Look at the roster for the Lady Bulldogs and you will notice one thing; a team heavy on youth.
Six freshmen took the field in New Albany’s season opener at South Pontotoc Tuesday night, and while that may be rare for most varsity teams to have over half of its lineup consumed by players that young, it is something New Albany fans have grown accustomed to.
“They joined varsity once we realized there would be a shortage of kids coming through the system,” coach Les Huntington said of his freshmen class. “They joined two years ago as seventh graders, and they didn’t play much that first year, but last year, we started to see the fruits of our labor, and this year, they are the dominant part of the team.”
Leading the way for that group on Tuesday was Emily Baldridge, who was one of three girls with two goals for New Albany in its 7-2 win.
“We’ve grown together and worked as a team together, learning how to pass together, and we’ve been together so long that we’ve gotten used to each other’s passes and have learned to work as a team together,” Baldridge said of her teammates.
Having played soccer together for several years, beginning at the Sportsplex, Huntington has a group he knows will be successful because of the years they have already played together.
“They are very much an impact,” he said. “When I start six of them out of 11, that’s more than half the team, but I know what they are capable of.”
Along with Baldridge, eighth grader Magan Van and senior Morgan Odle each had two goals for New Albany. Van, Baldridge and Kristen Olsen accounted for two assists each, and seventh grader Lucy Martin also had an assist in the second half.
“It tells me that they’re moving the ball; they’re not trying to be ball hogs and try to score all of the goals,” Huntington said. “They know they’re not in position, so they’re passing to someone who is. It’s gratifying because they’ve worked hard this fall.”
Given the success this young group has already had, making it to the playoffs, Baldridge is hopeful for a successful season for the Lady Bulldogs.
“I think we’re going to be good this year just because we’re doing better with our passes and our teamwork, so I think we’ll be good,”
New Albany 12 South Pontotoc 1 (boys)
Carlos Zaragoza scored five goals en route to New Albany’s 12-1 win against the Cougars.
The senior recorded four of his goals in the second half after New Albany led 3-1 at halftime. Anthony Fernandez scored three goals, while Gabriel Fernandez scored two in the second half and Fabio Lopez and Nathan Nanney each had one.
South Pontotoc scored its lone goal with less than ten minutes remaining in the match. Both New Albany squads will be in action again this weekend, playing at the Tupelo Tournament.