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Kettle Run girls soccer preview: Eight returning starters could make this a banner year

Tuesday, Apr. 8 | By Jeff Malmgren
Emily Brummett is one of eight returning starters for the powerful Kettle Run girls soccer team. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
**Originally appeared April 2**

Future opponents beware.

The Kettle Run Cougars average only one goal per game this girls soccer season.

They have nine returning starters, however, from a 2013 team that averaged 3.8 goals per game. So their production is bound to spike soon.

The Cougars, after all, have a cadre of fast forwards and midfielders that can strike with speed.

“We’re really quick," said junior forward Emily Brummett, who has one of the Cougars' two goals in 2014. “We’re able to make runs for our midfielders to see us and slot them."

That is the Cougars’ greatest strength, said Kettle Run coach Elizabeth Martin, whose team has a 1-1 record thus far.

“We really look to create the opportunities and play off of one another,” Martin said. “It’s them knowing where the person’s going to run. … They just have the connections together.”

If that’s the case, senior returning starter Erika Blevins plays the part of Kettle Run’s switchboard operator as center midfielder. From the neck up, she looks like a periscope, surveying the entire field while her feet remain focused on the ball.

“She picks up the play around her and she always has done that,” Martin said of Blevins, who led Kettle Run with 15 assists last season and added two goals.

Meanwhile, senior Lauren Schlenker and junior Alyssa Rodemsky are returning starters on midfield wings. Sophomore Allie Zuras has stepped into the center midfield spot vacated by Ivana Szwejkowski, who was one of only three Kettle Run players to graduate following last season.

Senior Taylor Decker has returned to a forward role after missing all of last season, while Brummett is a returning starter at the Cougars’ other forward position.

All that talent gives Blevins plenty of targets.

“We have speed, which opens it up and makes it easier for me when our players can make runs,” she said.

Plus, the Cougars will only get faster when sophomore Emily Yergin returns from a torn ACL. Martin said she expects the forward to play in April.

While Martin has a lot of returning talent, she did lose Szwejkowski, the 2013 Evergreen District Player of the Year. Szwejkowski led the Cougars with 14 goals and had eight assists.

“I don’t think you could ever find another Ivana,” Martin said. “But it’s allowed other players to kind of what they have to bring to the table, which is really great.”

Szwejkowski and Blevins became a tremendous tandem in the midfield for both Kettle Run and their travel team.

“She’s definitely been a big loss,” Blevins said. “Playing with new people now in the midfield, it’s different, but we’re connecting really well.”

Blevins and Szwejkowski helped the Cougars finish last season with a 14-5 record en route to winning the Evergreen District regular season and tournament championships and advancing to the Region II tournament. They went 7-1 during district play and then beat Fauquier, 2-0, in a tiebreaker game for the regular season title. They later beat Fauquier, 3-2, in the tournament title match.

Brummett finished the season with 14 goals and three assists, while Schlenker had 11 goals and two assists. They made the 2013 all-district teams along with Blevins, Rodemsky and Yergin. With all those players back, the Cougars hope to at least repeat their success this season.

“Regionals, I think we’re going,” Brummett said. “We’re good.”

“They have the potential to go great places if they keep their minds to it and keep their enthusiasm,” Martin said, “and don’t let it go to their heads.”

Defensively, Kettle Run has three returning starters in senior Kaeley Baccus, junior Danielle Contreras and senior Jessica Dias. Joining Dias on the outside is senior Hope Kase, while junior goalkeeper Jackie Doores returned after becoming a starter late last season.

Kettle Run lost an all-district defender to graduation in Jancse.

“Hope has really stepped into that role and embraced it,” Martin said. “Her and Kaeley are finding their groove together along with the outside backs. … Our defense is going to be pretty solid.”

Kettle Run began the season March 21 with a 3-0 loss to Freedom, but rebounded to beat Liberty, 2-0, Friday. Prior to Friday, the Cougars had practiced outside only twice due to poor weather and field conditions.

Against Liberty, they took a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute off a corner kick by Blevins. The ball found Decker near the far post and ricocheted back toward the middle of the field, where Schlenker gathered it in front of the net and scored.

In the second half, Contreras kicked a through ball from about 40 yards out and Brummett ran it down near the goal face to score.

“The game went great,” Martin said. “To have such a great showing [with limited practice] really tells you about their work ethic and how much they want it.”

- - - - -

Projected starting lineup

Emily Brummett, Jr.*
Taylor Decker, Sr.

Lauren Schlenker, Sr.*
Erika Blevins, Sr.*
Allie Zuras, So.
Alyssa Rodemsky, Jr.*

Jessica Dias, Sr.*
Kaeley Baccus, Sr.*
Hope Kase, Sr.
Danielle Contreras, Jr.*

Jackie Doores, Jr.*

*Returning starter

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