Bobcat girls’ soccer propelled by defense

Marshalltown opens Monday against Pella

The start of the 2017 season for the Marshalltown girls’ soccer team will be a polar opposite of a year ago.

Heading into 2016, the offensive unit was the strong suit for the Bobcats, while the defensive backfield was the inexperienced group. Fast-forward approximately 365 days and it’s the defense that will carry Marshalltown into the start of the season at Pella on Monday while the Bobcats search for their goal scorers.

Pella finished ranked No. 1 in Class 2A in the final 2016 rankings, and the Dutch advanced to the state title game before falling to Lewis Central, 5-0. Pella defeated Marshalltown 5-0 last year in a late-season match.

“Opposite of last year, start of the season, I think our defense is going to be our strong point,” said second-year head coach Stacy Galema. “We have a lot of returning defenders. Last year we graduated most of our offense. That’s our focus area on improvement.”

Back in the net, turning away shots will be junior Victoria Johnson. In her first year as the Bobcat goalkeeper during her sophomore year, Johnson played 1,095 of Marshalltown’s 1,215 minutes in net, starting all 18 games she played in. Johnson made 93 saves while allowing 48 scores for a 66 save percentage.

“Her confidence is always there as she works really hard,” Galema said. “If we had another goalie, she could almost play in the field, too. It’s said you almost touch the ball as a goalie 10 more times with your feet than your hands. She’s very capable of doing both.”

Along with an experienced stopper, the Bobcats will rely on players such team captain, senior Aspen Chadderdon to anchor the defense. An experienced defense will be able to help the offense by sometimes helping with the offensive attack in key situations.

“Some of our defenders, they have an understanding of when they can move up the field and attack and then drop back,” Galema said. “We’ll definitely be using some of our returning defenders further up the field.

“Runs off the ball, looking for the long ball. We’re really good at playing short to the person next to us. One of our goals this season is to look either further down the field or all the way across the field for an opportunity.”

Offensively, the Bobcats tallied 26 goals in 2016. The graduated Rachel Whaley, Ruth Boland, Ellyn Boland and Lexi Gimbel combined to be responsible for 22 of those scores. Junior McKenna Major is the leading returning scorer for Marshalltown, having notched a pair of goals last season. Junior Ashtyn Fuller and senior Macy Goecke each recorded a goal last season as part of the offense coming back for the Bobcats.

“This group is a lot of girls that have played soccer, but not necessarily together,” Galema said. “I think this team will make a lot of progress from beginning to end just from working together as a team.”

The Bobcats will look to improve upon the 6-13 recorded posted a season ago. In the six victories, the offense and defense came together. Marshalltown scored 21 of its 26 goals in victories, while the Bobcats pitched four clean sheets and another victory in which the team gave up just one goal.

Varsity action against the Dutch on Monday is scheduled to get underway about 7:30 p.m. Galema said the Bobcats aren’t as deep to begin the season as they were a year ago, so the first match of the year will be used to getting into soccer shape.

“You have to know your role,” Galema said. “You have to know what the team needs you to do. Some of them they may not be the most comfortable in the position we put them in to start the season. They have to be willing to go in there and give it their all.”