High School Sports

Althoff girls soccer team hopes to keep opponents in check with stellar defense

Althoff girls soccer coach Juergen Huettner has no desire to live through another season like the Crusaders endured last year.

“If we’re 7-13 again, I’m going to jump off a bridge. That was terrible,” said Huettner, in his 12th season. “Seven-and-13 is not something I’m used to. I don’t like that. I would look at us to be the flip-flop of that record. It’s got to be a goal. We’ve got to do a lot better than we did last season.”

Althoff, which will open its season in the Metro Cup Tournament at 7:30 p.m. Monday against Mater Dei at Columbia High, will emphasize defense in the absence of a proven scorer.

The Crusaders’ back line will be anchored in the middle by Mississippi recruit Shannon Maitland and McKendree recruit Anna Hanger. Both are seniors.

“Those days where you have Megan Pawloski scoring 50 goals for you are gone,” Huettner said. “Instead of having someone score 25 goals and being the person everybody knows ... If we have that, so be it. But I would rather have three, four kids scoring 12, 15 goals. It makes you more dangerous for the other teams if you have a few kids who could score.”

The defense

Maitland and Hanger, who had five goals and seven assists last year, are versatile players and are capable of playing other positions on the field. But Huettner figures if there’s a shortage of goals, Althoff can at least stay in games with a consistent, smothering defense.

Maitland and Hanger will be flanked in the Crusaders’ flat-four system by sophomore Lindsey O’Dell and junior Nicole Jones. Junior Cheyenne Decker also is a defender.

If we’re 7-13 again, I’m going to jump off a bridge. That was terrible. Seven-and-13 is not something I’m used to. I don’t like that. I would look at us to be the flip-flop of that record. It’s got to be a goal.

Althoff girls soccer coach Juergen Huettner

“The simplest method to win games is you shut out the other team and then you only have to score one goal,” Huettner said. “I think we have a defense that’s capable of shutting other teams out. Not all of them, but I think we can shut teams out.

“So I’m going to approach it that way and hope, offensively, that we have enough quality that we can score without having to get Anna and Shannon directly involved in the attack.”

Keeping Maitland and Hanger healthy will be a top objective.

“We need them,” Huettner said. “If we don’t have those two, it will take a tremendous amount away from our team. We don’t this broad, big talented team like some of the bigger schools sometimes have, whether it’s Edwardsville or Collinsville. Six or seven years ago, we were fortunate enough to have that. But we need those two to be healthy because they are huge pieces of our team to make it successful.”

The offense

Althoff is deep with midfielders and forwards. The group includes senior Halle Ames, freshmen Emelia O’Neill and Andersyn Foster, sophomores Madison Eghigian, Sophie Monken, Amanda Jackson and Jessica Hoffman, and juniors Amanda Kaltwasser and Jackie Minor.

Monken led Althoff in goals last year with 10; she also had five assists. Kaltwasser had seven goals and five assists and Hoffman had four goals and three assists. Ames contributed two goals and five assists.

O’Neill’s older sister, Maddie, plays for Gibault

“She’ll be a playmaker and get things going for us,” Huettner said of Emelia O’Neill. “She’s a talented soccer player and we look for her to do a lot of good things for us.”

Kaltwasser and Monkey are outside midfielders who also could play forward. Huettner is enthusiastic about what Althoff could get from Hoffman.

“She’s very fast, very mobile,” Huettner said. “She’s all over the place. I think she’s going to put some pressure on other teams’ defense because she’s a tremendous worker.”

Huettner will keep his fingers crossed that the offense will come around.

“In years past, we had a Kelsey Dinges and a Megan Jaskowiak in the midfield, one person who could make a difference,” Huettner said. “We don’t have that one person. If we have to (move Maitland or Hanger), we will be forced into something we don’t want to have to do this year. But I’ve never been afraid. If I think something doesn’t work out, we change it.”

The goalies

Senior Emily Lassman and sophomore Rachel Monken return. Monkey played the majority of the time last year, but Huettner said the competition has been very even this spring.

“I don’t think one of them has any advantage over the other one at this point,” Huettner said. “Both of them have the right to consider themselves starters. I’m not a big fan of the half and half stuff. I can see maybe the first two games playing them half and half, but I think I’ve got to make a decision. You’ve got to go with what you think (is right) as a coach.”

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm