High School Sports

Collinsville seeks another shot at state soccer championship

The Collinsville girls soccer team placed second in state last season.
The Collinsville girls soccer team placed second in state last season. BND File

Consecutive berths in the Class 3A state tournament have made the Collinsville girls soccer team hungry for another postseason run.

The Kahoks, who finished second in the state to New Trier and ended last season 22-2-2, return Emily Holten, the Belleville News-Democrat Player of the Year, and a cast of others.

“It’s another solid group,” said Kahoks coach Clay Smith, who is 106-29-10 in seven seasons at Collinsville. “We return a good corps from the team we had last year, which is nice. But like every team at the beginning of the year, we’re trying to work out kinks and get our team chemistry back, so it’s going to be a process.

“But on paper, we have all the tools and weapons to be successful.”

Holten is a forward who had a team-leading 24 goals and 16 assists last season. The Mississippi recruit has 50 goals and 37 assists in her first three years.

“She knows she’s going to be that player that’s going to be talked about in the (opposing) locker room at every game, and I think that’s what makes players successful around her,” Smith said.

Senior Andrea Frerker, headed for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, had seven goals and 11 assists last year.

“When that ball gets on her foot, she has a really good sense of direction and vision of where it needs to go and how it needs to be played in order for us to be successful,” Smith said.

Others who have signed to play in college are: goalkeeper Morgan Lerch (Jacksonville State), defender Dayle McEwen (Francis Marion), defender Kayle McSpadden (Maryville), midfielder Bianca Cortez (Southwestern Illinois), defender Danielle Knutson (McKendree), forward Alynnah O’Leary (McKendree) and forward Tayler Devine (McKendree).

The Kahoks offense should be formidable with forwards Holten, O’Leary, Devine and junior Jalyn Richardson playing off each other, and midfielders Frerker, Cortez and junior Emma Knoebel. Devine had 17 goals and six assists last season, while O’Leary had 12 goals and seven assists and Richardson chipped in with seven goals.

“It’s scary good,” Smith said of the offense. “But there’s always things to be worked out and kinks to be undone. We’re at that point. We’re trying to find ourselves a little bit, get some chemistry and work on the things that have made us successful in the past.”

O’Leary scored the Kahoks’ lone goal in a 2-1 loss at Chatham Glenwood in their season opener Thursday.

“Alynnah O’Leary, in the preseason and in our first game, has been one of the best players on the field,” Smith said. “She’s fabulous to have on that left side with her left foot. She just does so many things right. I’m excited to see what kind of years her and Tayler have.”

On defense, McEwen leads a group that includes Knutson, McSpadden, junior Riley Harris and freshmen Paige Bauer and Faith Liljegren. Bauer starts in the middle with McEwen, with Knutson on the outside opposite Harris or McSpadden.

Lerch replaces Julie Scheiter in goal. Lerch had five shutouts and a 0.98 goals-against average last season.

“Morgan has earned the starting spot as a senior and a leader,” Smith said. “She’s working hard every day, and she’s looking to get better. With her and Dayle all the way in the back, we’ve got some good senior leadership.”

Smith said Richardson, along with junior forward Courtney Marten, are young players to watch. Marten came on late last season and finished with five goals.

“Jalyn is one of those unsung heroes right now. She has some very good players in front of her right now, but she’s definitely a big part of our team and will get significant minutes,” Smith said. “Courtney Marten as well. She did some great things toward the end of last year and ended up having a starting role in the state tournament.”

Smith said the loss to Glenwood might pay dividends.

“It was a nice wake-up call for our girls and our program, to let them know that we can get beat on any given day,” Smith said.

Rounding out the Kahoks roster are sophomore Claire Rendleman, the backup goalie, seniors Angel Krausz and Lauren Zamarione, and sophomore Mikaila Chrisman.

Collinsville will play its Southwestern Conference opener at Edwardsville on Thursday. The Tigers are a contender to win the league title.

“I look at all the other rosters of the teams in the area, and they’re just as good,” Smith said. “I’m not taking anything away from my team. It’s a great soccer team, and they have the experience and the leadership to get (to state). But the talent level around the metro-east and Southern Illinois, in general, is just fantastic.”

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm