Craig soccer's starting lineup is flexible after key graduation losses
After graduating eight letter-winners and seven starters, the fourth-year head coach will direct an inexperienced Janesville Craig girls soccer team. He’s coached several of its members for eight years, dating back to his work with the youth program.
But that hardly means he knows what he has.
“No position is considered permanent on this team, and I think this is what’s going to drive them,” McCabe said. “Every position on this team is open. It has to be.”
Craig High went 5-9-3 overall and 1-7-1 in the Big Eight last year—season that ended when the 12th-seeded Cougars fell just 2-1 on an own goal at fifth-seeded Racine Park in the WIAA Division 1 tournament.
“We knew we were better than our seed, and we felt like we outplayed them,” McCabe said. “We were a very experienced team. This year, as a very young and inexperienced team, we’ve got a lot of learning to do.”
The Cougars, 0-2 after nonconference losses to Wauwatosa East and Sugar River, will be solid in the midfield. Their only two seniors, outside midfielder Kelsey Kennedy and central midfielder Daisy Cedillo, are joined by junior midfielder Chelsea Sheedy as the team’s captains.
The question is to whom those midfielders will be getting the ball. Sophomore Michaela Holzhuter is one of the few Cougars who has all but locked down a position—the crucial role of sweeper.
“We were nervous about it, but she’s been doing a really good job and worked really hard all winter long,” McCabe said. “She was at all the open gyms and improved herself, as did all the girls on the team.”
The Cougars’ youth is matched only by the sort of speed Craig fans are yet to see—literally, as the team’s front line will be brand new.
Freshmen Kristi Crandall and Monica Speth, along with sophomore Sarah Gray and juniors Emily Legreid, Ashley Overley, Sarah Ziegler and Samantha Glowacki have a couple of things in common. They’re all battling for positions and they—like Sheedy—all played under McCabe in the youth program.
“I’m excited to coach these girls again,” McCabe said. “It’s exciting to see them put on a Craig uniform.”
The goalie position is no more decided than any other as Olivia McNulty, Dani Schurhammer, Amanda Hamilton have been battling for the starting job.
While a lot of questions might need answering, McCabe knows a challenging Big Eight schedule won’t wait. He simply hopes his team can develop throughout the season and reach its potential by the postseason.
“It’s tough to come into a tough conference like the Big Eight and take your lumps and get knocked around,” McCabe said.
McCabe is optimistic for a lot of reasons, an unseasonably warm March notwithstanding.
“It’s hard to coach a complicated game like soccer when girls are shivering in 35-degree weather,” McCabe said.
But he says he wouldn’t have had a problem getting his team onto the pitch for practice, regardless of the weather.
“There’s something special about this group—they really want to improve,” McCabe said. “The entire group wants to come out and work hard in practice. I’m very lucky to have a group like this.”
Note: The Cougars’ home game against Kenosha Tremper on Saturday, May 8, is the team’s “Go Pink” game.
The nonconference game, part of Girls Soccer Goes Pink program, will serve as a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. Tremper coach Todd Hardy, a Janesville native, worked with the LeRoy Butler Foundation to organize the program.
APRIL: 15—At Sun Prairie, 7 p.m. 16-17—At Fond du Lac, TBA. 20—At Beloit Memorial, 7 p.m. 22—Madison La Follette, 7 p.m. 23—Craig Invitational, 5 p.m., 7 p.m; 24—Craig Invitational, 10 a.m., noon. 27—Jefferson, 7 p.m. 29—At Madison Memorial, 7 p.m.
MAY: 4—Middleton, 7 p.m. 6—At Janesville Parker, 7 p.m. 8—Kenosha Tremper, 11 a.m. 13—Madison East, 7 p.m. 14—At Mukwonago, 5 p.m. 15—At Mukwonago, TBA. 18—At Madison West, 7 p.m. 20—Verona, 7 p.m. 21—Lake Mills, 7 p.m.