St. Aloysius soccer begins rebuilding

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Coming off the best season in the program’s history, the St. Aloysius Lady Flashes have wiped the slate clean for this go-round.

Gone are nine seniors that led the team to the Class 1A-2A-3A semifinals last January. So is coach Keiko Booth, who resigned to focus on her teaching duties. Replacing them are a horde of young players and a first-time coach that will both learn the ropes as they go along.

“We graduated nine and they only had 15. I think I have four starters coming back,” new coach Suzie Channell said. “They’re new, I’m new. We’re going to learn this together.”

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Although it’s her first coaching job, Channell does have a soccer background. She played for four years in high school at Warren Central. Before taking over as St. Al’s coach, she spent six years as an athletic trainer for WC and St. Al — a job she still has.

“It’s trying, but I think I’m doing all right adjusting,” Channell said. “One of the biggest things is just going to practice not as a trainer, but having to conduct it. Then if somebody gets hurt I have to go back into trainer mode.”

Despite a roster that includes no seniors, two juniors, and nearly a dozen seventh- and eighth-graders, Channell wasn’t shy about preparing her team for another playoff run.

In addition to division foes Madison-St. Joe — which beat St. Al in the North State championship game last season — and Greenville-St. Joe, the Lady Flashes will play a pair of Class 5A schools, Brookhaven and Pearl, and perennial power St. Andrew’s. This weekend, at the season-opening Tupelo tournament, St. Al will face Class 6A schools Tupelo and Starkville, then have a playoff rematch with Class 3A Corinth.

Channell said the loaded schedule stemmed from a belief that her team, young as it is, can be a contender this season.

“We are rebuilding, but at the same time I’m very competitive and the girls I have are very competitive. So I think we can compete now,” Channell said. “People think I’m crazy because I stacked the schedule in the fall to be ready for the playoffs.”

While the Lady Flashes begin their rebuilding process, the boys team is looking to take the next step in theirs.

Following the departure of several key goal-scorers from the 2008-09 squad, the Flashes scored only a handful of goals in a winless 2009-10 season. Now, a year older, bigger and more experienced, some of the young players that took their lumps last season are thinking things can turn around this year.

“Losing guys like Adam Thornton, Steven (Mazzanti) and Richard Cowart was hard. That was where all our goals came from. We didn’t have much skill. I think we’ll be a lot better this year,” said freshman midfielder Blake Hudson, who is entering his third varsity season. “We’ve made a lot of improvements on ball-handling and shooting. Hall (Banks) is a great goal keeper. I think we’ll be better all around.”