HHS has new district assignment.
It is not uncommon for the Hannibal High School girls soccer team to set lofty goals. This will likely be a spring when those goals are attainable.
After winning conference last spring with an 11-1 record, Coach Eric Hill believes his team is capable of repeating.
"I believe that we have the pieces to make this a real possibility," he said. "A lot of teams in our conference will be an unknown for us this year, as I know most of them are fairly young. We’ll just control what we can, which is play as hard as we can each time out."
Hill, whose 2018 squad finished 16-7-1, hopes a new district assignment will be conducive to a deeper playoff run.
"It was nice to see when district assignments came out, that we finally got away from St. Dominic," he said. "That being said, there are still some very tough teams such as Liberty and Helias. If we improve like we should as the year unfolds, we should have as strong a chance as any to win a district championship, which we haven’t done since 2014."
While he likes his talented team, Hill does not expect it to be a juggernaut from the outset.
"I think we will have some growing pains early on, with some new people in key spots. We’ll look to improve with each game and hopefully be playing at our best at the end of the year," he said.
Hannibal must replace some key pieces from last year's squad - Shelby Nelson (10 shutouts and 165 saves last year, all conference, all district), Shelby Stine (40 goals and six assists last year, all conference, all region, all state), Chloe Ebers (five goals and seven assists last year, all conference), Grace McIntosh (seven goals and five assists last year).
Returning starters from last year's team include Abby Baumann, Elise Baumann, Suzanne Wetton, Hannah Nichols, Maddie Janes, Peyton Utterback, Kaylee Falconer, and Haley Ballinger.
"Abby is moving from playing defense/midfield to goalkeeper for us this year. Suzanne is returning to her role as sweeper and did a great job of leading our defense last year," Hill said. "Elise and Hannah return as starters on the backline and bring strong play and experience to that spot. Peyton Utterback will move from the midfield to defense this year and help to strengthen the backline.
"Maddie Janes will be a force for us in midfield once again. She does a great job of controlling the middle and has great field vision. Up top we have Haley and Kaylee who give us a lot of speed at the position and should be a very good combination for us up top. Haley started there last year and Kaylee is making the move from midfield."
Hannibal's talent pool does not end with its returning starters.
"We have several incoming freshmen and a few sophomores returning that I think will make their names known soon enough," Hill said. "We can’t wait to see what they can do on the field."
As for team strengths Hill believes it will be speed.
"This will be especially a strength of ours in the attack," he said.