Grace Brauer figures to get plenty of attention from Belleville East girls soccer opponents this season.
The junior forward returns as one of the top players in the metro-east after racking up 26 goals and five assists last year. Brauer had two four-goal games and a three-goal game.
“It’s a nice piece to have up top,” first-year Lancers coach Andy Bohanon said. “We have to be able to use her in a few different ways now, so she’s not just going to be in her normal spot. We’re going to try to use her in a more versatile way and spread the field a little bit more. Then we an attack from any which way we want, because she’s that good.”
Bohanon replaces Erika Todd-Baptist, who led the Lancers to a 15-7 record last season. East was 29-32-2 in Todd-Baptist’s three years.
“We only lost four seniors,” said Bohanon, a 2008 graduate of East. “We had three really good classes come in, so we’ve got seniors, juniors and sophomores who have a tremendous amount of experience already. So that’s something that definitely helps us.”
East placed fifth in the Metro Cup Tournament’s Adidas Division. The Lancers lost their tourney opener 2-1 to Rochester, the defending Class 2A state champion, before recovering for victories over Alton Marquette (2-0) and Springfield 4-0.
Brauer had three goals in the tournament, two against Springfield.
Bohanon said Brauer can be unstoppable at times.
“She knows how to use her body,” he said. “If she wants to get around you, she’s going to get around you. There’s really no way to stop her unless you take her down. Three games in, that’s the only way we’ve seen anybody stop her - take her to the ground. She gets that. It’s something we’re going to have to live with.”
Senior Rachelle Gray will play in front with Brauer. Junior Annie Brown returns at midfield. She had five goals and seven assists last year and chipped in with two goals and two assists in the Metro Cup Tournament.
“She pretty much runs the show,” Bohanon said. “I’ve never seen anybody that controls the middle of the field that dominant. Working with her we have (senior) Hollie Kreher, who has been on the outside for us the past couple of years. But with a couple that we lost, we had to push her inside and she’s done an amazing job with that.”
Kreher had three goals and six assists last year.
Sophomore Alexandra Mueller, who had three goals last season, and senior Kara Gunter also play midfield.
Junior Grace Tantillo is back in goal after collecting six shutouts as a sophomore. The back line includes senior Alyssa Endsley, junior Cecilia Maue and sophomore Haley Harlan.
Bohanon said Tantillo is “deceivingly good.”
“You see her and you don’t think she’s a dominant keeper,” Bohanon said. “But with the experience and talent we have, she doesn’t get a whole lot of action back there, but when she does, she’s big-time. She’s got about 15 saves already, and they’re not Plain Jane. She’s coming out, getting big and is being dominant. It’s nice knowing she’s back there.”
Bohanon is no stranger to the East program. He has been an assistant with the boys team for four years and was an assistant on the girls team for two years.
“It’s nothing new for me, except all the administrative stuff,” Bohanon said. “Other than that, I’ve coached all the girls before. It’s an easy transition for me. Now being able to implement what I envision, what I have in mind, is awesome. It’s worked out so far.”
East’s next game is Wednesday at Carbondale.