The Walker Valley Lady Mustangs have their work cut out for them this soccer season, as a shorthanded team takes the pitch to fight for one of the top spots in District 5-AAA competition.
“I hope the district has changed a little from last year. Hopefully, even with limited numbers, we can step up a few notches from last season at least,” stated Walker Valley head coach Tom Bayliss.
During the 2011 season, the Lady Mustangs went 5-9-1 with a district record of 1-5. They will be returning 10 girls from that team, all of whom saw significant playing time.
Unfortunately, the team only has two new faces this season and has lost a few key players due to graduation, bringing the total roster, so far, to just 12 athletes.
“Obviously, we won’t have a junior varsity team this season,” Bayliss quipped.
However, he is hoping the start of the school year might also bring in a few more girls to bolster the team’s numbers and give him at least a few substitute options for game-time substitutions.
“I expect we might see a few more girls trickle in when school starts. We might see some girls who transferred in from out of town, or some younger girls who didn’t know about the program,” Bayliss explained.
“Hopefully, we can get the team up to at least 15 girls,” he said with a smile.
With the season quickly approaching, the team has turned its focus on skill work and conditioning to combat the low roster numbers. The work on fitness will hopefully combat the need for substitute players who might not be there this season.
Currently, the team is in a two-day program of two-a-days, with the girls taking part in a morning and afternoon practice program designed specifically around fundamentals and fitness.
“Some of us are where we need to be, and some of us need to move a little bit more before the season hits. But, we are going to buckle down and focus as much as we have to on fitness and skill work to get us prepared for the season start,” Bayliss said.
The Lady Mustangs will kick off the season with a playday at Sweetwater High School on the 16th. Last season Walker Valley beat the Lady Wildcats 3-2.
District play will begin early in September. As of now, Walker Valley looks like it will take on McMinn County on Sept. 13, but Bayliss said schedules might still shift in these final preseason weeks.
While he hopes his girls can make a push toward the postseason he seemed very aware that competition in the district will most likely be very stiff again this season.
“The typical teams that are hard to beat are going to be hard to beat again this season. We have some girls with a lot of potential, and we are just going to work hard and see where that takes us,” stated Bayliss.