but the young group has played well together.

In the first four games, it’s actually been a lack of offense that’s hurt the Red Hawks.

“It’s been our attack,” Heugh said. “We have a new goalie, new defenders and they’ve been up to the challenge. We’ve just struggled to generate chances, and teams are keeping us away from the goal. We have to find ways to be more creative (on offense).”

Bloomfield Hills Lahser Knights

Coach: Kevin McConnell

Division: Oakland Activities Association White

Key Players: Caroline Eagan, Senior; Hannah Rose, Senior

Caroline Eagan leads a large group of returning starters for Lahser. Eagan was a Division 2 all-state third team selection last season. Hannah Rose is a returning four-year starter.

“We’ve got a lot of experience,” McConnell said. “Our senior class is really strong, most played since freshman year.”

Biggest Question Mark: Getting healthy is going to be the key for Lahser this season.

Rose is one of three Knights players on the bench with an injury. She is out until May with a torn ACL. Maddie Rohr, a two-year starter, was injured in the preseason. Junior Sydney Galinsky hurt her hamstring in the team’s first game and she is out as well.

“It’s a huge issue,” McConnell said. “Hopefully we can get healthy ‘cause our lack of depth has hurt us. Once we get healthy, I think we can compete for a league title.”

Last year, Lahser finished in the middle of the pack in the division, but peaked at the end of the year. The Knights went all the way to the district finals, where it lost a very close 3-2 game to Madison Heights Lamphere.

If the Knights can get healthy, McConnell believes they could make a similar run.

Story So Far: Lahser is 2-5 on the season and 2-3 in the division. It had a big test against a tough Royal Oak team on Tuesday. The Knights lost 4-2 to a Ravens team that played in the OAA Red last year. Lahser had a nice 5-1 win over West Bloomfield, the defending league champions, last week.

Birmingham Seaholm Maples

Coach: Sean Garvey

Division: Oakland Activities Association White

Key Players: Jackie Mee, Junior; Allison Loeffler, Junior; Julie Naski, Senior

Garvey has high praise for his top returning players.

Naski is a four-year varsity starter, who Garvey called the “core” of the defense. Mee and Loeffler are returning starters from last year and both girls are attacking mids. He said Mee is a phenomenal player and Loeffler was playing really well to start the season.

Biggest Question Mark: The challenge for the Maples this season is getting used to a new coach and system.

Garvey is in his first year at Seaholm and he admits it’s been a learning process for the girls.

“I’m using a more aggressive game plan,” Garvey said. “We are going up front with three forwards instead of one and only three midfielders. They are adapting to it well, but sometimes they are unsure of what to do.”

The system is used at the club level and he wants to try to get the local Birmingham teams to adopt it as well so players will have experience with it when they get to high school.

“I’m trying to get them into my way of thinking,” Garvey said. “I really want to raise the expectations with Seaholm varsity soccer.”

Story So Far: A 1-0 over city-rival Groves on Monday pushed the Maples record above .500 for the season at 3-2-1. Seaholm goalie Lisa White picked up her third shutout of the season in the win.

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